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Buyers and Sellers Beware

So many scams, so little time. Here's the latest one percolating in the pandemic brew of desperation boat shopping.

We've just learned of yet another new scam out there targeting boat shoppers. This one appears to be rooted in the Southeast, but thanks to the world wide web, its reach is global. Don't fall for it. 

Here's how it begins:

Hello (name),

Thank you for writing to us regarding 2016 Avalon Ambassador Rear Lounge - 27’. We are (Catchy Business Name) Inc., a company that handles the sale of secondhand and new boats with our main office at (bogus address).

The final price for this boat is $27,000.

The boat is sold in very good working condition. Trailer included. It does not have spot hidden problems or defects.

The boat you are interested in is currently located at (another bogus address). Where exactly are you located? A city and a postal code will help us to determine the distance between us.

We can help with the transport of the boat to any location in the US. We also offer an inspection period for every boat we sell.

If you are interested to continue the purchase please reply as soon as possible so we can provide more information on how we can complete the sale.

Thank you for your consideration,
(Catchy Business Name), Inc.

The endgame, of course, is rarely as amicable. Yet, in hindsight, it's so predictable.

Google the company name and you may find a pretty impressive web site that looks professionally done. A second business name or address is referenced in various places on the site, but you think nothing of it as you begin scrolling through all those enticing boats. 

Perhaps you'll google the company’s address and an obscure warehouse pops up. Hmm, you think. Well, it’s not pretty, but hey, I’m getting a great deal on this boat. I guess they have to make ends meet somehow.

SPOILER ALERT: The website is a total scam, and while some old warehouse may be located at the given address, the actual “company” is, in fact, not.

Our source started down the path on this latest scam, but a few red flags flew up and he quickly ejected himself out of the nearest exit. Here’s what he reported on the experience, in his own words:

"The website is a total scam. I inquired about a boat they had listed and was given business names and locations that do exist, but they are only using those establishments as fronts for the grift. They ask you to pay for the boat up front. And they say you have seven days to inspect and reject the boat, in which case they “guarantee” you’ll get your money back.

Doing my own due diligence, I was able to track the boat to an ad on eBay that they copied in their “listing.” The rightful owner of the boat acknowledged that he had already sold it months earlier.

In my next email exchange with the scammers, they gave me a different business name and address. That address turned out to be some restaurant, which I’m sure has nothing to do with boats, nor does it have any connection to the scam."

And then there’s this gem from the alleged scammer’s website, under “How Does It Work?”

The first step to your dream boat is to find it and contact us to check the availability and other details. Now, if the boat is still available, there are two options:

Boat Reservation: For this option, you will have to pay 25% of the boat price so we can reserve the boat for you. After payment is confirmed by our bank, we will arrange all details of your visit to our warehouse to inspect the boat and complete the purchase on spot. This option is not available any more due to COVID-19 restrictions. (Right, of course it isn’t.)

For further detailed questions about the boat, our customer service is available 24/7. (You just have to trust some guy named Eddie over the phone.)

Direct Purchase with 10% discount: For this option, the buyer will have a 10% discount of the boat price. After payment is confirmed by our bank, we will prepare the boat for delivery. (Sure you will.) The boat will be in transit to the buyer’s destination in no more than 14 days. We will give the Buyer seven (7) working days as an inspection period starting from the moment the buyer receives the vessel. In this time the Buyer can verify the vessel received, verify the documents shipped the same time with the vessel. During the 7-day inspection period, Buyer shall also have the option of having a test, not to exceed 6 hours. (What a world!)


Moral of the story: Anyone asking for payment upfront before being permitted to see the actual boat should be heavily vetted. This is not the new normal, regardless of the monumental current demand for used boats.

Our sister publication Power & Motoryacht recently ran this story, which includes an interview with a fraud investigator that offers good advice on this topic. To learn more, click here.

And remember the old adage: If it sounds too good to be true, it likely is.

Editor's Note: In the absence of a formal investigation, we are unable to use actual names and titles at this time. This story is purely intended to urge potential buyers that anyone asking for payment upfront before being permitted to see the actual boat should be heavily vetted.