Boat buying red flags
Don’t get bamboozled when buying or selling your boat
During the summer boating season, some boat buyers and sellers might get ripped off. Below is some advice to greatly improve your chance of making a smooth sale or purchase.
Getting a cashier’s check or money order for more than asking price: Anytime a buyer offers to pay more than the asking price for the boat you’re selling, run away. Today it’s easy for criminals to print counterfeit bank checks. By the time your bank figures out the loss, the perpetrators are far away, and you are 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 match in numerals and words, and the account number should not be shiny in appearance. Official checks are generally perforated on at least one edge.
A twist for the electronic age: PayPal has become a target for scammers. A phony buyer asks to send substantially more than the asking price. Later, you get a fake confirmation email from PayPal 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 scammers find a buyer, they tell the buyer to use a fictitious escrow service, like googlemoney.com. Once the funds are transferred, the sellers are never heard from again.
It’s wise to use an escrow service for a long-distance purchase, but be very 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 (i.e., “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 (HIN).
For a free buying and selling guide for boaters, go to boatus.com/consumer.