It’s summer boating season and some boat buyers and sellers are getting ripped off, say’s Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatUS).
The national boater advocacy, safety and services group outlined the top boat selling scams reported to its Consumer Protection Bureau and offers some ways to greatly improve your chance of a smooth sale or purchase – and when to walk away.
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. Today, 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 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 (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 (HIN).
For a free buying and selling guide for boaters, go to www.BoatUS.com/consumer.
Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatUS) is the nation’s leading advocate for recreational boaters providing its over half-million members with government representation, services such as 24-hour dispatch, on water boat towing as well as roadside assistance for boat trailers and tow vehicles, feature-packed boat insurance programs, money-saving benefits including marina and service discounts, and vital information that improves recreational boating. Its Consumer Protection Bureau offers the only national complaint database, a dispute mediation service, and provides consumer-oriented information to help boaters make smart buying decisions. The member-funded BoatUS Foundation is a national leader promoting safe, clean and responsible boating and offers range of boating safety courses – including 33 free state courses – that can be found at BoatUS.org/courses.