11 Scams against Boat Sellers (fake buyers and more…)

As a boat owner, there’s only one thing worse than having a hard time selling your old boat: getting scammed by a buyer. Unfortunately, boating marketplaces are rife with scams, making it difficult to sell a boat without someone trying to take advantage of you.

In this article, we equip you with all the information you need to protect yourself from fraudulent transactions and make the sale process as seamless as possible.

We have been in the boating industry for several years and have seen all kinds of fraud and will give 11 examples.

Common Boat buying Scams against Sellers

As a seller, you need to be on the lookout for the following common scams that have taken over the boating world, including consignment fraud.

1. Counterfeit Cashier’s Check or Money Order     

As per the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC ), scammers significantly rely on their victim’s blind trust when provided with an official bank check or cashier’s check. Advanced printing techniques and graphics allow them to create fake and hard-to-detect checks within minutes.

Counterfeit checks may take many forms and aren’t always cashier’s checks. Business or personal checks, electronic checks, and money orders can all be scams. It is best to seek help from a bank representative if you have a question regarding the check or money order’s authenticity.

If you fail to detect counterfeit checks days or weeks after receiving them, you will probably have to bear responsibility for the funds.

This can also come in the form of a fake payment verification scam: A scammer may send you a fake payment verification email or screenshot to make it appear as though they’ve paid for the boat. Always confirm the funds have cleared in your account before releasing the boat.

2. Overpayment Scam

The overpayment scam is a different version of the Nigerian Money Scam and is quite common amongst international scammers. Sellers that list their boat for sale as FSBO are the main target of these scammers, who falsely present themselves as a prospective buyer.

Here’s what typically goes down:

  • The fake buyer contacts the seller and inquires about the boat listed for sale
  • They make an offer for the boat (without asking any questions or requesting to see it in person)
  • Next, they send a cashier for more than the decided amount
  • Finally, the fake buyer asks the seller to transfer the difference back 

Unfortunately, the seller is asked to transfer the money before the cashier’s check clears at their local bank (international checks take longer to clear). When the boat seller sends the money to cover the difference, they find the check counterfeit. The check bounces, and the transferred money is permanently lost.

3. PayPal Scam against boat sellers

This is where a bogus buyer will ask you to provide your PayPal ID so they can transfer you the money for a significantly higher amount than the purchase price. Shortly after, you’ll receive a fake call from PayPal with your ID for more than the determined purchase price, and the buyer will ask you to send the surplus to a shipper. This way, you will lose whatever amount you’ve sent to the ‘shipper.’ 

4. Shipping Scam

Non-existent shipping company scam: If a buyer arranges for a shipping company to pick up the boat, research the company thoroughly. Scammers may pose as shipping agents, take possession of the boat, and disappear.

The scammer offers to buy the boat and says they cannot pick it up in person since they are out of town. They will then ask the seller to arrange for shipping through a specific company, which is fake and involved with the scammer.

When the seller agrees to deal with the shipping company, plenty of things can go wrong as they try to trick you each step of the way. If a buyer is adamant about using a specific shipping company, it is generally a red flag.

5. Phishing Scam

Phishing is a social engineering attack where a scammer tricks people into revealing sensitive information or downloading malware. In a phishing scam, a fake buyer will trick you into providing your credit card details or clicking on harmful links that can provide them access to your sensitive information. Never click on random links the buyer sends, and do not volunteer any personal information.

In this scheme, they might try to steal your password for a popular boating forum or boat classified site that you posted your boat ad listing on.

6. Fake Boat Listing Fees

False billing scams ask you to pay for your boat listing or advertising by sending a fake invoice. Scammers will send you a fake message with payment details, where to transfer, and a notice that your listing will be taken down in case you fail to make the payment.

Make sure to read the listing and payment policies of the online platform where you are selling your boat, so you don’t get tricked. Also, pay close attention to the email address, domain name, and phone number.

7. Escrow service scam when selling your boat

A fraudulent buyer suggests using an escrow service to handle the transaction. They’ll provide you with a fake escrow website where they can steal your money or boat without delivering payment.

8. Boat History Report Scam

In this scam, a buyer contacts you and shows interest in buying your listed boat. However, they insist that you purchase a boat history report through a specific company before they can examine the boat in person.

You might think they must be genuine if they are going as far as asking for a background check. The answer is no, not always. In reality, they just want you to purchase a product via their affiliate link so they can make a commission on the sale.

