Beware the Maritime Documentation Scam Letter

Beware the Maritime Documentation Scam Letter

There is a kind of scam going around for quite some time. Some companies or we should say scammers are running services of providing renewal of USCG Vessel Documentation. Pretending to be working on behalf of the U.S. Coast Guard, they are charging triple the official fee of renewal. They work both online and offline; some are running their websites while others are sending letters to boat owners by mail.

From the past couple of years, they are active, and many vessel owners became the victim of their scam. After getting the money, they just run away. Follow this article to keep yourself safe from scammers.

What’s USCG Vessel Documentation?

USCG Vessel Documentation is the documentation for the registration of all commercial vessels. The U.S. Coast Guard’s National Vessel Documentation Center “NVDC is the official governing body for issuing documentation to vessel owners. The certificate is valid for one year and has to be renewed every year with a small fee.

This article is about the documentation renewal. If you are looking for Boat Abstracts visit our review article here (Boat Title Abstract USCG Documented vessels)

How they scam?

Surprisingly they make themselves look like the actual authorized USCG Center. From the website to the letters they send, everything looks legit and real. Even their website looks exactly like Coast Guard’s website. They often send messages to the vessel owner, saying that your documentation needs to be renewed.

They ask for $76 for a single year, although the official fee is $26. When customers ask for physical address or office, they refuse to tell. For queries, they give a scam email, and all emails go to the void.

How to be safe from these scams?

If you want to be safe from all these scammers, you should have basic knowledge about the NVDC methods of operation. Remember,

  • If your vessel documentation expires, the U.S. coast guard will itself mail you a notice.
  • Coast Guard National Vessel Documentation Center is in West Virginia, look for the address on the letter.
  • USCG will mail you with U.S. Official Mail. The scammers usually use standard mailing services.
  • If the letters seem to be a scam, visit USCG official website at http://www.uscg.mil/nvdc/ or contact NVDC at (800) 799-8362 or (304) 271-2400.
  • Customer complaints can be made through the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) website at https://www.ftc.gov/
  • The fee for one year is $26, and anybody who asks for more is no way associated with NVDC.
  • Customers can register to NVDC’s email subscription service to get updates and notices.
  • Documentation renewal requests are accepted at vdc-pf-nvdcrenewals@uscg.mil with a payment of $26.00.

U.S. Coast Guard Statement

NVDC’s statement about Third Parties

“The NVDC is aware that there are commercial entities that offer to manage the certification/renewal process on behalf of vessel owners for a fee. The Coast Guard does not endorse any of these companies, and the companies do not operate on behalf of the Coast Guard in any way.”

Conclusion

If you search a few things about these scams on the internet, you can get a broader image of the scammers. Remember, there is the governing body that manages the COD. Do not fall into the wrong hands. Follow the above instructions to be safe. Report to the governing authorities if something is suspicious.

Thanks for reading the article. Be safe.

Comparison Table of 4 Boat Abstracting Companies

This is a list for Boat Abstracts. For a list of Boat History company comparisons click here

 http://vesseltitleservices.comhttps://maritimedocumentation.ushttps://www.yachtdocsonline.comhttps://boat-abstract.com
User FriendlyBelow average. Not attractive Colourful and attractive. All pages well listed out and easy to navigate. Top Notch!Simple. 2 colors used. Quite appealing and navigation isn’t difficult but slowCan be tagged as simple and classic. Excellent!
Authenticitylooks amatureAbsolutely Genuinelooks amatureGenuine and Convincing
Errors on PageNoneNoneNoneNone
Price of one report79 USD75 USD75 USD50 USD
Best PriceNoNoNoYes
Website to ChooseNoYesNoYes
Report SampleNone AvailableNone AvailableNone AvailableAvailable
Payment MethodCredit CardCredit CardCredit Card & PayPalCredit Card & PayPal
Website Loading RateFastFastSlowFastest
Contact InfoAddress, FAX, Email & Phone NoEmail, FAX, Phone No, Live chatLive chat, Email, Phone NoEmail
Written ContentsSimple but not aetheticly pleasingWell written content but too busyLess content but easier to readLess content but easier to read
Other Services providedYesYesYesNo, Focused on Abstracts Only

For a detailed review, please see my article here comparing the top 4 boat title abstracting companies.

Conclusion:

            The website maritimedocumentation.us has the most investment in looks and services available but if you only need an abstract of title, then you can save $25-$30 and use boat-abstract.com instead. The other two sites reviewed come in third and fourth place in my opinion.

Review of top 4 Boat-Abstract Service Providers

Today, I decided to review of four different websites that provide Boat Abstract services. Recall, Boat Abstracts are a report on a boat’s ownership and history from the United States Coast Guard. Beginners can read more about it HERE.

