There are lots of emotion involved when you are selling your boat, especially if the reason for selling it is not because you’re buying a bigger, better or newer boat. I put my 46 ft. Bertram Motor Yacht up for sale simply because my wife is no longer able to safely enjoy the boat the way she once did. She has developed a balance problem. Frankly, I love my boat and have anguished over the idea of selling it. But the time had come, and I put it up for sale.
I listed it online and within 24 hours I received an email from Boats.com providing a “new lead with a personal note from Rob saying “ I am interested in your Bertram 46 Motor Yacht, please get back to me as soon as possible. Regards, Rob.” I responded to the email provided directly to Mr. Arsenault. He replied with some questions. The questions seemed normal enough; where was the boat and how long would it take to have the boat ready to be picked up? What struck me as strange was that there were no questions about the condition of the boat. Then an email in reply to my email said, a Mr. Robert Arsenault at firstname.lastname@example.org would be mailing me a certified check for the price I asked for the boat. The amount was to be the price I listed. I thought WOW, that’s great. The email read; “I'll have a private delivery company to pick it up. I don't think I want to travel anywhere with the recent Coronavirus 19 outbreak.” I will have to admit I was thrilled to think I had sold the boat within hours of being listed. I reasoned that Mr. Arsenault had a good idea of what the 46 ft Bertram Motor Yachts are like and was eager to get mine before someone snatched it up. Then later that day I received an email from Mr. Arsenault saying the certified check he was mailing overnight delivery, would be for the full amount of the boat plus a partial payment for the transporter. He then wrote that as soon as his check cleared my bank, I was to call the transporter and arrange for the pick I was to give the transporter my check for half of the transport fee. That seemed normal enough at first, then the plan started to ring a bell.
I recalled that the son of a friend of mine sold his car online. The transporter that picked up the car handed him a very official looking certified check for the amount of the car plus the amount of the transporting, which amounted to about $300. The seller was then supposed to give the transporter his check for $300. Needless to say, the certified check from the buyer bounced but not until the buyers check cleared the bank.
I called my bank and asked if a certified check could be stopped or if there was such a thing as a phony certified check. The answer I got back was an eye opener. The bank warned me to be extremely careful with certified checks. She suggested I go to the online sight of the Office of the Controller of the Current. There I found this; “Many consumers have become victims of scams involving a fraudulent cashier's check. A cashier's check is a check that is issued by a bank, and sold to its customer or another purchaser, that is a direct obligation of the bank. Cashier's checks are viewed as relatively risk-free instruments and, therefore, are often used as a trusted form of payment to consumers for goods and services. However, cashier's checks lately have become an attractive vehicle for fraud when used for payments to consumers. Although, the amount of a cashier's check quickly becomes "available" for withdrawal by the consumer after the consumer deposits the check, these funds do not belong to the consumer if the check proves to be fraudulent. It may take weeks to discover that a cashier's check is fraudulent. In the meantime, the consumer may have irrevocably wired the funds to a scam artist or otherwise used the funds only to find out later, when the fraud is detected, that the consumer owes the bank the full amount of the cashier's check that had been deposited.”
Suspicious, I emailed Mr. Arsenault that I would prefer two separate checks, one for the boat and for me to send the transporter. That was the last I heard from Mr. Arsenault. By that time, I had accepted the reality that Mr. Arsenault was part of an elaborated scam to get my money and he did not have the slightest interest in buying my boat.
I decided to look further into how various boat buying and selling scams were carried out. One of the best sources I found for advice on learning about boat selling and buying scams was online at www.powerboatlistigs/avoid-fraud. In the article from powerboatlistings.com they provide a way to find out the location where the email originates. www.arin.net.
Boat US online offers some really in-depth ways to spot a scammer. Google boat selling scams or go to their website at https://www.boatus.com/buyer/guide/buyer/avoiding-boat-buying-and-selling-scams.asp.
One of the things that struck me was the lack of interest the alleged buyer had in any details about the boat. Boat US advises that an important warning sign is “No interest in seeing the boat or haggling over the price. Whether buying or selling, scammers are amazingly unconcerned about the price of the boat. Who wouldn't negotiate? And if buying, they'll often say they accept the boat ‘as is’, won't mention a survey or inspection, and won't hold you responsible for its condition. Anyone willing to buy a boat sight unseen after a few emails should be regarded with suspicion and if they're also not concerned about price, it's a good bet you're being scammed. If you're considering buying a boat, scammers will price the boat cheaply, but despite a plethora of pictures and a good description (likely swiped from a real ad), the boat doesn't even exist. If a boat you're seriously interested in is out of state, send a local accredited marine surveyor or someone you trust to verify there really is a boat and that the seller has the actual title and registration. Once you're satisfied that the boat is real and paperwork legit, you can arrange for a survey and proceed from there.” They were right on with what I experienced in my encounter with a scammer.
In my judgement, one of the best reasons to buy from a reputable boat dealer or broker is that while a private owner is not expected to be a boat expert, a dealer has a legal responsibility to disclose any defects you would want to know about. The Yacht Brokers Association of America member brokerage firms, and their brokers, agree to fully comply with the following YBAA Code of Ethics & Business Practice, as a condition of membership and in furtherance of their commitment to maintain the highest industry professional standards. http://ybaa.com/aws/YBAA/pt/sp/code-of-ethics
Boat Trader.com offers these tips, “Send and receive payment safely. Consider these tips in order to send or receive payment safely.
• If an offer looks too good to be true, it probably is! Maintain a healthy skepticism.
• Verify the buyer or seller's identity. Do addresses and names match up in public records or directories? Even better is to meet the seller in person in a safe place.
• Be cautious of an individual posing as an agent representing a buyer or seller, or when dealing with someone outside your country.
• Do not make a purchase only from photos. A photo does not verify the existence of an item. See the item in person.
• If using an escrow service for payment of the transaction, verify that it is a reliable service. Never go to an escrow service site via a link in an email. Always go directly to the site, by typing in the URL. Do not use an escrow service recommended by the seller.
• Fraud deals may involve shipping, wire transfers, overpayment or cashier’s checks. Unusual requests involving the transaction may be a signal of a potential scam.
• Use your best judgment in all transactions
• Report suspected fraudulent activity to email@example.com .”
I find it hard to believe, but that there have been reports of phony USGG boat documentation scams where you pay for and receive a phone certificate of documentation. The U.S. Coast Guard is the only agency that provides boat documentation.
The best advice when you are buying or selling a boat is to take your time, do your homework and be cautiously skeptical. If the deal sounds to good to be true, it probably is. When you’re buying a boat your excited about the fun for you and your family it will provide. Don’t allow that excitement to weaken your good common sense. The same is true when you’re selling your boat. Take the time to investigate and be sure of the boat and the seller or buyer.