I’ve been meaning to make a post about the documentation renewal scam regarding Coast Guard documentation and I just saw the Coast Guard made a post on their website about it. All boaters who have a documented vessel should be aware there are companies that will mail you a “renewal notice’ a few weeks or a month before your vessel documentation needs to be renewed. These mailings and the companies are fraudulent. They will charge you hundreds of dollars to handle your renewal but what you get in return is worthless.
The letters they mail out look official and are full of threatening wording in order to scare you into a knee jerk reaction and paying them to handle your renewal. Do not use these people to renew anything or give them any of your information. Many times they will try to sign you up for expensive automatic renewals and according to the Coast Guard they give you documentation that can’t be used legally.
Registering or renewing you documentation can only be done through the official Coast Guard website or documentation center. When renewing online only go to the official .mil website. Any website with a .com, .us, or .info is a fake website. The Coast Guard DOES send renewal notices by mail but that notice will direct you to the .mil website or a telephone number to the Documentation Center in West Virginia. Official documentation only costs $26 not the $100’s these scammers charge.
This new scam highlights the need to be vigilant both online and when receiving unsolicited mail or telephone calls. Many boaters are out of the country or traveling often and may not be aware of scams like these.
If you have fallen victim to this scam you can try to get a charge back from your credit card company though it maybe difficult without a fight.
For more information please read the Official Coast Guard post on this topic.