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We handle cases across the United States. Allen Stewart is licensed to practice law in Texas, California, New York, Pennsylvania, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio and Arizona.

How to Know When You May Be an Auto Fraud Victim

Fraud Victim

There are many ways a car dealer can rip you off. While the overwhelming majority of car dealers are simply honest businesspeople, many dealers want to extract as much money out of their marks as they can and care little for the quality of product or service they provide. When these attempts cross over into outright crime, auto fraud attorneys can help you seek justice and get back some of the money lost on a dishonest deal. The auto fraud attorneys of Allen Stewart P.C. can help you determine if your car dealer took advantage of you and what kind of compensation you are owed.

Auto dealer fraud attorneys in Texas use the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act (DTPA) when pursuing auto dealer fraud cases. The DTPA protects consumers against false, deceptive and misleading business practices of all kinds including auto fraud. The Act, enacted in 1973, defends consumers against false or misleading business practices that would otherwise harm or defraud them. The DTPA provides consumers victimized by bad actors the legal means to get justice and compensation.

For more information on arbitration and other frequently asked DTPA Protects questions, click here.

DTPA covers situations frequently experienced by auto customers looking up how to sue a car dealership, as well as other instances of consumer fraud. This includes when a vendor takes advantage of a consumer’s lack of knowledge or experience, when they pass off goods or service dishonestly, advertise a good or service with the intent not to sell them as advertised, representing a good as original or new when they aren’t, or knowingly making false or misleading statements when trying to make a sale. If the car dealer lied about financing, this can fall under the DTPA as well. If you feel that you’ve been taken advantage of, it never hurts to take your documentation and experiences to a qualified auto law attorney.

Signs of Odometer Fraud

Odometer fraud is one of the most common forms of fraud in the automotive sales industry. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates Americans purchase roughly 450,000 vehicles every year containing odometers that were tampered with, costing consumers more than $1 billion each year. Whether the vehicle’s previous owners tampered with the odometer before selling it to the dealer or the dealer themselves did the deed, odometer fraud can cost you thousands of dollars and potentially put you at risk.

Spotting odometer fraud early can save you a lot of time and money fixing problems that you shouldn’t encounter in a younger, less-traveled vehicle. If you’re vehicle shopping and spot a deal that seems too good to be true, you might be looking at a vehicle that’s been driven much harder than the odometer suggests. Check for missing screws or scratches on or near the instrument panel, as this may indicate someone opened the instrument cluster to reach the odometer. Fingerprints on the inside of the instrument panel’s transparent cover are a clear giveaway that someone was back there, possibly for malevolent purposes. Older odometers can also show misaligned digits if they’ve been tampered with as well.

If you think you have been a victim of odometer fraud, contact Allen Stewart. The consultation is free.

Newer vehicles contain digital odometers that some may consider harder to falsify, however they can be accessed and messed with almost as easily as older analog odometers. Fraudsters can purchase the tools needed to change digital odometer readings online for less than $100. As such you would have to check for other signs of premature wear in this case. One dead giveaway of higher than indicated mileage is an overly worn brake pedal. The rubber on the brake pedal wears away with time and use, revealing the bare metal beneath. If your supposedly newer vehicle has an almost entirely bare metal brake pedal, you might have a vehicle with more miles on it than you think.

Auto Fraud Victim

Other components can indicate high mileage if they appear worn or recently replaced. These components include park plugs, brake pads, rotors and calipers. While these are meant to be replaced, they are meant to be replaced only after extended periods of wear- extended periods that shouldn’t have occurred yet with a low mileage car.

Signs of a Flooded Car

Cars pulled from floodwaters can be dried out, cleaned and eventually resold. However flooding can cause extensive internal damage hard to see from the outside. Flood waters can corrode wiring and vital internal systems, including safety technology meant to protect occupants during a crash. Unrepaired flood vehicles can pose a serious safety hazard to consumers and as such must be clearly labeled for anyone choosing to buy it. Failing to disclose flood damage is illegal.

Fare you a victim of auto fraud? Contact Allen Stewart today.

Telltale signs of prior flood damage includes rusty metal inside the car, musty odors inside the vehicle (especially when the air conditioning or heater is on), or mud inside the vehicle’s nooks and crannies. Flood water can also cause brittle wiring, as well as oxidation in the vehicle’s internal components characterized by white powder or small holes or pits. Milky oil or transmission fluid, or water bubbles within those fluids, are usually indicators the vehicle was at least partially submerged in water.

Signs You Are Paying Too Much

One worryingly common form of fraud is “payment packing,” which occurs when dealerships unfairly inflate the monthly payments owed by a customer. Payment packing can range in severity from simply a poorly negotiated deal to actually illegal. Unneeded products often included in the contract can include gap insurance, credit life insurance, undercoating, VIN etching and more.

Lemon laws are confusing. Read our guide to the lemon law process.

The dealer is legally required to disclose a vehicle’s base payment before offering additional back end products. If you believe they failed to do this, that counts as payment packing and is a form of fraud.

A good way to avoid this is to get multiple price quotes from different vendors and making them compete against one another for the lowest price. You should also check with your bank or credit union to see if they have auto financing options, only using the dealership’s financing as a last resort. You should also have a good idea what your interest rate will be, so you can have a rough estimate of what your payment will be before you even go to the dealership.

If you believe you’ve been ripped off by your dealership, contact the office of Allen Stewart P.C. today. Our auto fraud experts will work with you and the facts of your situation and decide whether you have a valid claim and, if you do, work tirelessly to see it through to its conclusion. Don’t wait any longer; contact Allen Stewart P.C. today and get back on the road.

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