Airbnb is an online rental platform that enables hosts to rent out their properties or rooms to guests for short-term stays. Founded in 2007 by Brian Chesky and Joe Gabbia as a way to earn extra cash, Airbnb has since attracted more than 150 million worldwide users who have booked 800 million stays. Visitors planning their ideal getaways can book houses, apartments, cabins, yurts, farms, and even castles on Airbnb.
In 2016, Airbnb expanded its offerings to include experiences in which hosts can offer travelers the chance to participate in cultural activities specific to their locales, such as cooking classes, tours, and excursions. Experiences are now offered both in-person and online. Airbnb is still primarily best-known for its vacation rental platform, which has unfortunately become a target for scammers.
Airbnb has grown into a successful platform thanks to millions of upstanding hosts offering top-notch accommodations. But, unfortunately, its popularity has also attracted scammers trying to take advantage of unsuspecting travelers. These are the most common Airbnb scams to watch for:
In the most common Airbnb scam, guests arrive to find that the rental is not what they expected—it could be dirty, double-booked, unfurnished, or its actual appearance falls drastically short of the photos and descriptions on Airbnb.
Whatever the case, you’re not getting what you paid for.
Before you’re scheduled to check in to a property, the host messages you about an emergency. It might be a plumbing issue or something that came up with a prior guest, and now the property is unavailable for you to stay. The host offers you the chance to stay at a different property they own to compensate for the inconvenience. Unfortunately, the property is nothing like the one you booked, and if you cancel, you’re responsible for paying cancellation fees.
Once you depart your Airbnb rental, you learn that the host charges excessively high fees for “damages.” In these scams, you haven’t actually caused any damage, but the host provides photographic proof to Airbnb and demands that you pay.
You arrive at a property only to find out that the property has already been booked, and you’re expected to share your stay with strangers. Although this can be a genuine mistake—perhaps the result of accidentally booking the site to guests on different rental platforms—it’s also possible that the host double-booked the property on purpose.
In this scam, hosts will agree to rent to you as long as you pay outside the Airbnb platform. They might require you to pay using a strange payment method, such as cryptocurrency, wire transfer, or cash.
After you send the money, you may learn that the listing was fraudulent. Or, even if the listing does exist, it doesn’t meet your expectations. Unfortunately, since you paid outside the Airbnb platform, Airbnb will not be able to assist you with any problems, including getting a refund.
Some hosts request five-star reviews from you or even demand that you refrain from sharing your negative experiences on Airbnb to curb negative ratings. Some guests have even reportedly received threatening messages after leaving a bad review.
In another version of the scam, scammers post multiple positive reviews, all with similar wording and sloppy spelling and grammar.
Beware of hosts that want to communicate with you outside of the Airbnb platform. Once they have your email address, they’ll send you links to rentals that appear to direct you to the Airbnb website but are actually fake domains designed to trick you into entering your personal and financial information.
If you book a rental using one of these links, you’ll lose the money you paid for a false reservation and could even be a victim of identity theft.
You can use Airbnb safely and enjoy all that the platform has to offer as long as you stay aware of possible scams and watch for red flags. To beat Airbnb scams, follow these tips:
As soon as you notice suspicious behavior, it’s best to reach out to Airbnb directly with problems and concerns.
If you’re the victim of an Airbnb scam, you can report the suspicious message or host directly through Airbnb. You can also flag the message in your Airbnb inbox, and you’ll be asked to explain the reason for reporting the message or user.
If anything comes up during your stay, especially anything that sounds like the possible scams discussed above — and you’re unable to work it out with the host—you may qualify for a refund under Airbnb’s Guest Refund Policy. Airbnb lists the following travel issues as eligible for a refund:
To qualify for a refund, you’ll need to submit the request within 24 hours of checking in and include evidence of the problems you’re experiencing.
If you clicked on any links and inadvertently shared personal and financial details with a scammer, take steps to protect your identity. You should change the passwords on all major accounts and run an antivirus scan to safeguard against possible malware that the scammer may have installed on your device. Contact your financial institution or credit card company to let them know a scammer may have access to your account, so you can cancel your cards and receive new ones.
Before you settle into your Airbnb, take as many photos and videos of it first—it could save you a lot of money and hassle in the future.
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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