WASHINGTON -- More than 450,000 people every year buy used vehicles with mileage gauges rolled back, spending thousands of dollars more than they should, according to a federal study of odometer fraud.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration study found the practice is most common with fairly new vehicles that accumulate significant mileage in a short period, such as rental and company cars and leased vehicles.
Consumers pay an average of $2,336 more than they should for vehicles with fraudulent mileage totals.
"You can take a 2-year-old car with 20,000 miles on it, roll it back to 2,000, and you just made $4,000," said Richard Morse, chief of NHTSA's odometer fraud program. "That's without doing anything else to it. You don't even have to wash it."
Newer cars usually have digital odometers, but it only takes a laptop computer and equipment readily available on the Internet to change the mileage.
Morse said most odometer fraud is committed by wholesalers who buy fleets of used vehicles and sell them to dealers.
NHTSA's study was requested by Congress and examined the title transfers of 10,000 vehicles and its own database of known odometer fraud.
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