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Virginia conservation police issue warning after increase of fraudulent boat sales

RICHMOND, Va. — The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries is warning residents of fraudulent boat sales after the department has seen an increase in online scams. Among the increase of reports, the department says people are falling victim to purchasing boats and personal watercrafts (PWC) that have been misrepresented to them.

“Many of these turn out to be stolen and are unable to be registered, leaving the buyer in a position of great financial loss,” said a DGIF spokesperson. “Motorboats and PWCs have to be registered and titled when operated on Virginia’s public waters and often during this process is when a buyer of a boat finds out that there are issues with the boat or PWC they purchased.”

The DGIF’s Conservation Police Boat Fraud and Theft Unit are investigating the increase of thefts and online scams.

DGIF offered these tips when looking to buy a used boat or PWC:

  • Make sure the hull identification number (HIN) is present and does not appear to be altered. The HIN is the identification number just as the vehicle identification number (VIN) is assigned to a motor vehicle. Boats manufactured prior to 1972 may not have HINs. A vessel without a HIN cannot be registered or titled, no different than a car. The HIN is located on the rear of the vessel and generally on the upper right-hand corner of the outside of the vessel.
  • Physically look at the boat before purchasing it.
  • Get a Bill of Sale and the Title.
  • Ensuring that the paperwork associated with the boat is complete and all numbers correctly match will speed up the registration and titling process greatly.
  • Do not fall victim to pressure sales. Take your time, ask questions, and if you are not comfortable with the sale, do not buy it.

If your boat has been stolen, you are asked to notify the DGIF immediately. Officials say their conservation police officers (CPOs) have a strong presence on the waters and are likely to encounter stolen vessels while on patrol.

You can report online scams, counterfeit titles or paperwork, unlicensed dealers, or any other illegal boating, hunting, or fishing activity to conservation police officers at 800-237-5712 or Wildcrime@dgif.virginia.gov.

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