Odometer Fraud in Europe, be carfeul when you buy used cars

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Odometer Fraud in Europe


Uncovering Odometer Fraud

CARFAX, automobile clubs and law enforcement agencies across Europe estimate consumers will continue to lose billions of Euros to odometer fraud. Despite efforts to combat odometer fraud – including tougher laws and increased enforcement – consumers are increasingly at risk to this age-old scam.

The terms that are used to describe the rollback of a vehicle’s odometer and the false documentation of a car’s mileage are "clocking" and "spinning". Of course, falsifying documents or tampering the odometer is illegal in most countries in Europe. What’s more worrying however, is that auto experts say that it's relatively easy to do and that anyone could do it. Consequently, consumers should be alerted about odometer fraud when purchasing a used car, since it does not only affect the value of the car; it also increases the likelihood for costly repairs to occur sooner rather than later.

Naturally, if the car has a lot more miles than the odometer indicates, the probability of major repairs and lots of little things going wrong is greatly increased, says automotive expert Pat Goss, co-host of PBS's Motorweek. However, it isn’t as simple as it seems. Even experts need to examine the car closely before being able to detect whether the car’s odometer has been tampered with. For this reason we always recommended to consult a reliable mechanic when purchasing a used car.

Technological Advancements

To alleviate the problem of odometer tampering, auto manufacturers had developed the digital odometer. However, just as quickly as the technology had developed, scam artists learned how to use it for the wrong reasons. In this case, the very tools that were meant to correct the mileage on digital odometers were used to roll back the odometers. Larry Gamache, director of communications for CARFAX explains that "unscrupulous people are reprogramming digital odometers and use software that is used for legally recalibrating faulty odometers for illegal purposes. The software that they use can be easily found through an Internet search and are being used to rip off unsuspecting consumers".

Pat Goss continues, "Just like a hacker can do damage to a computer, someone with the right software and hardware can make a digital odometer read whatever number they want.’’

A used car with a digital odometer may seem like a safer purchase, but don’t be fooled. Digital odometers may nowadays even pose a greater risk than before.

Detecting Odometer Fraud

Even though odometer fraud is difficult to detect for the untrained eye, it is not an impossible task. CARFAX has compiled a list of tips to help used car buyers, click here to read more how to detect odometer fraud.

The development of Odometer Fraud in Europe

The combat of odometer fraud has developed very differently within the European countries, mainly due to country specific laws and efforts.

In Germany, one of the biggest used car markets in Europe, mileage rollback remains a very common act in the sale of used cars. The German police have estimated that approximately every 3rd car has been subject to odometer fraud. Further, they estimate that on average, the illegal increase of a used car’s value lays around 3.000 €. That means that only in Germany, the yearly losses amount to almost 6 Billion Euros. The legal situation is very strict in Germany, which means the Vehicle Identification Number is considered as personal data which is protected by the law. Unfortunately, products like the CARFAX Vehicle History Report, which could provide more transparency, can therefore not be offered to buyers or sellers. As long as this situation will not change, mileage manipulation in Germany will remain a big issue.

Source: ADAC

Other countries within Europe have already improved many factors and have been able to reduce the number of fraud cases significantly. When CARFAX launched the Vehicle History Report in Sweden in 2009, the number of used cars with mileage inconsistencies was around 300.000. Nowadays, a CARFAX analysis shows that this number has so far been reduced to roughly 145.000 used cars.

In other countries, such as Belgium and the Netherlands, odometer fraud has reduced significantly due to implementing a governmental supported mileage program. In Denmark for example, the seller is legally required to give those information, regardless of whether the car is being sold commercially or privately.

Since the implementation of those local tools/ initiatives, the number of manipulated cars was reduced to a minimum. However, as soon as used cars get exported to other countries the fraud cases increase significantly.

That’s why CARFAX Europe collects data from (today)  20 countries and combines it in one extensive database. Today, CARFAX Europe already knows more than over 150 Million cars in Europe.