This archived news story is available only for your personal, non-commercial use. Information in the story may be outdated or superseded by additional information. Reading or replaying the story in its archived form does not constitute a republication of the story.
SALT LAKE CITY – Investigators say odometer fraud is on the rise in Utah thanks to new technology that makes the crime easier to commit.
Changing an odometer has always been easy.
“Anyone can do it,” said Lt. Allan Shinney, an investigator with the Utah Motor Vehicle Enforcement Division.
And the digital age has made it easier and quicker.
“The technology’s caught up with the instrument tools we were using to catch odometer fraud. Now these people are learning new ways on how to beat the system,” Shinney said.
YouTube has video of a computerized device that can change a digital odometer in as little as six seconds and sells for $5,000.
- Ask to see the title and compare the mileage listed on the title with the vehicle's odometer.
- Compare the mileage on the odometer with the mileage indicated on the vehicle's maintenance or inspection records.
- If the vehicle has a traditional mechanical odometer, check that the numbers on the odometer gauge are aligned correctly.
- Examine the tires. If the odometer reads 20,000 or less miles, the vehicle should have the original tires.
- Look at the wear and tear on the vehicle — especially the gas, brake and clutch pedals — to see if the wear seems consistent with and appropriate for the number of miles displayed on the odometer.
More troubling, investigators say, is a knock-off version from China that sells for only $500.
Another video on YouTube shows the tool at work, tampering a car’s odometer by 150,000 miles.
“Any car can be rolled with these new instruments out,” Shinney said.
In his 10 years on the job, Shinney typically sees five cases a year, but the numbers are going up.
He cannot reveal details but is currently working a case involving two used car dealers accused of rolling back odometers in more than 250 cars.
In the past, he has seen odometers rolled back by as much as 300,000 miles, which means victims could end up paying top dollar for a piece of junk.
“I had a Mercedes Benz," said Shinney. "It was a 350 SL, I believe, and it was supposed to be 450,000 (miles) and they rolled it back to 78,000.”
He said most victims don't even realize what has happened until it is too late.
“It wouldn’t be something they think about until they actually trade it in to a dealership and they run a CARFAX or AutoCheck,” Shinney said.
Shinney said car buyers should check maintenance records and vehicle history reports to verify mileage before purchasing.