The culprit is websites offering of documentation renewal services or a fee.
These websites lure boaters with the appearance and convenience of an official government website, but the Coast Guard warns that using these websites can result in spending three times the standard fee. The Coast Guard also noted that Coast Guard boarding officers will not accept their vessel’s documentation as valid. This is because the Coast Guard’s National Vessel Documentation Center in West Virginia is the only authorized entity to issue certificates of documentation required for vessels engaged in commercial trade.
The center is aware that there are commercial entities offering to manage the certification and renewal process on behalf of vessel owners for a fee. However the Coast Guard does not endorse any of these companies and these companies do not operate on behalf of the Coast Guard in any way. While the services they provide are legal, the certificates issued are not deemed in compliance.
According to Russell Hazlett, commercial fishing vessel examiner for the Coast Guard in Anchorage, there are companies similar to the Department of Motor Vehicles that have satellite officers open on weekends and after hours legitimate companies.
More information on certificates of Documentation is online at http://www.uscg.mil/nvdc/