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How to Beat Airbnb Payment Scams That Can Leave You Stranded

When booking your next travel destination via Airbnb, be sure to always pay using the site's online system, or you could be scammed out of your money.


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Updated 30 July 2021
How to Beat Airbnb Payment Scams That Can Leave You Stranded
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Identified Scam:

Key Finding

Scammers post fake or misleading Airbnb listings then ask you to pay using a method outside of the website/app.


Key Risk

You risk losing your money and ending up with bad accommodation or no accommodation at all.

Sections on this page
  1. What is an Airbnb Payment Scam?
  2. How to Beat and Avoid Airbnb Payment Scams
  3. Examples of Airbnb Payment Scams
  4. What To Do if You’ve Fallen for an Airbnb Payment Scam
  5. Frequently Asked Questions

With over seven million listings worldwide, Airbnb is the first choice of many travelers looking for vacation rentals. Unfortunately, scammers have taken notice and prey on unsuspecting users. One of the most popular scams to hit the Airbnb platform is the Airbnb payment scam. 

What is an Airbnb Payment Scam?

Airbnb payment scams usually involve someone asking you to pay outside the Airbnb payment platform. Here’s how they work.

A Host Requests Airbnb Payment Outside of the Website

You find a property you’re interested in renting and send a message to the host using the Airbnb website or app. 

The host agrees to rent to you but asks you to pay them outside the Airbnb platform. For example, they might ask you to pay them by:

  • Check
  • Bitcoin
  • Wire transfer
  • Another third-party payment app

The host may even entice you with a better rate or a discount if you agree to their terms. Since you’re interested in the property and a discount, you agree to pay for the stay outside of the app. 

The Listing Is Fraudulent

Since paying outside the app is against Airbnb rules, chances are, your ideal vacation rental is not as advertised. Some travelers have arrived at their destination only to find out the property is already occupied by the owner, who had no idea someone listed their property on Airbnb. 

Even if you’re able to stay at the property, you might encounter problems and find out that it falls short of the glowing description on the site. For example, it could be dirty or double-booked. 

You Are Unable to Get a Refund

Since you paid outside the app/website, Airbnb cannot assist you with any problems you have, including getting your money back. 

Any money you sent to the fraudulent host will be lost, and you will need to make alternate plans for a vacation rental. Your vacation plans might be ruined if you’ve already arrived and found the property doesn’t meet your expectations. 

How to Beat and Avoid Airbnb Payment Scams

Once you know what to look for, it’s relatively simple to avoid Airbnb payment scams. As soon as you notice the shady behavior, it’s best to move on and look for a different rental. 

Don't ever pay for an Airbnb property or experience outside of the website or app. A payment request via any other method other than through the Airbnb website is a sign of a scam.

How to Beat Airbnb Payment Scams

When using Airbnb to book your next vacation rental, always use best practices when paying for and communicating with the host. 

Always Pay Through the Platform

No matter how tempting the host’s offer is, always make your payments through the Airbnb platform. Generally, you’ll pay the entire cost of the reservation at the time of booking through Airbnb. 

The only occasions where you might be asked to pay other charges in person would be for resort fees, security deposits, cleaning fees, or local occupancy tax. Hosts must disclose these additional charges in a price breakdown before you book. 

Do Not Take Messages Offline

If a host wants to chat with you over email or another third-party app, end the conversation immediately. A legitimate Airbnb host won’t have any problems with communicating inside the website or app.  

Double-Check Listings

Legitimate listings should have plenty of photos and reviews, as well as a detailed description of the property and its amenities. If the listing is a recent addition to Airbnb, look for reviews on any other properties the host may manage on Airbnb. 

Verify the Property and Host

Check out the property by Googling the address. Then, use Google Street View to see if the pictures match up with the listing. Check that the images have the “Airbnb.com Verified Photo” watermark, indicating one of the company’s professional photographers took the photos. You can also lookup the person on social media to make sure it’s a real person. 

Red Flags of Airbnb Payment Scams

Airbnb payment scams are usually pretty easy to spot. If you notice any of the following red flags, look for another rental.

