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Don’t Let These 10 Airbnb Scams Ruin Your 2023 Vacation

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Don’t Let These 10 Airbnb Scams Ruin Your 2023 Vacation.

Is Airbnb Really That Safe?

That was the question data scientist Asher Fergusson wanted to answer when he analyzed more than 127,000 complaints from Airbnb customers on Twitter.

The result? Nearly a quarter of all complaints involved Airbnb scams — from multiple listings, to account hacks, and fake reviews.

Reading these results, I wasn’t surprised.

Last year, my wife and I were scammed out of more than €300 and left temporarily homeless due to a deceitful Airbnb host in Barcelona. While Airbnb support eventually helped us recover our stolen funds, we were still forced to find an alternative place to stay at the last minute.

With over four million hosts on Airbnb’s platform, there are bound to be at least a few unscrupulous hosts looking to scam unsuspecting travelers. So how can you stay safe during your next getaway?

Before you book your next trip, be on the lookout for these 10 common Airbnb scams.

The 10 Most Common Airbnb Scams

What are Airbnb scams?

Airbnb scams include false advertising and manipulating the platform to charge extra fees (such as for “incidentals” or “management fees”), obtain a guest’s payment information, and discriminate against guests. Here’s a closer look at the top 10 scams on Airbnb, how they work, and how to avoid them.

Top scams by category based on real reviews from Airbnb users on Twitter.

1. Multiple listings scam

Spot the scam:

The multiple listings scam occurs when a host lists the same property at different price points to double-book and then rent the property to the highest bidder.

If you reserve the property at one of the lower prices and someone else rents it at the higher rate, your host may cancel on you at the last minute. Alternatively, the host may use this as a “bait-and-switch” tactic to move you to an inferior property.

A tweet showing two identical Airbnb properties listed at different prices.
A tweet showing two identical Airbnb properties listed at different prices. Source: @JBwrench
Here’s what to do:

Don’t cancel your reservation. Instead, make sure your host is the one who cancels.

Airbnb offers full refunds for host cancellations. But if you cancel, you could be left paying cancellation fees or even the majority of your full reservation. If they reach out to tell you there’s a problem with the property or ask you to stay in a “similar” location they also own, don’t cancel for them.

To avoid this scam, remove the price filter from your search to see if a property is listed at different prices. If it is, don’t book it.

2. Deceptive or inaccurate property descriptions

Spot the scam:

The second most common Airbnb scam cited in the study involved inaccurate descriptions of properties and amenities. In other words, if you show up to an Airbnb only to find missing amenities or that the property is in much worse condition than described.

In one example, a man in Sarasota rented his property 19 times, bringing in $53,000. But the $828-a-night beach property didn’t have air-conditioning or internet and was even infested with cockroaches. Airbnb has since blocked the host from its platform and issued a full refund to the renters.

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Here’s what to do:

To avoid inaccurate property description scams in the first place, do your research before arriving at your rental. Message your host for specific information about the amenities and cleaning rules, and observe their responses.

Use Zillow’s advanced search to find and compare your vacation rental from Airbnb.

 

You can also search the property address on Google Maps or websites like Zillow.com to see if the descriptions and images match.

3. Doctored images

Spot the scam:

Airbnb scammers will often use fake, stock, or doctored images to misrepresent their rental property.

Screenshot of an Airbnb review.

All too common are photos using angles and lenses to make spaces appear larger,  as well as photoshopped amenities and scenic views that aren’t real.

Here’s what to do:

To avoid this scam, head to the reviews section and look at the “Accuracy” category. You can also find specific bad reviews by selecting “See All Reviews” and then searching for terms like “photos,” “images,” or “accurate.”

Finally, if you’re suspicious of a listing, perform a reverse image search of the photos. Copy the images and run them through Google or TinEye.com to see if they’ve been used on other websites or show up as listings of different properties.

4. Airbnb account hacking

Spot the scam:

In addition to misrepresenting properties, scammers on Airbnb may hack into your account and book properties using your stolen financial information. The person who hacks your account will change the login credentials to lock you out, making this scam a type of identity theft.

A customer complaint about a fake Airbnb listing.

Although account hacks are not the most common scams, they can be some of the most damaging. Victims of this particular con can lose tens of thousands of dollars and have their accounts closed or blocked before the platform intervenes.

Here’s what to do:

The most common way for a hacker to get into your Airbnb account is to trick you into giving them your login information and password. They might pose as a legitimate host and send you a link to book their property. But in reality, the link takes you outside Airbnb to a similar-looking site that asks for your information.

To protect your account and financial information, always check the website URL before entering your login credentials. Make sure the URL begins with “https://” and only includes “airbnb.com.”

If you see an address like “airbnb1.com” or “airbnb-bookings.com,” don’t enter your information.

