Man suspects odometer fraud after buying used car on Facebook

Published: Jun. 29, 2021 at 6:28 PM EDT
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MOORESVILLE, N.C. (WBTV) - A Charlotte area man called WBTV for help after buying a car - only to find out later it had twice as many miles as advertised.

“April 21, 2021, I inquired about a vehicle on Facebook Marketplace,” said Reid Atwood.

Atwood found a jeep commander listed for $6,900 on Facebook. The listing indicated it was driven 86,000 miles.

So Atwood exchanged messages with the seller and they set up a time to meet 2 days later.

“So I met a young lady there and it ended up being a gas station was the address that he gave me,” Atwood said.

Atwood took the car for a drive and everything seemed fine.

He says the woman said she would go get the second key and the bill of sale.

“Anyway, she left and never came back. And so I thought, well, that’s a little odd,” Atwood said.

Atwood messaged the seller and they agreed on a time to pick up the items at the gas station but the items, he says, were never dropped off.

“So I kind of thought something, maybe at that point in time, might not have been right and was a little suspicious,” Atwood said.

He says he did his research and pulled up a CARFAX report and saw different readings. He also reached out to the seller via Facebook messenger.

“I told him that the odometer was wrong. He said ‘how dare you accuse me of changing the odometer,’ but the odometer was apparently changed,” Atwood said.

We reached out to the North Carolina DMV License & Theft Bureau and inquired about Atwood’s vehicle. They gave us these inspection dates and odometer readings:

  • Date of inspection: 1-15-2019
    • Odometer reading: 145,382
  • Date of inspection: 9-9-2019
    • Odometer reading: 155,925
  • Date of inspection: 5-4-2021
    • Odometer reading: 86,383

WBTV asked the DMV if they caught the drop in mileage.

“Did he file the complaint, did he file with local law enforcement, did he file a complaint with License and Theft? That’s how they catch these and then they investigate,” Steve Abbott said.

There are a number of reasons there could be a drop in mileage.

“It would be either somebody did something illegal and changed it or it was replaced - the odometer was defective and it was replaced. There’s a state law that covers the process, what has to be done. There has to be sort of a - it’s not a notification, but there’s a sticker or there’s some process that goes on that vehicle, or it could have been a clerical mistake,” Abbott said.

The License & Theft Bureau looks into the situation when someone files a complaint. Their biggest advice is to do your research before buying any vehicle.

“If you have the VIN number, you can look it up. You have to pay a fee to CARFAX, but it’ll give you the history of that vehicle in most cases and you would just check that out,” said Abbott.

Atwood has certainly learned a lesson.

“I’ll never buy a vehicle without getting inspected by a mechanic again. That’s it,” said Atwood.

WBTV tried contacting the seller on Facebook to get their side of this story but was unable to reach them.

The NC License & Theft Bureau said there is no way to tell if odometer fraud happened unless the vehicle owner files a complaint with License & Theft and they do an investigation.

Atwood says he plans to file a complaint.

Over the past four years, North Carolina has launched 185 separate investigations leading to 82 felony charges of odometer fraud.

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