How to Avoid Fraud When Buying a Boat Online

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Buying a boat online can be a great way to find a good deal. You’ll have a much wider selection than you could find at a dealership or a boat show, since you can review listings from all over the world. And some sellers are desperate to get rid of their vessels to raise cash – so they offer highly attractive prices.

But buying a boat online is not without its challenges. Even though most people selling boats online are completely trustworthy, if you’re not careful, there’s a chance you could run into a fraudster.

Types of Fraud

Generally speaking, fraudsters will be interested in one of two things: your money or your information. There are a variety of fraudulent practices that could lead them to acquire one or both. For example, they could ask you to send a bit of earnest money before seeing the boat, tricking you into forfeiting cash for a vessel that may not even exist. Alternatively, they could get you to reveal your email address and password for the platform you’re using, compromising your account.

Fortunately, even the most rudimentary fraud prevention practices have the power to protection from most scams.

Identifying Red Flags

There are several red flags that could alert you to the possibility that you’re dealing with an attempt at fraud:

  • A deal that’s “too good to be true.” If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. You might see a relatively new vessel in pristine quality being sold for a mere £500 – but don’t count on it being a sincere, accurate listing. You can find good deals online, to be sure, but if there’s a ridiculously low price, there’s probably a reason for it.
  • Sparse or fuzzy images. Can you get a good look at this boat, or are the images hard to see? If there are only one or two images and they’re hard to make out, it might be a sign that you’re dealing with fraud.
  • Details that are slightly “off.” Pay close attention to the website you’re visiting. Are there any details that seem off? For example, is the logo of the brand the wrong colour? Or do things seem spaced differently than normal? If so, this could be a phishing scheme – a malicious attempt to collect personal information from users. Always double check to make sure you’re on the “real” version of your intended website.
  • Lack of reviews or reputation. Of course, if you’re dealing with a lesser-known brand, phishing isn’t as common. But new platforms rise all the time – and sometimes for nefarious purposes. Before committing to use a given platform, be sure to research its reputation. What are people saying about this brand? What are the reviews from other buyers and sellers like?
  • Free email accounts. Pay attention to the email account of the seller, assuming you’re communicating over email. Is it a free or temporary email account? If so, it could be a red flag.
  • Poor grammar and other mistakes. Many of us struggle with spelling, grammar, and other peculiarities of language, so don’t overthink it if your seller makes a typo. But if the wording of the listing is so riddled with errors that it’s hard to read or that it seems written by a non-native speaker, it could be a sign of fraud (especially when taken in combination with other warning signs).
  • Extended distances. There’s nothing wrong with buying a vessel that’s currently in another country. In fact, our platform specialises in connecting international buyers. But if the person selling the vessel is living far away from you, you need to be extra cautious.
  • Pushy behaviour. Scammers often practice pushy behaviour, manipulating you to take impulsive action (like sending money early). If the seller gets aggressive, feel free to walk away.
  • Elusive behaviour. Fraudsters also tend to practice elusive behaviour, dodging your questions and avoiding scrutiny whenever possible. For example, they might refuse to answer your questions or change the subject when you bring up a valid point of scepticism.

If you notice one or more of these signs, you should reconsider your buying strategy and choose another platform or seller. And do report your concerns to the platform so they can investigate and remove the fraudulent seller’s boat listing.

How to Stay Safe When Buying a Boat Online

Additionally, you can use these approaches to stay safe when buying online.

  • Never send money prematurely. Cash should only change hands when you’re ready to finalise the transaction. You should never voluntarily send money to someone before you’ve seen the vessel in person and are in the process of transferring the title. Additionally, if you’re meeting in person, it’s wise to avoid carrying large sums of cash; even if the transaction plays out legitimately, having that much cash on your person is a security risk.
  • Avoid sending personal information. Feel free to trade names and phone numbers if you want to communicate with the seller, but for the most part, you should avoid sending personal information. Never give out your account password, credit card information, bank information, or anything else that could be used against you.
  • Insist on seeing the vessel in person. Remote fraudsters will often only pretend to have a vessel, or they may mislead you about the condition of that vessel. Before any money changes hands, it’s important that you see the vessel in person; don’t rely on photos, videos, or the promises of the seller you’re dealing with.
  • Get all the proper paperwork. Before the transaction is finalised, make sure you have all the right paperwork in place. Title transfers are handled differently in different areas, so familiarise yourself with local laws before attempting to finish the deal.

At TheYachtMarket, we take fraud seriously for both buyers and sellers. In addition to providing our customers with as much information as possible, we have security measures in place to prevent the instances of fraud that occur on our platform. If you’re interested in starting your boat buying journey, check out our selection of vessels for sale!

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