According to a 2002 study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there are over 450,000 cases of odometer fraud each year, making it one of the most common forms of auto fraud. The study estimates that the increased cost consumers pay to buy vehicles with odometer rollbacks is over a million dollars per year, which makes it one of the top crimes against property in the United States.
Fortunately, car buyers have a powerful tool to combat odometer rollbacks–the Federal Odometer Act. The Odometer Act has several major protections against odometer fraud:
• It prohibits odometer tampering
• The Act forbids false statements about an odometer reading during a sale
• It requires that a transferor disclose a vehicle’s odometer reading each time it’s transferred
• The Act establishes notice procedures when a repair results in a change to the odometer reading
The Odometer Act allows a person victimized by odometer fraud to bring a lawsuit against anyone who has violated the Act with intent to defraud. Successful litigants are entitled to $10,000 or three times their actual damages, whichever is greater. Further, the rollback artist has to pay for the buyer’s attorney fees and court costs. In addition, the Odometer Act provides for federal agency enforcement and many states, including Minnesota, have criminal penalties for odometer fraud.