Finally, here’s a list of all legitimate Airbnb domains:

  • @airbnb.com
  • @airbnbaction.com
  • @airbnblove.com
  • @airbnbmail.com
  • @support-email.airbnb.com
  • @supportmessaging.airbnb.com
  • @airbnb.zendesk.com
  • @e.airbnb.com
  • @express.medallia.com
  • @ext.airbnb.com
  • @guest.airbnb.com
  • @host.airbnb.com
  • @noreply@qemailserver.com
  • @outreach.airbnb.com
  • @research.airbnb.com

5. Fake reviews

Spot the scam:

Customer reviews help create trust for renters using home-sharing websites. Unfortunately, con artists can manipulate reviews as part of their fraud. Hosts may create fake accounts, review their own properties, or enlist friends and families to help.

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Conversely, competitors might leave negative reviews on other hosts’ properties, making it even harder for you to discern what’s true.

Here’s what to do:

To avoid booking a poor rental, choose those with more reviews — it’s harder to fake large numbers of reviews. Also, pay close attention to the two, three, and four-star reviews. These are less likely to be written by friends or competition.

You can also load all the reviews and use the search feature to get the information you care about most. For example, you can search “family” to see if the rental is appropriate for hosting kids. Or, you can search for “Wi-Fi” if you know you’ll need to work from your rental.

6. Payments outside the platform

Spot the scam:

All payments and communications should take place via the Airbnb app or website. If you receive a message from a host asking you to pay through another (non-Airbnb) app, bank transfer, or another website, it’s a scam.

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You may end up sending money to a host who doesn’t have a real listing; or the host might receive double payment since you’ll likely get charged on the Airbnb website, too.

Here’s what to do:

If you come across a host that wants payment outside of Airbnb, consider this a red flag and report the suspicious message to Airbnb.

If the message comes over email, make sure that it’s from one of the email domains listed above. Lastly, look for the signs of a phishing email, including misspelled words, grammatical errors, and threatening or urgent language. Don’t click on any links or send your personal information if you’re unsure about an email.

For added protection: Sign up for a credit monitoring service that can alert you of potential fraud. For example, Aura monitors your bank, credit card, and other financial information and will alert you in near-real times of suspicious activity.

7. Incredulous pricing

Spot the scam:

Airbnb started off as a more affordable way to stay in cities around the world. With some destinations, you can save more than $200 per night by booking an Airbnb rental instead of a hotel.

Unfortunately, fraudsters can use your desire for a deal to trick you into paying for a scam.

A too-good-to-be-true price is a huge red flag you shouldn’t ignore —it might mean that the home is not as described, the location is undesirable, or the listing doesn’t exist.

Here’s what to do:

When you see a great deal on an Airbnb listing, check that the host has posted photos of all rooms in the house, including bathrooms. To avoid fake listings, look up the address or neighborhood on Google Maps to verify the location. And finally, steer clear of great deals that include very few reviews.

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8. Illegal listings

Spot the scam:

Several cities, like New York and Las Vegas, have laws limiting the use of short-term rentals and home-sharing services. Short-term Airbnb rentals might be illegal in entire cities or specific neighborhoods.

Here’s what to do:

Guests who book illegal rentals might pay for the booking only to arrive and be told by the building’s security staff that short-term stays are prohibited. The unsuspecting guests are then stuck to pay for a hotel stay (in addition to the illegal rental).

While Airbnb may end up refunding part of your booking, the process can be time-consuming, and there’s no guarantee they’ll pay for your additional hotel costs. If you’re staying at an Airbnb for a few days, do a quick search of your destination’s laws.

9. Bogus damage fees

Spot the scam:

Damage fees protect homeowners from guests who don’t properly care for the property while renting. But some Airbnb hosts have taken advantage of this feature.

An example of an Airbnb host claiming a guest’s security deposit for items alleged to have been broken by the guest.

In this type of scam, you’ll check out of your rental unit and receive a message notifying you about damage that you didn’t cause. If you refuse to pay, the host can escalate the issue with Airbnb, which can then use security deposits to pay for the damage or refer the dispute to a collection agency.

Here’s what to do:

To protect yourself from this scam, take pictures or videos of the property right after check-in and before check-out. If you notice any damage upon arrival, take photos and share them with the host directly on Airbnb.

10. Hidden cameras

Spot the scam:

According to Airbnb’s official policy, hosts can place cameras and security recording devices in common spaces as long as hosts disclose these devices to renters. Hosts cannot use hidden cameras or recording devices to monitor private areas, such as bathrooms and bedrooms.

Unfortunately, not every host will follow the rules. It’s essential to know how to search for and identify hidden cameras when you travel. This can also be a concern when you stay in a hotel room.

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An International Stringer, PR Expert, Travel & Active Adventure Reporter, and Fashion Contributor, Living in a Country of Which Divides the World Into Two Equal Halves - The Republic of Ghana to Be Exact. I Can Be South African Sometimes, and Can Be Visibly Spotted in the City of Gold, Johannesburg. I AM AN ERA!