The Boat Owners Association of The United States, our national boater advocacy, safety and services group, has outlined the top boat selling scams reported to its Consumer Protection Bureau and offers ways to improve your chance of a smooth sale or purchase — and when to walk away.
Here are the group’s recommendations:
Getting a cashier’s check or money for more than asking price: Anytime a buyer offers to pay more for the asking price of the boat your are selling — run away. It’s easy for criminals to print counterfeit bank checks, and by the time your bank figures out the loss, the bad guys are far away, and you will be liable for the lost funds. Always contact the financial institution on which the check was drawn to verify the account, but don’t dial the phone number printed on the check, if possible. The amount of the bank check should also match in numerals and words, and the account number should not be shiny in appearance. Official checks are generally perforated on at least one side.
A twist on the same for the electronic age: Recently PayPal has become a target for scammers. A phony buyer again asks to send substantially more than the asking price. Later, you get a fake confirmation email from PayPal with your user ID for more than the agreed purchase price — with instructions from the buyer advising you to send the extra money to a shipper. The scam can seem even more legit — if you refuse, you may receive additional fake email notices from PayPal threatening to close your account if you don’t transfer the extra money as per your “agreement.”
An escrow service scam: A bogus seller advertises a boat on a website at a low, but not scam-worthy price. When the scammer finds a buyer, they will tell them to use a legitimate sounding yet fictitious escrow service, like GoogleMoney.com. But once the funds are transferred, you’ll never hear from the seller again. It’s wise to use an escrow service for a long-distance purchase, but be cautious with escrow services you’re not familiar with, and go with established providers such as eBay’s Escrow.com.
Email red flags that mean you may be taken for a ride: Poor grammar, spelling and language use; no phone number for the buyer/seller; generic references (ex. “merchandise”) to the boat being sold; changing names and locations in emails; a buyer who shows no interest in haggling over price or seeing the boat firsthand; a buyer or seller who has no interest in discussing titling or verifying the boat’s Hull Identification Number.