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It’s estimated that there are over 31,500 incidents of odometer fraud in Massachusetts every year. Odometer fraud occurs when a vehicle’s odometer is illegally altered to make it appear that the car has fewer miles on it than it actually does. Unsuspecting consumers then purchase the vehicle for more than it’s worth and often run into costly repairs and maintenance needs that come much sooner than expected.

But there are some ways consumers can look for odometer fraud.

  • Ask to see maintenance or inspection records since those usually have the mileage reading.
  • Consider paying for a thorough inspection of the vehicle by a trained mechanic. There may be signs of wear on the vehicle that are inconsistent with the stated mileage.
  • Compare the mileage on the odometer with mileage on the vehicle’s title. Be warned: if the seller cannot provide the title do not buy the car!
  • Purchase a vehicle history from an approved National Motor Vehicle Title Information System provider or from another private company. Any inconsistencies with these numbers on documents can indicate odometer fraud.

To report odometer fraud contact the NHTSA at 1-800-424-9393. Sellers who commit odometer fraud may be liable for three times the amount of actual damages to the consumer, or $1, 5000 whichever is the greater, plus the costs of the action together with reasonable attorney fees as determined by the court.  Consumers should consult an attorney before taking legal action. The Massachusetts Bar Association Lawyer Referral Service can connect consumers with an attorney appropriate to their situation. They can be reached at (617) 654-0400, or consumers can fill out an intake form online at http://www.masslawhelp.com/lrs-find-lawyer-intellinx.aspx.

If you have additional questions, contact the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation by calling our Consumer Hotline at (617) 973-8787, or toll-free in MA at (888) 283-3757, Monday through Friday from 9 am-4:30 pm. Follow the Office on Facebook and Twitter, @Mass_Consumer. The Baker-Polito Administration’s  Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation along with its five agencies work together to achieve two goals: to protect and empower consumers through advocacy and education, and to ensure a fair playing field for all Massachusetts businesses. The Office also oversees the state’s Lemon Laws, data breach reporting, Home Improvement Contractor Program and the state’s Do Not Call Registry.

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