Buying And Selling A Boat Are Fertile Grounds For Scammers

By Mike Deem

  If you are considering buying or selling a boat, then you should be aware that the market is full of bogus buyers and sellers. When it comes to buying or selling a boat, if anything seems unusual then proceed with caution. While fraudulent transactions apply to both purchase and sales, this article will focus on the seller’s side of the transaction.

  If selling your boat is not difficult enough, these days the last thing you need is to encounter someone, somewhere, trying to trick you at least once, if not two or more times as you try to complete the boat-selling process. Because fraud comes in all shapes and sizes, it is not possible for us to focus on one type of transaction, so we will concentrate on the most common red flags.

Obvious poor punctuation and grammar. These scammers crank out a thousands of their “inquiries” every day and many of them have a poor grasp of the English language. Also, pay attention to their use of multiple phone numbers (and/or multiple email addresses) from the same individual.

  Everything the alleged buyer asked about was thoroughly detailed in your listing.  Some of these scammers operate through robo or computerized forms of communication like e-mail or texting.  So, if the potential purchaser is asking you for information that is already in your listing then this should raise a red flag and you should proceed with extreme caution.

Enlisting a third party to pick up the boat without the buyer ever having inspected it. Boats are not cheap.  No credible buyer will purchase a boat sight unseen.  A credible purchaser will at least obtain a boat survey, which is similar to a home inspection.  In addition, most honest buyers will be present when the boat is picked-up, rather than sending an agent to do take possession of your boat.

  The offer to pay by cashier’s check and pick up the boat after it had been cashed. This seems like a reasonable show of good faith, but scammers have become very good at printing fake checks so realistic that banks initially accept them. It isn’t until days or even weeks later that the scam becomes apparent, and then the bank can pull those funds right back out of your account. Check with your bank to confirm its policy regarding final acceptance of funds.

  Paypal or Venmo variation of payment.  The phony buyer will ask for your PayPal ID in order to send you a payment, possibly for substantially more than the purchase price. Shortly after that, you will receive a fake confirmation from PayPal with your user ID for more than the agreed purchase price, and the buyer will contact you asking you to forward the extra money to a shipper. Again, you’ll lose whatever money you’ve sent.

  An unwillingness to provide basic proof of identity such as a photo of their driver’s license. If they are who they say they are then there should be no issue with providing proof of their identity. Automobile dealerships will obtain proof of your identify when you try to purchase one of their vehicles.  Strangers routinely share this basic information when they are involved in motor vehicle collisions, so it should not be sacred during the purchase of a boat or a car. 

  R.C. Shea & Associates is a full-service Law Firm.  We are located at 244 Main Street, Toms River.  Visit our website at