Used Car Dealer Accused Of Rolling Back Odometers, Selling Cars And Lies

A couple in California who ran a used car dealership embody consumers’ worst fears about buying used cars. They now face almost 80 criminal charges of grand theft by false pretenses, perjury, filing false documents with the DMV, and twenty counts of unlawfully rolling back a car odometer.

The investigation started in April of this year, when a customer of the used car dealership brought her car to a mechanic with a functioning brain, who noticed that the car appeared to have traveled at least twice as many miles as the odometer indicated.

Department of Motor Vehicles investigators looked into cars that the dealership had sold in the past, noticing discrepancies between auction records for those cars and the current odometer readings.

Wait, though: how do you roll back an odometer when most cars have digital displays now? Despite what my imagination tells me, rolling back the odometer on a used car is not done by driving it for hundreds of thousands of miles in reverse. No, you can’t even apply for that job.

Instead, it’s done by swapping out that part of the dashboard for one with fewer miles from a car in a junkyard. This is not legal, at least not if you plan to sell the car to someone else. It’s also possible to tamper with digital odometers by hacking the software, which investigators say is a more common method.

Court documents say that both members of the couple played roles in the deception: the husband bought the cars at auction and replaced the odometers with parts sourced from junkyards and elsewhere, and the wife was in charge of typing up price sheets based on the cars’ Kelley Blue Book values using the faked mileage.

Antioch Used Car Dealer, His Wife Facing Nearly 80 Charges In Alleged Odometer Tampering Scheme [CBS San Francisco]

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  1. mrkake says:

    “Instead, it’s done by swapping out that part of the dashboard for one with fewer miles from a car in a junkyard.” — if only that were true and it was actually that hard. In reality, all you have to do is buy a special device that you connect to the car’s computer input port and type in any number you want. It takes like less than 15 minutes to do with the right equipment. If you search on Youtube, there are tons of videos of people showing it for demonstration purposes or whatever…. don’t trust the odometer when you are buying a used car, and honestly I wouldn’t buy any used car without some kind of history report.

    • A friend of mine has an older but low-mileage car that needs that part of the dashboard replaced for some reason that I can’t recall. He could get a part from a junkyard, then do this to keep the odometer accurate.

      • mrkake says:

        actually i guess it probably depends on the car. some might need a part, some not… and maybe some actually have more protections and it’s not that easy.

        its kind of annoying, because, what if your odometer legitimately breaks? you need to get it replaced and set the value to the true mileage of the car, so it needs to be possible to change the value for legit reasons….. otherwise your car would just become garbage and undrivable when the odometer ever fails.

        it’s just depressing that people use that to their advantage to scam and rip people off

        • furiousd says:

          Another blog I enjoy reading is Hackaday, and this kind of how-to is the sort of thing that would pop up there, along with a wider array of articles. Often people new to the site will comment on articles complaining that the knowledge could be used for nefarious purposes. Personally I find it of interest in order to know what the current technology is like and how people bypass poorly-implemented security features so that when I’m at work I can include a “how will someone break this?” brainstorm and redo some of my work in order to make nefarious intent even just a bit more difficult to carry out. Someone, somewhere will eventually be able to bypass security, it’s in making it difficult to not get caught that’s important in many situations. If someone can make it, someone can break it.