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 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
  • 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 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.”


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.

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 and here

and report a stolen boat here


  • 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.


  • 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:
Your local state will have a form you can fill out
your local police will be able to file a report
Call 800.TEL.NICB (800.835.6422)