Airbnb scams - how to say safe and protect yourself

Airbnb

Almost one in five British travellers plan to use Airbnb this summer - up from just 1% this time last year - according to the Ferratum Summer Barometer. It's easy to see why - because the site has so much variety across the world - and offers it at such a discount to the cost of a hotel. However, if you do plan to use the site to book summer accommodation, you need to be aware of the scams taking advantage of Airbnb customers, and how to spot them.

SEE ALSO: Scamwatch: beware Airbnb fraudsters

See also: The cheapest time to book a weekend away


There are a few different kids of scam. The most common is where scammers set up an entirely fake listing, offering cheap accommodation. They ask for payment by bank transfer, and when you arrive, there's either no property at all, or the real owner has no idea what you are doing there.

There are a few steps to help you avoid this scam. The first is to only to choose properties that have been on the site for a number of years, with plenty of glowing confirmed reviews, so there's a good chance they are genuine.

It's also worth doing a reverse image search, by dropping the image from the listing into a Google image search. This will search for similar images, so you can see if the image is attached to any other listings - a sure sign of a fake. You may also see the location of the property - which may not be where you expect.

You should insist on paying through the Airbnb internal payments system too. Never send money direct and never use a bank transfer - no matter what the property owner tells you. The internal system doesn't release the money to the hosts until the day after you move in, so you are protected from losing money, and the scammers know there's nothing to be gained from a scam using this payment method.

More Airbnb scams

Some scammers will set up a fake property, and when you try to book, they will send a message saying their Airbnb property is fully booked, but they have another property nearby you can book direct. This is a common scam, because if you agree to rent direct, you have no protection.

Some sophisticated scammers will set up copycat pages. They will create a fake web page, which looks like an Airbnb one, and some will even provide 'live chat' on the page, so you think you are communicating with Airbnb.

Others use a variation of this approach, with a fake listing on the site saying you should contact them with any questions by email. When you want to book they will send a link to their booking page, which is designed to look like an Airbnb payment page, but is a scam designed to trick you into handing over your card details.

You can check the URL closely to see if it really is Airbnb.co.uk, but to be completely safe, you need to avoid visiting these copycat sites entirely. The best way to do that is to avoid email communications with owners - use the site or the app instead.

If you get an email - even if it looks like it's from Airbnb, never click through a link in the email. If you get an email saying you have a message on Airbnb, and encouraging you to click the link, it may seem quicker than opening a new browser and logging in, but take the extra time to open that browser, because it's the only way to be sure you're not being duped by a link.

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Victims of scams and fraud
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Victims of scams and fraud
Susan Tollefsen, Britain's oldest first time mother, was scammed out of £160,000 by a fraudster she met on an online dating site. A man claiming to be an Italian gold and diamond dealer told her he was in the middle of a land deal but couldn't access cash. Tollefsen felt sorry for him and started wiring him money, eventually selling her jewellery, her flat and borrowing £32,000 from friends to give him. Read the full story here.
In March 2015 an American woman who was only identified as 'Sarah' went on the popular US television programme the Dr Phil Show to reveal she had sent $1.4 million to a man that she had never met. Although she was certain she wasn't being scammed, her cousin made her go on the programme because she was convinced it was a scam. Find out more about the story here.
Maggie Surridge employed Lee Slocombe to lay a £350 deck in her garden in March 2015. However Slocombe used a combination of lies to scam Surridge out of thousands of pounds. He told Surridge that the front and back walls were dangerous and needed rebuilding and also conned her into building a porch, all for the cost of £8,500. Read the full story here.
It's not just individuals who can be the victims of scams, big corporations can also fall foul of these fraudulent practices. In 2015 Claire Dunleavy repeatedly used a 7p 'reduced' sticker to get significant amounts of money off her shopping at an Asda store in Burslem, ending up with her paying just £15.66 for a shop that should have cost £69.02. Read the full story here.
Sylvia Kneller, 76, was conned out of £200,000 over the space of 56 years thanks to scam mail. The pensioner became addicted to responding to the fraudsters, convinced that she would one day win a fortune. Ms Kneller would receive letters claiming she had won large sums of money but she needed to send processing fees to claim her prize. Learn about the full story here
Leslie Jubb, 103, became Britain's oldest scam victim in August last year when he was conned out of £60,000 after being sent an endless stream of catalogues promising prizes in return for purchasing overpriced goods. The extent of this con was discovered when Mr Jubb temporarily moved into a care home and his family discovered what he had lost. Find out more about this story here
Stephen Cox won more than £100,000 on the National Lottery in 2003 but has been left with nothing after falling victim to two conmen. The 63-year-old was pressured into handing over £60,000 to the men who told him his roof needed fixing. They walked him into banks and building societies persuading him to part with £80,000 of cash while doing no work in return. See the full story here
Last year the Metropolitan Police released CCTV footage of a woman who had £250 stolen at a cash machine in Dagenham. The scam involved two men distracting the woman at the machine, pressing the button for £250 then taking the money and running away. Read about the full story here.
Rebecca Ferguson shot to fame as a runner up on the X-Factor in 2010 but fell victim to a scam artist last year when someone she had believed to be a friend conned her out of £43,000. Rachel Taylor befriended the singer in 2012 and claimed to be a qualified accountant, so Ferguson allowed her to look after her finances. Instead of doing this Taylor stole £43,000 from the Liverpudlian singer. Read more here
When Rebecca Lewis discovered her fiance had started a relationship with a woman he met online she packed her bags to leave. But that didn't stop her checking out the mystery woman, Rebecca quickly realised Paul Rusher's new love was actually part of a romance scam. She told Paul just before he sent the scammers £2,000 which was supposed to bring his new girlfriend to England. Find the full story here.
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