Odometer fraud is the disconnection, resetting or alteration of a vehicle’s odometer with the intent to change the number of miles indicated. NHTSA estimates that more than 450,000 vehicles are sold each year with false odometer readings. This crime costs American car buyers more than $1 billion annually. We want consumers to know how to spot odometer fraud, how to protect against it, and who to contact if you think you’re a victim of this illegal behavior.
Protecting Against Odometer Fraud
Who We Are
The Office of Odometer Fraud Investigation consists of four regional offices: Northeast, Southeast, Midwest, and Western. Each office is staffed with a criminal investigator and administrative support. The office is tasked with reducing the cost of vehicle ownership by deterring odometer fraud according to federal laws and requirements.
How to Protect Against Odometer Fraud
It can be difficult, but not impossible, to detect whether a vehicle’s odometer has been altered. The following is a list of tips to help used-car buyers detect odometer fraud:
- Ask to see the title and compare the mileage on it with the vehicle’s odometer. Be sure to examine the title closely if the mileage notation seems obscured or is not easy to read.
- Compare the mileage on the odometer with the mileage indicated on the vehicle’s maintenance or inspection records. Also, search for oil change and maintenance stickers on windows or door frames, in the glove box or under the hood.
- Examine the tires. If the odometer on your car shows 20,000 or less, it should have the original tires.
- Look at the wear and tear on the vehicle—especially the gas, brake and clutch pedals—to be sure it seems consistent with and appropriate for the number of miles displayed on the odometer.
- Request a vehicle history report to check for odometer discrepancies in the vehicle’s history. If the seller does not have a vehicle history report, use the car’s VIN to order a vehicle history report online.
- If you suspect fraud, contact your state’s enforcement agency.
How to Contact Us
Do you need to report a large-scale odometer fraud scheme? Contact NHTSA’s Vehicle Safety Hotline at 888-327-4236 (TTY for individuals with hearing impairments: 800-424-9153).
Do you need to file an individual odometer fraud case? Contact your state enforcement agency.
You may also contact the Office of Odometer Fraud Investigation at the following address: Office of Odometer Fraud Investigation, U.S. Department of Transportation / NHTSA, Room W55-301, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE., Washington, DC, 20590.
Laws and Regulations
Odometer Fraud Laws
Committing odometer fraud is a crime. The federal government passed a law that requires a written disclosure of the mileage registered on an odometer be provided on the title by the seller to the purchaser when the ownership of a vehicle is transferred. If the odometer mileage is incorrect, the law requires a statement to that effect to be furnished on the title to the buyer. However, a vehicle is exempt from the written disclosure requirements if it’s 20 years old or older, or a model year 2010 vehicle or older.
Digital odometers that have been tampered with are even harder to detect than traditional mechanical odometers (since they have no visible moving parts). A vehicle’s condition and a detailed history report are the best clues a buyer has for determining whether fraud has occurred.
NHTSA is dedicated to promoting the safe use and manufacture of vehicle equipment
Members of the Office of Odometer Fraud Investigation work to increase public awareness through informative presentations and speeches about the office, its programs, and its relationship with other agencies regarding odometer fraud. These presentations are given to affected groups, including industry members, consumer advocates, and federal, state, and local agencies. The Office of Odometer Fraud Investigation also works to protect consumers from odometer fraud by specifically assisting consumers with criminal investigations, consumer outreach programs, and public awareness:
- Criminal Investigations: Each office conducts odometer fraud investigations for criminal prosecution by the U.S. Department of Justice. Our investigators also assist state agencies that enforce odometer laws and regulations. Office investigations resulted in more than 250 criminal convictions in more than 30 states. Prison sentences ranged from one month to 10 years, criminal fines totaled more than $2.8 million, and court-ordered restitutions totaled more than $15 million.
- Consumer Outreach Programs: This program provides assistance to consumers who suspect that they have been victimized by odometer fraud and responds to general inquiries and specific questions related to odometer fraud violations. Consumers are provided with information on odometer laws and odometer disclosure requirements if they suspect fraudulent odometer tampering. Consumers are strongly advised to consult a private attorney to determine their legal rights and remedies in the matter. Although we do not have the authority to pursue claims on behalf of consumers, we appreciate any information we receive that may aid our overall law enforcement efforts. To provide information, consumers may call NHTSA’s Vehicle Safety Hotline at 888-327-4236 (TTY for individuals with hearing impairments: 800-424-9153).
- Federal/State Partnership: This partnership helps cultivate states’ interest in odometer enforcement by providing the following:
- Financial Assistance: An essential part of the partnership is generating interest in the enforcement of odometer fraud by providing financial assistance through the Cooperative Reimbursable Agreement. This agreement was implemented to provide federal assistance to selected state agencies in support of their odometer fraud investigations and prosecutions. Those state agencies that have authority to enforce federal and/or state odometer laws and regulations qualify for the one-year $30,000 Reimbursable Agreement. The Cooperative Agreement process begins Oct. 1 of each year (the start of the federal government’s fiscal year).
- Training and Education: By request, the office staff members will conduct training on how to identify fraudulent documents and how to identify and investigate odometer fraud cases.
- Investigative Assistance: The investigators assist state agencies with their investigations that may result in referral for federal prosecution by the U.S. Department of Justice.