The Coast Guard Abstract of Title is a record of all the documents submitted to the Coast Guard for a specific boat. Abstract of Title is an important document a boat buyer needs to get when he or she wants to purchase a boat. The Abstract is specific to each boat.

So, which service should you hire to obtain the Title Abstract for you?

The 4 websites reviewed today are:

  1. http://vesseltitleservices.com/Quotes/mtcabsdoverview.htm
  2. https://maritimedocumentation.us
  3. https://yachtdocsonline.com
  4. https://boat-abstract.com

Review criteria I will be using include: professionalism, website, mistakes, prices, payment method, and contact info. Disclaimer: This article was written by a hired neutral third party and then I proof read it before posting it online.

  • Vessel Title Services

It’s a full-service documentation company. The website is designed with a very simple template which makes it a bit dry and not attractive. The website looks old and as you can see there is no https SSL certificate so I would not enter my credit card on this site. It’s just a single page with links to make an order or contact. Not informative as a new user would want it to be but the steps are laid out with regards to the order process and the checks they will perform on the report. It doesn’t have any ads on the page. The order process is relatively long as you have to enter your boat information and email then proceed to enter your credit card information on another page for 79 USD. Since the website is from 2009, we can conclude that they are the first to offer this service compared to the newer companies below. There is no satisfaction guarantee or mention of refund policy other than that they won’t refund you if the boat is not documented!

  • Maritime Documentation

This full-service website does it all but for a high price as well. It is probably the nicest looking site of the bunch. It’s an all-encompassing website as it fully lists various services and relevant information about what the company can do for you (renewals, address change, abstracts..etc.). A new user can get as much information as he or she needs as there is an FAQ section where you can get answers to all the questions you may probably have. The visual appeal is great. No Ads. The website also has a blog/news section where you can read about all the recent happenings in the industry. Contact information is well displayed; Email, Telephone number, and Live Chat. It looks genuine and the payment method is by credit card (website is encrypted by SSL). The price is $75 for a single Abstract Title and the form is a bit long to fill out when really all they need is the ID of the boat and your contact info! It is full-service but complicated for someone that just needs an abstract of title quickly.

  • Yacht Docs Online

This website loads a little slowly and seems to use a template for its pages and blog. The blog only has a few articles. It has various sections, so, you can navigate to find relevant info that you need. A blend of just a few colors; mostly white and blue with a little touch of yellow and black. It’s an ad-free website and payment methods are through PayPal and credit cards. The price is also $75 for a single Abstract Title with a much simpler form than the previous two sites above. Contents are well written with no errors but the layout can be improved if they use a different template. Contact information available are: Live chat popup, Email & Phone number. I like that they offer PayPal as it means you only have to fill in one form instead of two.

  • Boat-Abstract.com

An aesthetically pleasing website that is very easy to use. Can be regarded as simple & classic. The website looks genuine & convincing. It is the only one that provides a Sample Report of how an Abstract Title looks like! Boat-Abstract.com doesn’t have much content other than two excellent articles about title abstracts and the order page. They are focused on simplicity and fast order process with an SSL encryption for security and PayPal payments for 50$. As a matter of fact, the website only offers the service of Boat Abstract of Title so, all you have to do is to enter your USCG official number and pay $50. This is the lowest price available for the same product the others are offering! The only contact info available is via Email and there is neither FAQ nor any ads on the home page.

Conclusion:

            The website maritimedocumentation.us has the most investment in looks and services available but if you only need an abstract of title, then you can save $25-$30 and use boat-abstract.com instead. The other two sites reviewed come in third and fourth place in my opinion.

A Summary Chart can be found here comparing the boat abstract providers.

What I discovered when I ran a BoatFax

Find out what I ran into when I searched my HullID on boatfax

I set out to do a boat title search from this company based in the UK. This site has diverse offerings including dealer classifies, boat history search, used boats apps, HIN Decoding app, and boat value app. This made navigating the site a little hard at first but i know i needed to lookup the boat registration.

First, I got my boat-HIN (hull identification number) because i wanted to run a hull check using boatfax. The base prices comes with a lot of add-ons costing $3, $5 and $6 more but there are coupons available out there. Payment can be done via PayPal or credit card making it more secure than BoatHistoryReport.com. The report is not as pretty though.

A distinctive feature is that, boatfax.com can be used to search outside U.S.A (Europe inclusive) however; such searches cost particular add-ons too. boat ownership was not provided and i didn’t expect these companies to have owner names from the Hull ID boat hull number check.

My verdict: The site should be less cluttered and modernized but the reports are good on a technical level and if you can find some coupons that would cut the cost of buying a boat history report.

PS. check this other blog on the boatfax reports http://boatfax.report

pps. be sure to read my article about Boat Abstracting companies.

