It’s a huge problem, an outbreak if you will.  Let me first preface by saying the only reason odometers are hacked is because of greed.  It’s illegal, it’s a Federal Offense, and carries a penalty of imprisonment and fines of $100,000.00.  

Odometer fraud is a selfish crime that robs thousands of dollars from each victim it touches, and, on average, U.S. courts affirmed that consumers lost an estimated $4,000.00 per vehicle, and, are generally unaware that they are being victimized. Odometer-tampering involves several interrelated activities. This activity can present itself in any year, make or model vehicle, however, it is most common with late-model, high-mileage vehicles. These vehicles are purchased at a low price from a selling consumer from individuals (commonly called “curbstoners”) who buy cars, “clock them” (reset or turn back the odometers), and sell them through advertising media such as Craigslist, Facebook, LetGo, OfferUp and even Ebay, passing them off as cars of a friend or relative (“I’m selling Aunt Sally’s Buick for her.”), or their own by impersonating the seller that they originally purchased the vehicle from. The vehicles are “reconditioned” or “detailed” to remove many outward appearances of long use. Finally, odometers are reset, typically removing more than 80,000 miles or more allowing the curbstoner to ask for a higher selling price due to low mileage. Once this transaction is completed by the unsuspecting consumer, and registered at DMV, the vehicle becomes known as TMU or “True Mileage Unknown” and is worth pennies on the dollar. So now that you have the framework of what is happening, let me tell you how if you are a seller of a personal vehicle, or, you are looking to purchase a vehicle from a private party, you can avoid this trap and not fall victim to this crime.

  • If you are SELLING your personal vehicle on social media or any other online selling source, Insist that the buyer of your vehicle signs and dates all documents while in your presence.   Make sure the mileage in the odometer box is filled out COMPLETELY and signed by both parties. (Name, Address, Phone Number).  Remove the top portion of the California Title (Release of Liability) and complete all sections in the buyers presence. Retain this portion.
    • Ask for a photo ID and/or Drivers License.  Take a picture of it for your records. (I know it may be uncomfortable, but this is your liability, and it’s worth a little discomfort for protection.)
    • You are required by law to notify the DMV within 5 days from the date you sell your vehicle! So, immediately after the sale, go to: to file the notice of transfer and release of liability.  You will be asked to enter both the sellers information (yours) and the buyers information along with selling price, odometer reading at the time of sale, as well as the date.  If you do not have access to a computer, go to your local DMV office (I know, I know, going to DMV is extremely painful) or mail your release of liability (which was attached to the top of your California Title) to: Department of Motor Vehicles, PO Box 942859, Sacramento, CA 94259-0001.
    • Call your insurance company and cancel your coverage on the vehicle effective the date and time you sold it.
    • Keep all documents for your records.

If the buyer of your vehicle makes any excuses as to why the above steps can’t be completed, STOP, and refuse the sale until the above steps can be completed. 

  • If you are BUYING a vehicle from an online source, inspect everything that the ad says.  If the seller of the vehicle can’t back up the statements with evidence, it’s probably not true.
    • If you are to meet in a public place, meet at your local bank or credit union.  Target parking lot’s and gas stations are public places, but can’t help you validate a vehicle transaction, or, help you fill out documentation.
    • Run a Car Fax, Auto Check or InstaVin on the vehicle.  Match the odometer on the report to the odometer reading on the dash.  You are looking for a “Backwards” difference.  For example; the ad states the vehicle has 98,000 miles on it and your CarFax report or Auto Check etc. states the last odometer reading was 147,531.  STOP! YOU ALMOST BECAME A VICTIM. WALK AWAY.  (And NO, a new engine in the vehicle does not reset the odometer!)
    • If the Odometer reading on the vehicle makes sense, proceed to verifying that the individual that is selling you the vehicle is the individual named on the title.  Ask to see the title and ID of the person selling it (I know, it’s another awkward moment, but it’s your hard earned money at stake here!).  Look to make sure that the title is BLANK in the signature boxes and date.  If it is filled out and transferred to the person that is selling it to you,  they never Legally transferred or registered the vehicle into their name!  They avoided paying sales tax and DMV will collect double sales tax from YOU! If this is the case, WALK AWAY.
    • Make sure that the Seller has smogged the vehicle and has a “Transfer Smog Certificate” on hand.  This certificate is good for 90 days giving the seller enough time to sell the vehicle, and allows you to register the vehicle.  Under California law, the seller is required to smog the vehicle, not the buyer.
    • If the title is blank and step 2 checks out, proceed to getting the vehicle mechanically inspected if you are not mechanically inclined.
    • Once the mechanical inspection checks out and all other areas have passed the checklist test, you have done your due diligence and should proceed to purchase the vehicle if you like it.
    • You have 10 days from the date of purchase to register the vehicle in your name with the Department of Motor Vehicles (NO, the expiration date on the registration/plates has nothing to do with required registration time!)

I hope this article has helped you in your next selling or buying adventure.  I know that this may seem overwhelming, but, I want you to be safe and protected from the shenanigans that are occurring in our area.  I am always here to help you and your auto needs.  Of course, I would love to be your choice buyer of the vehicle you are looking to sell! I will do all of the DMV paperwork, make sure the process is fast, transparent, safe and easy!  Call or text me toll free today to get a free cash offer on your vehicle: (833)MYAUTOGAL  (833)692-8864, or go to my website and click on “Cash Offer” at   I want you to say when it comes to selling your vehicle, “I’ve got a GAL for that!”

Take Care and Travel Safe,