All to often, I hear stories about boat buyers, or sellers for that matter, getting scammed. here's a few red flags that should make you suspicious.
Any one of these red flags should be enough to make you very cautious — more than one or two should be enough to make you slam on the brakes:
- An offer to send a cashier's check for more than the purchase price, and a request that you send the difference back to pay for shipping — almost always by instant electronic money transfer, such as Western Union, which can't be reversed once the money is picked up. Sometimes scammers will have imaginative reasons to need to have a return of excess money, such as they just got a settlement and they want to send you the check and ask you to return a portion. Ironically, this tends to foster confidence — surely you'd trust someone who trusts you enough to return some of their money. This is the brightest of red flags and always signals a scam. Never agree to send excess money back to a buyer.
- The buyer's lack of interest in inspecting the boat, verifying paperwork (often not even mentioning it), or negotiating price, even on expensive boats. Scammers are busy and usually have multiple scams going on. They don't have time to negotiate back and forth, and often forget which person they're dealing with. If a buyer isn't interested in title, registration, or a survey, and makes a full-price sight-unseen offer, stop.
- Buyers, banks, and shippers from multiple geographic areas. If a buyer says he is from Connecticut, and his check is drawn on a bank in Texas, and the shipper is in Florida. The check may be a forgery. The Internet makes buying across the country easy, but scammers often work together in separate areas to better hide from authorities.
- Communication via odd-sounding email addresses. Scammers prefer emails, though many will now use text and even phone calls. Emails, especially those with foreign domains (such as .ru) make hiding identities easier. But now, scammers often buy "burners" — prepaid untraceable phones — for calls and texting. These phone are bought with cash and then tossed after a few scams.
- Demanding fast payment. Scammers may say that the shipping company will be in town soon, and you need to pay them right away or the deal's off. Ironically, some scammers will negotiate the amount for you to send back to them (anything they can get is a success), even if they won't negotiate the boat price. Their only goal is to get some of your money before you become suspicious. If you're not comfortable, it's OK to delay the sale. Dragging your feet might save you a bundle.