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Whereas the old mechanical odometers had lockouts to prevent such hijinks, your average 13-year-old iPhone programmer can probably hack into the OBDII port on modern-day vehicles and electronically turn back the clock. With used car sales on the verge of an increase as new car sales nosedive, Bob's Shady Corner Used Car Lot is probably hiring young hackers in droves.
"Odometer fraud is alive and well," says Larry Gamache, communications director at Carfax, pointing out that their research indicates a 57 percent increase in the con in the last four years. Naturally, Gamache suggests a Carfax Vehicle History Report as a good starting point, and indeed the Carfax report has become de rigeur in the used auto sales industry--for good reason. Carfax will let you check for potential odometer rollbacks for free at http://www.carfax.com/cfm/general_check.cfm?partner=cfx_5.
NHTSA claims that more than 450,000 cases of odometer rollbacks are reported annually, costing consumers more than $1 billion. They also say that experts have found digital odometers easier to hack than mechanical ones, and evidence of tampering is much harder to trace.--Colin Mathews