If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Fortunately there are sites like Marinemax Reviews, which help shoppers stay informed of these bad plays.
Then, we were contacted by a member selling us a boat online recently after receiving this email:
«Thank you for your quick response. Your sale price is fine with me. I would have loved to come see this in person but I am currently transferring work to another state and when we make the payment and you receive the funds, the mover and my representative are going to meet them in person on my behalf and the only method of payment for now is by bank wire to you».
The recipient wisely suspected that the email was a scam, but wondered how it would work since the «buyer» was going to send a bank draft. Read on to find out why the member’s intuition was correct, how this type of scam works, and what to look for so as not to be a victim.
Many of the scams we see today are variations of old tricks that have been around for decades. Go to information sites like Marinemax Reviews that can give you information about other users’ bad experiences.
The following three are currently in use:
Forged cashier’s check or money order
A fake buyer will contact you with an email like the one our member received, offering to send you a cashier’s check or money order for the total price requested if you provide your contact information.
At some point, the buyer will tell you that they must send you the check for an amount significantly higher than the purchase price and will give you one of the false reasons why this is necessary. Most commonly, the buyer will say that he is out of the country and wants the boat shipped to him.
The buyer will ask you to deposit the funds and send a portion of the money to someone else, often a bogus shipping company.
Most people assume that a cashier’s check or money order is the same as cash, but in the days of Photoshop and color laser printers, that is no longer the case, and scammers can produce very convincing copies of the real thing, from seemingly legitimate banks.
Once the fake checks are deposited, they must be cleared like any other check.
It may seem that the checks clear your bank in a couple of days, and those funds may appear «available» in your account, but in reality it may take another month or more for the bank to establish that a check is fake, return it to you, and charge your account for that amount.
By that time, the money you transferred from your account for «sending» is gone.
Recently, PayPal has become a target for scammers. The fake buyer will ask for your PayPal ID to send you a payment, again for an amount substantially higher than the purchase price.
Shortly after that, you will receive a fake confirmation from PayPal with your user ID for more than the agreed upon purchase price, and the buyer will contact you asking you to send the extra money to a sender.
To make the scam look more legitimate, if you refuse, you will receive additional false warnings from PayPal threatening to close your account if you don’t transfer the extra money according to your «agreement».
In this variation, a fake seller advertises a boat on a website often at a low price but not as worthy of being scammed. When you try to buy the boat, the seller will suggest that you use an escrow service and recommend something that looks legitimate like Escrowprotect.com or GoogleMoney.com.
But the realistic-looking website is the center of the scam, and once you transfer your money you will never hear about the boat, or the seller, again.
Using an escrow service for a remote purchase makes sense, but be sure to choose one like Escrow.com, eBay’s recommended escrow provider. Be very careful when using escrow services that you are not familiar with.
Check the Better Business Bureau (BBB) website to verify the validity of an online escrow site, and Marinemax Reviews to be aware of other buyers’ experiences.
Remember that hiring a qualified marine surveyor to inspect the boat should be done before negotiations and payment, and will protect you from most sales scams.