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Odometer fraud, also referred to as "busting miles" or "clocking" (UK and Ireland) is the illegal practice of rolling back odometers to make it appear that vehicles have lower mileage than they actually do. Odometer fraud occurs when the seller of a vehicle falsely represents the actual mileage of a vehicle to the buyer.
According to the Office of Odometer Fraud Investigation at the U.S. Department of Transportation, odometer fraud is a serious crime and important consumer fraud issue. In the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) 2002 odometer fraud study, the NHTSA determined that 450,000 vehicles were sold each year with false odometer readings, resulting in a cost of over $1 billion annually to car buyers in the U.S.
Common examples of odometer fraud include situations where someone tampers with the odometer by rolling it back, replacing the odometer and failing to provide the required notice on the vehicle, or where the odometer rolls through all the digits and starts over. Contrary to popular belief, suspending a running vehicle and running it in reverse will not reduce the odometer count. Late-model used vehicles such as those in lease and rental fleets that accumulate mileage very rapidly are generally thought to be more prone to odometer fraud than new vehicles.
There are a number of ways in which a vehicle buyer might determine existence of possible odometer fraud. Due to federal laws, states require vehicle purchasers to obtain a title or certificate of registration. These titles contain information about a vehicle's odometer history. The information can be accessed through each state's Department of Motor Vehicles. Other options to detect odometer fraud include contacting the vehicle's former owners, conducting a mechanical inspection of the vehicle, and checking Internet sites such as Carfax and AutoCheck.
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