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Is Rolling Back the Mileage on a Car Illegal?

Private sellers and dealerships sell vehicles every day. To make a sale, an individual might begin fixing up the car so it's in acceptable shape for the next owner. Part of the steps a person might take could include replacing broken parts, such as the odometer. Unfortunately, some people might not be aware that when they changed the odometer, it may cause the mileage to rollback, making it appear as if the vehicle has been driven less than it actually was.

In the U.S., it is a crime for a person to knowingly tamper with an odometer to make a potential buyer believe the car has low mileage.

In fact, there is a federal law in place that states if a person is transferring vehicle ownership, they must provide:

  • A written disclosure of the cumulative mileage on the vehicle, or
  • A written statement letting the buyer know that the odometer reading is unknown or different from the actual mileage

An exception to the requirement is when the vehicle is 10 years old or older.

Does Odometer Fraud Happen Often?

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that odometer tampering is a common offense, with over 450,000 incidents occurring annually. Making it easier to commit is the fact that many of today's vehicles have electronic odometers. Rather than messing with moving parts, a person looking to defraud a potential buyer would simply have to hook into the car's system and change the programming.

What Charges Can You Face for Odometer Fraud?

Recently, the owners of a used car dealership in Colorado were accused of odometer tampering. It's alleged that between April of 2015 and April of 2018, they rolled back the mileage of about 29 vehicles sold, which resulted in clearing out of over 2 million miles.

The alleged odometer fraud came to light when a person who purchased a vehicle from the dealership took their car to a mechanic for service. After inspecting the car, the mechanic told the vehicle owner that it had more wear and tear on it than it should for the low mileage it had.

An investigation revealed that when the dealership owners bought the car in January of 2015, it had 312,979 miles. Three months later, they sold it with 122,000 miles. A discrepancy of 190,979. One of the dealership owners said that they noticed the odometer's needle was jumping, so they replaced it. He was sure they had put a sticker on the door stating the correct mileage.

The dealership owners were charged with forgery and theft.

If you’re facing criminal accusations in Denver, reach out to David L. Owen, Jr., P.C. by calling (303) 622-3281 or filling out an online contact form.

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