PHILADELPHIA – The affordability of used automobiles creates a robust secondary marketplace and a popular option to outfit our new teen drivers with a reliable first set of wheels. But that demand also creates an opportunity for fraud. One such fraud is odometer fraud where unscrupulous dealers can turn a 150,000-mile vehicle into a more-profitable 90,000-mile vehicle. Those extra 60,000 miles could place consumers and especially teen drivers at risk.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers recently saw evidence of potential odometer fraud when officers seized 29 odometer manipulator interface devices that arrived this month as separate shipments from Hungary.
These devices connect to a vehicle’s instrument panel for the sole purpose of manipulating a vehicle’s mileage. Unwitting consumers who purchase vehicles with underreported mileage may face unexpected vehicle repair costs and serious safety consequences.
CBP officers contacted officials from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and NHTSA advised CBP to seize the devices. Modifying a vehicle’s odometer is illegal in the United States under 49 U.S.C. § 32703, which prohibits the sale, installation or use of a device to disconnect, reset or alter the odometer of a motor vehicle to change the actual odometer mileage.
According to NHTSA, more than 450,000 vehicles are sold each year with false odometer readings. Odometer fraud costs U.S consumers more than $1 billion annually. NHTSA offers tips to help protect consumers against odometer fraud.
Officers seized the most recent shipments of odometer manipulator devices on Saturday. The 29 devices were destined to addresses in 12 states.
“Consumers deserve to have confidence that they are buying and driving a vehicle with accurately displayed mileage and one that will keep them and their families safe,” said Rene Ortega, CBP’s Acting Area Port Director in Philadelphia. “Customs and Border Protection officers are happy to partner with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to help keep America’s roads safe and to protect consumers against fraud perpetrated by unscrupulous actors who value profits over safety.”
CBP's border security mission is led at our nation’s Ports of Entry by CBP officers and agriculture specialists from the Office of Field Operations. CBP screens international travelers and cargo and searches for illicit narcotics, unreported currency, weapons, counterfeit consumer goods, prohibited agriculture, invasive weeds and pests, and other illicit products that could potentially harm the American public, U.S. businesses, and our nation’s safety and economic vitality.
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