NORTH CAROLINA: Odometer fraud scam costing consumers billions - WNCN: News, Weather

Odometer fraud scam costing consumers billions

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Francis Marimo was sentenced to 18 months in prison in December, 2013 and ordered to pay $190,845 in restitution. Francis Marimo was sentenced to 18 months in prison in December, 2013 and ordered to pay $190,845 in restitution.

A scam involving car odometers is costing consumers billions of dollars nationwide, including right here in North Carolina. Those are the findings of a recent report from Carfax.

Scammers buy high mileage cars for cheap, manipulate the odometers to make them show a lower reading, then sell those cars to unsuspecting buyers. It's a felony in North Carolina, but it's happening at an alarming rate.

"It's scary," Carfax spokesperson Chris Basso said. "This is a fraud that, unfortunately, not a lot of people are looking for because they believe it can't happen anymore."

Carfax estimates 1 million cars are on the road right now with odometers that have been rolled back, including 30,000 cars right here in North Carolina alone. It's costing consumers an estimated $760 billion in lost value and repair costs.

"Anybody that's buying a used car needs to be on the lookout," Basso said.

In December, a Raleigh man, Francis Marimo, was sentenced to 18 months in a federal prison and ordered to pay back more than $190,000 in restitution as part of an odometer fraud scheme.

"Anybody who unknowingly buys one of these vehicles, not only are they paying more money for those cars, but they're likely going to incur costlier repairs than expected," Basso said.

The fraud is easier than ever because most new cars come with digital odometers.

"No longer do you have to crack open a dashboard and roll the old mechanical odometers back by hand," Basso said. "Cars today are a giant computer, so it's as simple as plugging in a tool into the car's diagnostic port and within seconds typing in any mileage you want that odometer to read."

Basso says car buyers can easily protect themselves. Always take the car for a test drive, have a mechanic look it over and make sure you obtain the vehicle history report, which should show the correct mileage.

Derick Waller

Derick is a reporter for WNCN covering crime, education, politics and just about everything in between. He has a knack for adapting to any story and consistently delivers information quickly across multiple platforms. More>>

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