Hardly anybody I know pays much attention to the odometer reading when buying a used car — unless, of course, it’s exceptionally high. After all, low mileage is usually the main qualifier when buying a pre-owned vehicle because it suggests the two of you will likely enjoy a few more good years before it gives you serious trouble.
But judging by an arrest for odometer fraud in South Hackensack a week ago, ignoring a low-mileage reading might mark the beginning of serious trouble. “Odometer fraud? How’d they do that?” said Sal, an otherwise astute car owner I know from Barnegat.
Like me, Sal thought rolling back odometers was the kind of crime that all but disappeared when computers were introduced in most cars around the end of the 20th century. Those of us who began driving when hood ornaments were still popular remember how amateur mechanics would break into the odometer housing behind the dashboard and roll back the miles by hand.
Those days are long gone. And so is the housing, said Robert Foster, an officer in a consortium of state investigators called the National Odometer and Title Fraud Enforcement Association.
“It’s easier to do now than it was before computerization,” said Foster. “With the right kind of knowledge and software, a mechanic can get into the onboard computer and reset the mileage to anything he wants.”