What I discovered when I ran a Boat History Report

My shocking experience when I ran a Boat History Report for my yacht.

Going through this boat history site to run a boat title registration search, it seems simple and easy to use. I just entered the hin hull identification number into the hull check box. The ordering process involves giving your credit card and email to them instead of using a secure gateway like PayPal. (less secure and refunds much harder!!!). This is in stark contrast to the other companies I reviewed here.

When it comes to prices it is the highest priced report out there and this is expected given the fact that it is a company with many employees and larger overheads that get passed to the consumer for the same data you can get with other smaller sized companies.

This company (B. H. R) has many partnerships for boat history search within the boating industry and their reports indicate that “coming soon” data for surveyors has been approved by N. A. M. S and S. A. M. S list of surveyors. boat title searches shows many negative comments on this company in online forums. Here are two examples where the employees try to defend the company: https://www.thehulltruth.com/boating-forum/283209-boat-history-reports-worth.html and http://www.cruisersforum.com/forums/f47/boat-history-reports-worth-it-and-reliable-92693.html

There has been a very heavy criticism from the BoatU.S. Consumer Protection Bureau here: http://my.boatus.com/consumer/historyhollow.asp

There are other great boat registration and boat title search websites that we compared on this review site.

My verdict: This is a good site to check for boat hin number search/problems and is the leader but for the same amount of money you can get both reports from the competitors (boatfax and boatalert). Ideally, you would get all three reports to make sure no one missed anything in the boat title search (if you can afford it).

What I discovered when I ran a Boat-Alert

Read about my interesting findings about my boat when I ran a boat-alert boat history check using my hull ID.

Boat Alert is a newer company but the price is lower for consumers. So I decided to try it out and quickly found that they saved me so much time on the boat HIN title search. They checked 22+ databases and websites in one shot. That was a fast hin number search. I didn’t have to search each website individually for negative boat events and boat registration data. It is easy to use and offers one product at two price points per boat history report. The boat-alert came with an instant download of the boat history alert boatfax. The boat hull search report is printable and provided lots of advice as well.

It is worth the time to read the content of your report. boat hull number check payments are made via Clickbank and PayPal so you are guaranteed a 60-day money back purchase.They do offer coupons that you can use to obtain the other reports at a discounted rate so I would suggest starting with the Boat-Alert then buying more reports if you need to. There is also a link to the report that you can use to share the report with buyers/sellers online to verify boat ownership and boat history.

My verdict: Looking at the comparison chart uploaded on this blog, you can see that Boat-Alert.com has the most amount of data types and checks available and for the lowest price without add-ons. The site improved a lot since my last review in 2016. The report itself is not as pretty as the others but the most useful.

ps. be sure to read my comparison article here

Chart Comparing the Top 3 Boat History Website Services

For a pretty version of this table, please visit my other page Comparing the HIN Search Companies:

chart comparison review of boat history and boat alert

Incoming keywords:

  • boat history
  • boat history report
  • boat history search
  • boat hull id number
  • boat hull id number search
  • boat hull number
  • boat hull number check
  • boat hull number search
  • boat hull numbers
  • boat ownership
  • boat registration
  • boat title search
  • boatfax
  • boats information
  • hin hull identification number
  • hin number
  • hin number search
  • hull check

Reviews of the different boat reporting websites

I will start by saying that although such a report is not a replacement for a complete and thorough survey on the vessel’s present condition it does provide an easy method of checking for negative events in a boat’s history before finalizing the purchase. It is also a good selling tool when promoting your boat online. Many people expect a history of all events and not just an indication of negative events.

It is important to read the product description before you buy the product in order to set expectations correctly.

Below I compare the top 3 HIN Search websites:

  1. www.boathistoryreport.com
  2. www.boatfax.com
  3. www.Boat-Alert.com

Don’t have time to read? check out the summary chart here comparing those boat report companies.

BOAT HISTORY REPORT (www.boathistoryreport.com)

Going through this boat history site, it seems simple and easy to use with provisions like a search box for your HIN. The ordering process involves giving your credit card and email to them instead of using a secure gateway like PayPal. When it comes to prices it is the highest priced report and this is expected given the fact that it is a company with many employees and larger overheads that get passed to the consumer for the same data you can get with other smaller sized companies.

This company (B. H. R) has many partnerships within the boating industry and their reports indicate that “coming soon” data for surveyors has been approved by N. A. M. S and S. A. M. S list of surveyors.

There are many negative comments on this company however in the online forums. here are two examples where the employees try to defend the company:

https://www.thehulltruth.com/boating-forum/283209-boat-history-reports-worth.html
http://www.cruisersforum.com/forums/f47/boat-history-reports-worth-it-and-reliable-92693.html

There has been a very heavy criticism from the BoatU.S. Consumer Protection Bureau here: http://my.boatus.com/consumer/historyhollow.asp

My verdict

This is a good site to check for boat problems and is the leader but for the same amount of money you can get both reports from the competitors below. Ideally, you would get all reports to make sure no one missed anything (if you can afford it).

