ORLANDO,Fla. - Action 9 exposed the increased risk that buyers take when purchasing a used car that could have thousands of missing miles.
Odometer tampering is on the rise and new technology has failed to stop it. Todd Ulrich found local buyers who were taken for a ride and how it cost them thousands of dollars.
When Erik Forrest bought his Subaru, he never suspected odometer tampering.
"I always thought that was older cars and this is a digital so I didn't think that could happen," said Forrest.
Later, a Carfax report revealed someone had erased 18,000 miles.
"I think I got taken as a sucker," said Forrest.
Thousands of Florida buyers could feel the same way. A just released Carfax study found 40,000 vehicles now registered in the state show evidence of possible odometer fraud. According to federal studies, the average victim will lose about 4,000 in value and repairs.
"I could not believe anyone could do this to another person," said car buyer Sharon Payton.
She helped her son buy a used car from a dealer, and then discovered someone had rolled back 80,000 miles. She paid $6,000 for a car worth $900.
"It was just a pile of junk," said Payton.
Digital odometers won't protect you. Investigators say handheld devices available online plug into the vehicle and rewrite mileage history in minutes, and then the vehicles are sold and resold.
WFTV found a 2001 Honda Civic on Craigslist. When WFTV's Action 9 producer met the seller, she was told the vehicle had 126,000 miles. But WFTV had checked Carfax, and it reported the car really had 210,000 miles two years ago.
WFTV confronted the man selling the car.
"Can I ask you some questions about the car?" asked Todd Ulrich.
"No," the seller replied.
"Are you hiding this car's true mileage?" asked Ulrich.
"No," he said.
State law doesn't require odometer disclosures for vehicles after 10 years.
So buyer beware.
"I feel kind of responsible for not doing enough research about this vehicle," said Forrest.
If buying a used vehicle, insist on an independent inspection first.
Also, use services like Carfax that gathers repair, insurance and registration records to track a car's true mileage history.