Monday, November 20, 2017

Attention Documented Vessel Owners

If you have a documented vessel (that is, one whose title is issued by the US government instead of a state government), you are familiar with the springtime drill of refolding and sending the notice (with a check, of course) to Falling Waters, West Virginia (incidentally, this is where Frank Lloyd Wright's famous Falling Waters house is).

Well, I quite recently received an official-looking notice that looked kind of like an updated version of that Falling Waters one:

Is it real?

Well, it turns out this is a not-quite scam.  Despite the official appearance (even watermarked!) and a website with a .us domain, this is NOT from the Coast Guard.  Instead, it is from a company that will helpfully handle your registration re-up for a slight fee - three times what the Coast Guard charges.

Given that for most of us, signing the form and checking the box that confirms that nothing has changed is not a Herculean task.  It seems silly to involve a third party to do that for you.

How do you know that this is not the real deal:  Look carefully at that logo.  See where it says "U.S. Vessel Documentation Inc?"  The Coast Guard is not a corporation.


In their defense, it does not appear that this a full-on scam.  Rather, it is apparently it is a legitimate service, meant to catch the distracted unawares.  If you read the letter carefully, it does indeed disclose the service they are providing.

BoatUS provided a warning about this not-quite-scam in one of their recent magazine issues; I read it and thought I had filed it away for future reference.  But when this letter arrived, I put it in the bills-to-pay inbox.  It was only later, when I realized that the timing was off (it's not spring...) that I read it more closely.


1 comment: said...

It's not 'quite' a scam, but it's pretty dirty way to do business. I know a number of sailors who have fallen for this only to realize later that they fell for it.

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