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Police fight against odometer manipulation in Used Cars Sales

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The criminal police succeeded the biggest blow to date against the gang-style speedometer mafia in March 2011: In Munich, more than 500 police officers search apartments, workshops and large used car markets . Investigators and public prosecutors are also taking action in Cologne and Dortmund. Likewise in Austria, Switzerland, Bulgaria and Italy. In spring 2012, a 41-year-old engineer, “the electronic brain of the speedometer”, was sentenced to two and a half years’ imprisonment after almost a year of pre-trial detention and a confession.


The latest success against speedometer fraudsters was achieved by the Augsburg Criminal Police . A clue from another investigation led the investigators to the head of a chip-tuning company. For 150 to 250 euros he and two “sales representatives” manipulated speedometers from private individuals and small businesses across Germany . One of the investigating officers, for example, who does not want to be named, remembers a taxi operator who “had it shot on a large scale”: 100,000 kilometers or more per vehicle .


In total, the officers uncovered manipulation in around 160 cases , and in many cases the clients confessed. More than 50 used cars in traverse city were confiscated citywide, taken to a depository and ” completely torn apart ” in search of evidence such as memories or files .


The costs for towing them to the depository, for dismantling the used cars, experts and penalty orders – several thousand euros in total – were ultimately paid by the convicted client. “It is important for us to make it public that we can prove that we can prove fraudulent use of the speedometer,” says the criminal investigation officer, “and that it can be very expensive for those who allow manipulation.”


It was also expensive for the speedometer tricksters : all of their equipment and the computers used for manipulation, valued at thousands of euros, were taken from them and confiscated.


The head of the Augsburg speedometer trickster was arrested in September 2018 and was in custody for three months. At the end of 2019, he was finally sentenced to 22 months’ imprisonment (on probation) by the Augsburg District Court . A payment of 2500 euros to a charitable institution was ordered as a probation condition. In addition, the confiscation of the crime amounting to almost 10,000 euros was pronounced.


The Augsburg public prosecutor’s office is certain that the cases uncovered are only the tip of the iceberg . “Based on the knowledge that was gained in this process, we assume,” says Chief Public Prosecutor Matthias Nickolai, “that there is a not inconsiderable number of unreported cases nationwide when it comes to speedometer manipulation.”


This is what the Companies and Police demands

“The manufacturers must finally provide up-to-date technical protection of the entire route,” says Markus Sippl, head of Used Cars Factory vehicle company. Because the effort for a manipulation must be so high that it is no longer worthwhile in relation to the price increase of the used car. Sippl: “This should be prescribed by the EU type approval for every new vehicle model, for example through computer chips with HSM (Hardware Secure Module), the memory contents of which can no longer be falsified with reasonable effort.” According to Sippl, such chips are already installed in many vehicles today, but the HSM is either not used at all or is not used against speedometer fraud.


In addition, the Used Cars Factory demands neutral proof of the effectiveness of this protection. For example, through Common Criteria certification at the Federal Office for Information Security (BSI). “The number of vehicle thefts shows that adequate electronic protection is possible,” emphasizes Sippl. Thanks to modern electronics (immobilizer), it has fallen over many years from what used to be over 100,000 per year to around 20,000 in Germany today.


In 2012 the Used Cars Factory founded the ” Initiative against Speedometer Fraud “. “Since then, we’ve been informing consumers and welcoming car manufacturers, automobile traders and experts to technical discussions,” says Sippl, “and we are making legislators awake to this issue at national and EU level . We’ll still do everything within the future to safeguard used car buyers from speedometer fraudsters. “

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