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Deceptive Boating Websites

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What you should know about deceptive boating websites.


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Introduction


Jul 28, 2023 -  Deceptive boating websites are an unfortunate byproduct of having online services, products and information right at your finger tips. This ever growing problem has proliferated the marine industry in ways that are increasingly difficult to detect. There are however steps that can be taken in order to ferret out the bad guys and avoid what could amount to some costly mistakes. This article will offer an insight into what's behind these unethical players and how to expose recognize their chicanery.

Anonymity


Let's  begin with some harsh realities of life in cyberspace. Boaters may not realize that many online websites are completely anonymous. All you see is an arbitrary trade name or title with no legitimate identity whatsoever. Although most sites do contain a phone number and/or contact dialog, there is often no physical address or indication of where and how the underlying business itself is registered. Under these conditions, consumers may well end up clueless as to exactly who they are dealing with or the destination of any payments.

Hyperbole


It's no secret that many websites are pushing the limits of credibility when it comes to online recognition. One of the primary incentives for doing so is that of topping what are known as the "search engine results pages" or SERPs. These are the listings you will see upon searching for boating information or related services and products. Internet search providers such as Google and Bing deploy complex algorithms that look through key words in all of the websites out there to determine the best match for your search criteria. This opens the door for companies to game the system by loading or stuffing their websites with irrelevant or misleading words, terms and articles in order to enhance their standings. Sites that engage in such practices may be less than trustworthy.

Representations


Deceptive websites will often mimic the appearance of governmental agencies or project themselves as public institutions. This is accomplished through the use of official sounding monikers, simulated logos and misleading visuals. Some of the biggest offenders in the boating industry are vessel documentation websites that mislead boaters into thinking they are somehow affiliated with the U.S. Coast Guard's National Vessel Documentation Center or a state registration agency. The Coast Guard has in fact issued warning notifications to this effect.

Referrals


Website formation is surprisingly easy and the costs are minimal for basic hosting services. Deceptive players will accordingly establish what are known as ghost websites that feed into their primary target. These have the appearance of independent reviewers that heap lavish praise on the respective business. There are also for-hire websites that specialize in similar services. Ease of site formation further encourages an elusive game known as whack-a-mole. When a deceptive site is ultimately exposed, it simply pops up again under a different domain. Multiple sites of the same genre which have been established by a common owner are also quite common.

Verifications


Mainstream browsers will typically employ built-in filters for scams, viruses and malware. However, these are hit and miss propositions that should not be wholly relied upon. The following steps may offer some additional help in exposing deceptive or scam boating websites.

1.  Make an in depth inspection of the subject website to see if any of the above conditions are apparent. If so, you can take some further investigative actions right online.

2.  Conduct a WHOIS domain lookup (WikiTags) under the website's homepage internet address. This can be copied from the top of your browser screen. Make note of any organizational information if listed. Again, many websites intentionally privatize such information. Do not include the name of a proxy registrant as it would be irrelevant for verification purposes.

3.  Search the internet separately under the site's title, organization names, and any aliases that have been discovered. Search again by including a "reviews" qualifier and yet again with a "complaints" qualifier. In other words, three different ways of searching one subject. This may seem like overkill, but you can't be too careful and it only takes a few minutes. It's simply a process of elimination. Be alert for any additional organization names or aliases that may be revealed.

4.  Implement a Better Business Bureau (WikiLinks) search under the title, organization name, and any aliases. Be alert for any additional aliases that may be revealed.

5.  Conduct a state level business entity lookup (WikiTags) if the jurisdiction in which registered or domiciled is known. This is where the rubber meets the road when it comes to pinning down a target of recourse in the event of any disputes.

6.  You may need to repeat these steps according to any new discoveries and revelations. It's all a matter of detection, so make sue you have followed each and every lead to ground.

Conclusion

Due diligence is the key for survival while doing business on the internet. Do your homework before making an informed decision. If you are still unsure, it may come down to a matter of personal risk assessment.


Credits and References

Jul 28, 2023. - Page revised.
Contributor - Vessel Title Services




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