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Growing scam targeting used car buyers

Posted at 4:52 PM, Feb 14, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-15 11:33:34-05

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Buying a used car is stressful. A vehicle can look great. But you never really know what's going on under the hood. 13 Consumer Advocate Tricia Kean exposes a growing scam that has thousands of Nevadans paying too much for their ride.

"Basically made a big mistake that cost my family," says Aaron Hatfield.

He says he lost $3,000 to a scam artist.

"I'm going to be honest with you, very embarrassed by this," says Aaron.

It all started last summer. Aaron and his wife are expecting their forth child, and need a bigger family vehicle. Aaron found a 2002 Toyota Sienna on Craigslist with 139,000 miles.

"I called the guy and he seemed real nice on the phone. Explained to me I'm the first owner, only owner of the car," says Aaron.

Aaron met him in a Henderson parking lot and took the minivan on a short test drive.

"I'm like okay, $3,000 sounds pretty fair for a vehicle that low in mileage and it looked really good," says Aaron.

So Aaron bought the van. But the problems started almost immediately.

"We start driving it home and the first thing I noticed when I get on the freeway is it's shaking," says Aaron.

Aaron says he started second guessing his decision but decided to sleep on it.

"And then we come out the next morning, and there's just a puddle of oil under the vehicle," says Aaron.

Aaron decided to call the guy who sold him the van. But the phone number was disconnected.

That's when Aaron decided to buy a Carfax Vehicle History Report.

"This guy was full on lying to me," says Aaron.

It turns out the Sienna had 3 previous owners, was involved in an accident, and someone rolled back the odometer.

According to the report, the van's actual mileage back in January of 2017 was more than 214,000 miles. Aaron says he never would have bought the van, if he knew the true mileage.

"Unfortunately this scam is alive and well and it's growing," says Chris Basso with Carfax.

He says the company has identified more than 29,000 Nevada vehicles with rolled back odometers.

"24,000 of those are right here in Las Vegas," says Chris.

Chris says information on how to roll back a digital odometer can be found online. And he actually showed us how someone can to create whatever mileage they want.

"A digital odometer can be rolled back in less than 60 seconds," says Chris.

The good news is, you can avoid buying one of these vehicles. Carfax actually offers a free odometer fraud check. Just enter the VIN and an email to find out. But Chris says don't stop there.

"Make sure you're getting the Carfax report, going through a thorough test drive, and having a mechanic inspection before you lay down your hard earned money," says Chris.

Aaron agrees with that advise, but has one thing to add. He says don't ever feel rushed to make a decision.

"Give yourself at least 24 hours to think about it," says Aaron.