You should only provide a Boat-Alert.com History Report to interested parties in your classified ad listing because it helps sell the boat BUT never buy something for a random “buyer” online who “sent you a link”.

9. Phishing scam & Identity theft

You receive an email or message asking for your personal information or login credentials. Scammers may pose as potential buyers or payment processors to gain access to your sensitive data. Scammers may request copies of your personal identification documents to “verify” your identity.

Be cautious about sharing such information and ensure the legitimacy of the buyer.

10. Non-local buyer scam

A buyer claims to be interested in your boat but cannot meet in person. They may send you a fraudulent check or payment and arrange for a shipping agent to pick up the boat, but the check will bounce or payment will be reversed.

11. Title washing scam

A buyer may ask you to provide a clean boat title, claiming it’s necessary for them to complete the purchase. They could use your documents to commit fraud or sell a stolen boat. This is known as title washing. Another version is known as HIN Cloning.

Buyer Red Flags that Boat Sellers Must Know

  • Lack of knowledge about boats.
  • No reference to what is being sold. Scammers generally create bulk emails to send thousands of people, so they use a more generalized language that could apply to anything. For example, rather than saying, “I am interested in the boat,” they may say, “I like the item/merchandise you are selling.”
  • Poor spelling, grammar, or use of language. A few errors are fine, but more than that is a red flag.
  • Agrees to pay a different (usually higher) amount than the listed price.
  • Insists on using a specific company (shipping or history report) and won’t accept a substitute.
  • Shows little to no interest in the boat and seems eager to finalize the transaction.
  • Avoids providing their phone number. Scammers go to great lengths to avoid handing out their phone numbers. If you hear excuses like “I am out of the country” or “I am away on military service,” run in the other direction.
  • Appear too good to be true. If the buyer seems to agree with you on everything, isn’t fussy, and is acting too nice, that might be a red flag. Buying a boat involves a big investment, so it is normal for investors to be cautious, ask a lot of questions and negotiate a better price. A person who is too sweet may not intend to buy your boat, to begin with, and simply wants to gain your trust.

How do I protect myself when selling a boat?

  • Do a background check on each potential buyer who approaches you. Do a simple Google search and see if you can find some details about them online. Go through their social media handles to see if anything seems suspicious.
  • Never send the amount difference from an overpayment until a check fully clears – or simply ask the buyer to only send the listed asking price.
  • Do not click on random links sent by the buyer; never volunteer any more information than you have to.        
  • Carefully read the security guidelines, fee, and listing policies of the platform where you are selling your boat. That way, you can stay one step ahead of the scammer. 

Tips to Avoid Scams when Selling a Boat Online   

  1.       First and foremost, you should choose a boat-selling platform that is safe and reputable. Sites like Boat Trader, Boats.com, and Band of Boats (owned by Beneteau) are relatively more secure than sites like Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, and other auction platforms like ebay.
  2.       Interrogate the buyer thoroughly. Ask them if they are a first-time buyer, and if not, what types of boats they have, where they bought them, and why. Asking them plenty of boat-related questions will give you an idea if they are bluffing or genuine.
  3.       Ask the buyer to meet you in person to discuss the details further. Scammers normally avoid in-person contact since it puts them in a risky position. Make sure to have a friend tag along when meeting the buyer.
  4.       Trust your instinct. Sometimes, you should listen to that nagging voice telling you it’s a bad idea. Waiting for another buyer may take a long time, but it’s certainly better than getting tangled in a scam. If things feel off, move on.

How do I protect myself when buying a boat on Craigslist?

Here’s how to avoid boat scams on Craigslist:

  • Stay away from a seller who is selling a highly undervalued boat.
  • Do not engage with someone who doesn’t have all the registration and titling documents ready.
  • Never pay anything to a third party or through a payment outside that isn’t recognized by Craigslist. 

Conclusion

In this article, we talked about selling your boat safely and avoiding fake boat buyers on online platforms. We also discussed some of the eleven most common scams so you can stay safe during your transactions.

#BoatScams #BoatSellingScams #AvoidBoatScams #sell #boat #scheme #scams

Infographic: 5 scams against boat sellers
Infographic: 5 scams against boat sellers

There is an abundance of government fraud prevention advice from bank account safety and how to deposit bank drafts. Internet con artists (cyber crime) will share fake contact information and show genuine desire to buy the vessel. They are scamming boat sellers out of their surveys and trailers too!

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