How to determine whether a boat has been stolen with step by step instructions.
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Stolen boat detection is an important aspect of any title search effort, regardless of the size or value. As a purchaser, your entire investment could be easily forfeited if the boat does not actually belong to the seller. This can apply even if a registered owner is unaware it was previously stolen. Checking to see if a particular boat has been stolen may, however, involve a fair amount of detective work. The extent of this endeavor will depend on your confidence in the seller and the availability of historical data regarding a chain of ownership.
Step 1 - Evaluate the circumstances.
In order to determine just how far to go in conducting the research, you should first examine the circumstances. How well do you know the seller and does such party have the wherewithal to make good on any title warranties or ownership representations. Can the seller produce a complete chain of ownership going all the way back to the manufacturer. Is the title history being examined by a professional boat titling agent. It all comes down to the level of comfort you feel about the transaction in general.
Step 2 - Gather the identification numbers.
If there are any historical or background concerns whatsoever, you should commence with a stolen boat check. This begins with a close examination of all identification numbers as they are actually affixed to the boat itself. These may include the hull identification number, official vessel documentation number, state registration number, and any other markings that are unique to the boat. You might also consider an experienced surveyor that will know how to recognize any markings which appear to have been altered, obliterated or removed. A surveyor will also know where to look for hidden hull numbers on certain models.
Step 3 - Conduct online research.
Armed with reliable identification numbers, you can now seek out any online resources that may be helpful in conducting your search. Many of these are shown in the Database section of BoatWiki. Although some are free, others may involve a one-time or periodic subscription. They may also vary widely scope, accuracy, and timeliness. An important thing to keep in mind when working with any database is that it may not be fully conclusive and could be subject to errors or omissions. The manner in which state and federal agencies gather and report stolen boat information is not always accurate or consistent. In fact, many jurisdictions do not even make such data available to the boating public. You should not, therefore, presume the boat you are checking is free and unencumbered just because of a negative online search result.
Step 4 - Contact enforcement agencies.
As part of a detection effort, you can also contact a law enforcement agency and ask them to check the National Crime Information Center's database. This is the Federal Bureau of Investigation's foremost data gathering source with regard to stolen property such as boats. Enforcement officials rely heavily on this when conducting jurisdictional investigations of their own. The database is not however available for direct access by the general public.
In addition to checking on the boat itself, you should run a background check on the seller to see if such party is responsible and reliable. There is no title insurance available for boats, therefore your only recourse will be against the seller in the event of a theft conversion. You will want to ensure that such party has no criminal background and is financially able to compensate for any such loss incurred on your behalf.
Credits and References
2/17/2022 - Page initiated by Team BoatWiki.