HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — The coronavirus pandemic has led to a boom of used car sales. If you’re in the market for one, we have an important warning about something you may have thought has gone the way of the dinosaur – rolling back the odometer.

“That’s when somebody tampers with that odometer cluster and changes the numbers which not only changes the value of the vehicle but might mean unexpected repairs down the road.”

Emilie Voss from Carfax explains odometer fraud is a major problem in this country, and here in the Midstate.

“There’s about 1.8 million vehicles nationwide that have a rolled back odometer, that’s actually up 13% from 2019 which is concerning. When we look in the Harrisburg/Lancaster area, we know that’s about 12,500 vehicles on the road, up about 2% from last year. Pennsylvania overall actually is fourth in the country when it comes to the number of vehicles on the road with a rolled back odometer.”

There’s a big misconception about this type of fraud. Now that odometers are digital, people think they can’t be tampered with. But car expert Josh Ingle says that’s far from true. it’s actually pretty simple if you have the right tools.

“Basically you just put a number into this and once I hit enter there’s about 40 seconds to be had and you’ll see the odometer will reset. We’ve got 265,000 miles on this truck and just after a few seconds you’ll see that we can take it all the way back to 85,000 miles which will add a tremendous amount to the sale price on there.”

In fact, the value of that car went from $14,200 before rolling back the odometer to $22,700 after. A difference of $8,500!

“If I go to a car dealer and I look at the odometer and see a number there, how do I know I can trust that number? It’s really important you check the wear and tear so examine the vehicle and look at it, pull the carfax report to see if there’s any sort of mileage inconsistency reported.”

“When you’re looking to not be fooled when you’re buying a car, look at the wear signs, the things the dealer might not think about. The brake pedal wear, if it’s substantially worn and you’ve got 50,000 miles on a car something might be wrong there.”

Also important, have a mechanic take a look at the car before you buy it, and remember – do your homework.

“Anytime you’re buying a used car you just want to know the history because vehicle history impacts value, so you want to be sure you’re paying the right price.

Rolling back the odometer does more than affect the price of a car, it’s also a safety issue. Carfax has a free tool to help you check if there are any odometer inconsistencies in a car you’re looking at.

Also remember, these tips should be used whether you’re buying from a private seller or a dealership.