Documentation Scam Warning

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    Norm Miller

    Coast Guard warning 10/17/2017

    A new scam targeting boat owners, claiming they can save time online, is costing them hundreds of dollars, the Coast Guard says. These are websites offering documentation renewal services for a fee.

    The websites have the appearance and claim convenience of an official government website. But just because a website looks like the Coast Guard and may work like the Coast Guard, that does not mean it is the Coast Guard. The result is often that boaters using these websites can end up spending three times the standard fee and find that Coast Guard boarding officers cannot accept their vessel’s documentation as valid.

    Why? The Coast Guard’s National Vessel Documentation Center, located in Falling Waters, W.Va., is the only authorized entity to issue certificates of documentation required for vessels engaged in commercial trade and optional for vessels weighing 5 or more net tons engaged in recreational use and activities.

    Further, although the Coast Guard is aware of these websites, no companies are authorized to operate on its behalf in any way. The services they provide are not illegal, but they cannot issue any form of documentation, including travel letters and/or permits that authorize the operation of any vessel.

    Any fees charged beyond the $26 renewal fee or any other agreements offered by such websites are not associated with the NVDC certification process. These companies cannot issue the certificate, but are middlemen who charge a fee for processing the paperwork on a boater’s behalf.

    So if you, as a dealer, have customers with documented boats, be proactive and tell them: When it comes time to renew, always remember that the Coast Guard website offering documentation uses a .mil domain name. Websites using .us, .com and .org aren’t the real thing.

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