BOATFAX (www.boatfax.com)

Based in the UK, this site has a diverse capability of offerings including dealer classifies, boat history reports, used boats apps, HIN Decoding app, and boat value app. All these features are great but make it hard to go though the site as a result of too many unrelated menus and pages.

The base prices comes with a lot of add-ons costing $3, $5 and $6 more but there are coupons available out there. Payment can be done via PayPal or credit card making it more secure than BoatHistoryReport.com. The report is not as pretty though.

A distinctive feature is that, boatfax.com can be used to search outside U.S.A (Europe inclusive) however; such searches cost particular add-ons too.

My verdict

The site should be less cluttered and modernized but the reports are good on a technical level and if you can find some coupons that would cut the cost.

BOAT ALERT (www.Boat-Alert.com)

This newer site is for a smaller company making the price lower for consumers. It is easy to use and provides one product only with an instant download of the boat history alert.

The report is printable and provides lots of advice even when little data is found on negative events. It is worth the time to read the content of your report. Payments are being made via Clickbank and PayPal so you are guaranteed a 60-day money back purchase.

They do offer coupons that you can use to obtain the other reports at a discounted rate so I would suggest starting with the Boat-Alert then buying more reports if you need to. There is also a link to the report that you can use to share the report with buyers/sellers online.

My verdict

Looking at the comparison chart uploaded on this blog, you can see that Boat-Alert.com has the most amount of data types and checks available and for the lowest price without add-ons. The site improved a lot since my last review in 2016. The report is not as pretty as the others but the most useful. They also check 22+ databases so that saved me time

Conclusion:

Some of the companies have more varied data points while others focus on fewer data types but provide more details instead. Consumers should be aware they need a thorough survey on the vessel’s present state and that these reports are mainly looking for negative events and to read the product description to not get surprised with “missing data” that they expected to see.


Data Not included in ANY report: 

  1.  maintenance records
  2.  owner names from states that ban this
  3.  Certified Marine Surveyors data
  4.  engine info
  5.  length of boat
  6.  Warranty Claims or Insurance Claims
  7.  Environmental lien
  8.  equipment check and motor VIN number

Special note about MARINE TITLE (www. marinetitle.com)

Although this website is full of information, the report they provide has the same data that is included in the boat-alert.com report so there is no need to review it independently as the boat-alert report will simply have this data anyway and more.

Where can I report a stolen boat or file a lien?

Here are some resources to help you make a lien claim or report a theft of a boat. It is important to do so as it deters the movement of the boat among criminals.

For starters, you can post a boat lien here https://boat-alert.com/post-a-claim-of-lien-on-a-boat/ and here https://marineliens.com/

and report a stolen boat here https://boat-alert.com/report-stolen-boat/

TIPS TO AVOID BUYING A STOLEN BOAT

  • Make sure the HIN exactly matches the HIN listed on the registration and/or title.
  • If the vessel is registered or titled as a “home-built boat,” it should have no manufacturer brand markings.
  • Carefully review the vessel and its ownership paperwork for these fraud indicators:
    • The boat has been rebuilt.
    • The boat has been previously reported stolen, sunk or recovered.
    • The title or proof of ownership is a duplicate issue or from out of state.
    • Registration numbers appear altered or are not uniform.
  • The asking price is well below the market value – if the deal seems too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Do not purchase any vessel if the seller is unable to produce title or proof of ownership.

TIPS TO KEEP YOUR BOAT AFLOAT – AWAY FROM THIEVES

  • Install a kill switch in the ignition system.
  • Install an alarm system especially designed for boats.
  • Secure your boat to the dock with a locked steel cable.
  • Use a trailer hitch lock after parking your boat on its trailer.
  • Park your trailer in a locked garage, secured boat storage facility or well-lit fenced area.
  • Park the trailer so that the hitch is difficult to reach.
  • Use a high-quality chain and lock to secure your boat and trailer to a fixed object, such as a tree.
  • Chain and lock detachable outboard motors to the boat.
  • Be sure your marine insurance policy includes not only the boat, but also your equipment and trailer.
  • Keep a copy of your registration and boat title in a safe place.
Other links you can try:

https://www.boatman.com/
http://www.stolenboats.ca/
Your local state will have a form you can fill out
your local police will be able to file a report
https://www.nicb.org/sites/files/2017-10/BoatTheft.pdf
Call 800.TEL.NICB (800.835.6422)
https://stolen911.com/
https://stolenboats.info/
http://www.marineinsureservices.com/Stolen.html