Requests For Payment Outside of the Airbnb Site

It’s a sure sign of fraud when someone asks you to pay outside the Airbnb platform. This typically means you’ll be asked to pay with cash, check, money order, cryptocurrency, wire transfer, or another third-party payment platform. Of course, the host (i.e., the scammer) doesn’t want you to be able to get your money back when you find out you paid for a fraudulent reservation. 

Offers of a Better Rate

Sometimes, the host offers a better rate if you pay outside of Airbnb. This falls into the “too good to be true” category. 

Messages Have a Sense of Urgency

If a host wants you to book outside the platform, you might notice the messages take on an urgent tone. For example, unless you follow the host’s instructions, you won’t be able to book the rental, or you might not qualify for the better rate that’s offered. 

Emails With Links or Attachments 

If you happen to communicate with a scammer outside of Airbnb, they might send you emails with links or attachments. Those links typically lead to sites not affiliated with Airbnb and take you to a different website to make payment. Not only will your payment be outside of the Airbnb website and therefore not protected, but you may also become the victim of a phishing or malware scam.

Examples of Airbnb Payment Scams

A typical vacation rental listing might look normal on the surface. However, when you dig a little deeper or try to contact the host with questions, you’ll likely notice some odd behavior. 

In this example, the scammer has emailed a document to the would-be renter with instructions for wiring payment. The URL at the top, 1itinerary-airbnb.com, is also a fake domain not affiliated with Airbnb. This scammer wants to trick renters into believing they’re still on the Airbnb platform.

Airbnb fake website
Always check the URL to make sure you're on the real Airbnb site. (Source: Airbnb Community Forum)

The host in this following example specifically asks that users contact her directly via email before booking. She makes it sound as if this is the only way she can check if the dates you’re requesting are available. In reality, both hosts and users can see date availability all through the Airbnb platform.     

Example of scam Airbnb listing.
(Source: Airbnb Community Forum)

In the below listing, the host claims that booking delays will result unless you contact him via email. The false sense of urgency, along with the spelling mistakes and strange wording, is a dead giveaway of a scam.

Example of Airbnb scam listing.
(Source: Globetrender)

What To Do if You’ve Fallen for an Airbnb Payment Scam

As a victim of an Airbnb payment scam, you’re dealing with the loss of your hard-earned vacation funds and may have to shelve your vacation plans altogether. As the Airbnb platform has grown, many people have found themselves in this same unfortunate situation. 

Report the Scam to Your Bank

This should be the first thing you do after you realize you’ve been scammed. Your bank may be able to reverse the money transfer or recoup some of your losses, depending on their fraud policies. 

Report the Fraudulent Reservation to Airbnb

Airbnb may not be able to recover the funds you paid outside the platform, but the company still wants you to report the fraudulent reservation. You will likely need to forward the contents of your conversations and proof of payment transactions within and outside the Airbnb platform.

Double Down on Cybersecurity Measures

Run an antivirus scan on your device if you clicked on any links from the scammer. Change your passwords for Airbnb and your email or any other apps that you used to communicate with the scammer—they may also have been trying to steal your information.

File a Police Report

Since you may have lost hundreds and even thousands of dollars, file a police report in the town where the scammer’s vacation rental is. They may be able to track down the scammer. 

Report It to the Authorities

Your best chance of preventing others from becoming a victim is to let the authorities know what happened to you. Report the scam to the authorities, including the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). 

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it safe to send payment for accommodation outside of the Airbnb website or app?

When booking accommodation through Airbnb, you should always pay using the Airbnb system. This way, your purchase, and booking are both protected. 

How do I pay for an Airbnb?

When you book accommodation on Airbnb, you'll be able to make payment on the website or app using:

  • Most major credit cards
  • Most debit cards
  • Apple Pay
  • Google Pay
  • PayPal

How do I request a refund for an Airbnb booking?

To request a refund on an Airbnb trip, log into your Airbnb account and visit the Resolution Center. Airbnb also recommends contacting your Airbnb host about the refund (message them within the Airbnb messenger) first. 

You must request a refund via Airbnb with 60 days of your checkout date. 

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