April 8, 2013

Car buyer cries fraud after discovering odometer has been rolled back

Used car buyers are cautioned to do a vehicle history check before driving off the lot. One woman’s story highlights how odometer miles can be tampered with.

Keisy Fernandez thought she got a great deal when she purchased her 2006 Chrysler last year from a Miami car dealership.

A few months later, she wanted to upgrade and another dealership offered to buy the car from her.

But when that company ran a check on the car’s history, there was a problem.

Fernandez’s odometer had been rolled back. When she purchased the car in April 2012 from Affordable Motors, the odometer showed 56,447 miles. That turned out to be untrue. The actual mileage was 187,677, miles at the time Fernandez purchased it.

Affordable Motors said it has nothing to do with the mileage discrepancy.

“There was a problem before us,” said Affordable Motors owner Felisberto “Felix” Sanchez. “The problem was not us. She’s probably right, but the problem was with a previous out of town dealer.”

Sanchez said he runs checks on all his vehicles and nothing seemed out of the ordinary with the Chrysler he sold to Fernandez.

Odometer fraud is a national problem, but consumers can take steps to protect themselves.

In Fernandez’s case, she did not see her vehicle’s Carfax. The Carfax would have provided a history report for her Chrysler including any possible odometer discrepancies.

“If I could do it again, I would absolutely make sure I see the Carfax first.”

Federal law requires the vehicle seller to certify to the best or his or her knowledge that the odometer reflects the actual mileage, or that the seller knows there is an odometer discrepancy, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

On Sanchez’s certificate of title from Affordable Motors, it reads that car’s mileage is 56,447, but on the side are the words “not actual.” That means the odometer reading is not the true mileage or the true mileage is unknown.

“That is absolutely a red flag,’’ said Leslie Palmer, spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. The DHSMV, which is responsible for licensing car dealerships, investigates claims of odometer fraud. “It screams buyer beware.”

A federal study found more than 450,000 people every year buy used vehicles with mileage gauges rolled back costing consumers more than $1 billion annually.

“We encourage buyers to do their due diligence and as much investigation as possible especially when buying a used car,” Palmer said. “Do your homework.”

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