I-Team: Odometer fraud 'alive and well' in New England - News, Weather and Classifieds for Southern New England

I-Team: Odometer fraud 'alive and well' in New England

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How many miles are on that engine?

The ad says one thing - but is the seller fudging the numbers and rolling back the digits on the dashboard?

"An old dirty trick. It's still a modern trick, although the scammers have gotten better at hiding it," said attorney Christopher Lefebvre.

A quick search online turns up dozens of results on how to rollback odometers. In one video, someone plugs in a device and within three minutes takes 175,000 miles off the car.

"Unfortunately odometer fraud is alive and well across the United States and especially in New England," said CARFAX spokesperson Chris Basso.

How bad is it?

CARFAX, the website that arms consumers with vehicle history reports, recently released data that shows Massachusetts has the third highest number of odometer rollbacks per capita in the nation.

"Our research shows there are about 35,000 cars on the road between Rhode Island and Massachusetts that have a rolled back odometer," Basso said.

CARFAX told NBC 10 the vehicles most susceptible to rollbacks are about 14 years old and 50,000 miles are typically shaved off the odometer, leaving the consumer on the hook for costly repairs they never expected.

"It's outrageous. It's rotten. It's a bad thing to do, yet it's a very profitable thing for dealers to do," said Lefebvre said.

NBC 10 randomly searched car lots and checked their vehicle identification numbers on the CARFAX website.

A quick hit at a user car lot on Park Avenue in Cranston turned up a Cadillac, redflagged by CARFAX for having a potential rollback.

Records show the Cadillac was serviced in Norwood, Massachusetts, and a month later was taken to another location in Walpole, Massachusetts, with 10,000 fewer miles.

"It's pretty difficult to spot odometer fraud. It's very difficult," said Bill Villari, of Volare Motors.

Since the likely rollback happened years ago, Villari finds himself a victim of odometer fraud.

"If we buy a car at an auction or from a private party and it has the mileage on it. That's the mileage. There's nothing we can do about it," Villari said.

So what can consumers do to protect themselves against scammers?

Experts recommend taking a test drive, getting a CARFAX report, and having the car looked at by a reliable mechanic.

"And most mechanics who are experienced, in a very short period of time, can pretty much tell if this is a good car or a car you should run away from," Lefebvre said.

  • NBC 10 I-Team

  • Call the I-Team Fraud and Waste Hotline at 401-455-9123 or e-mail iteam@wjar.com.

    About the I-Team

    NBC 10's I-Team was the first investigative unit in Rhode Island.

    Formed in 1979, the I-Team has produced award-winning investigations into organized crime, public corruption and social issues ranging from child abuse to battered women.

  • The I-TeamMore>>

  • Katie Davis

    Katie Davis

    Katie Davis is an I-Team reporter at NBC 10. She joined the team in January 2010 and is excited to live and work in New England.
    Katie Davis is an I-Team reporter at NBC 10. She joined the team in January 2010 and is excited to live and work in New England.
  • Parker Gavigan

    Parker Gavigan

    Parker Gavigan is an Associated Press award-winning journalist, and was named to the NBC 10 I-Team in January 2013. Parker digs deeper to get the answers that matter to you.
    Parker Gavigan is an Associated Press award-winning journalist, and was named to the NBC 10 I-Team in January 2013. Parker digs deeper to get the answers that matter to you.
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