Monday Minute - Boater Fraud is Alive and Well

I got this notice in the mail once again, a yearly thing that tells me about my soon to expire vessel documentation. If you get this same letter, be sure to take a deep breath before acting on what you think is an official document and offer of service. This is NOT from the USCG National Vessel Documentation Center in Falling Waters, West Virginia.

Marine Documentation Scam.jpg

I know several people who received similar letters and assumed they was legit from the Coast Guard, so went ahead and used the company to renew their documentation. While it is legal, it is not what you think it is, and if you are not careful, you will spend three times (or more) what you would normally spend to renew your vessel's documentation. Complete waste of your money.

This has been around for some time, and obviously the company's lawyer has tweaked this notice to not cross a legal line. But it is very, very close. Read it carefully and you will find multiple legal disclaimers and statements that would not hold them libel in court, such as the last sentence that you are under no obligation to utilize this firm's service. So if you fall for this scam, doom on you and there is no legal recourse.

To be clear, a boat operator can renew his or her documentation easily without using a third party, and there is nothing complicated about the renewal process. Using a "service" is unnecessary and only results in you paying triple or more the usual fee. These companies offer nothing special such as expedited service.

The Coast Guard News had a story about this kind of company, of which there are several offering services where none is required:

So if you get this particular "official" letter in the mail, note the company address of Billings, Montana on the envelope, not exactly the hub of Coast Guard operations.

Have a great week.