Fake Long-Term Rental, Scammers Pretending to be Airbnb

I was recently scammed out of $2,800 for paying what I thought was a security deposit and the first month’s rent for an apartment on Airbnb in Australia. I found the initial listing on Domain; it looked like a private rental with the listing asking any interested parties to email rentscall@gmail.com. I had a response back from the owner ‘Harald Grabner’ (lab.teacher@novartis-pharmaceutical.com) who explained the apartment to me, attached scanned copies of his passport and license (see above), and explained that as he lived in Germany the rental (inspection and handover of keys) would be handled by Airbnb.

He explained the process and said that in order for Airbnb to put me in their system there would be an upfront payment (the $2,800 mentioned above) which would be held by ‘Airbnb’ and released to him if I decide to take the apartment. If I didn’t like the apartment, it would be immediately refunded. He told me that Airbnb would be in contact soon.

I received an email from ‘Airbnb’ with deposit information, which looked exactly like the other real emails I had received from Airbnb in the past. I transferred the money and in a few days time got confirmation from ‘Airbnb’ saying the money had been received and that an agent would be in contact to make arrangement to view the property but wouldn’t be for a couple of days, as he needed to come from Perth. I was never contacted and the real Airbnb has no record of my payment or emails. Beware: the emails looked exactly like the real Airbnb emails. The real Airbnb will never ask you to transfer money off their site. Lesson learnt.

Airbnb Host Left us on the Side of the Road at Midnight

We stayed at The Art Shack in Salt Ash, Australia between April 28-30. Our main purpose of this stay was accommodation for the Groovin the Moo festival. On arrival, the state of the house was disgusting, with the kitchen bench scattered with old food and surrounded by flies. On Saturday night we returned from the festival on a bus at 11:30 PM. We informed our host, Deborah, that we would be home around 12:00 AM, and also informed her when we had gotten on the bus. She had told us that she had not locked away her German Shepard guard dog and it would be unsafe to enter the property without her being there. At 10:30 PM she told us in a text that she was out to dinner and she would be home around 12:00 AM, so we patiently waited in the Caltex service station across the road because it was nine degrees and we had casual day wear clothing on.

At 11:45 PM we called Deborah and informed her we were across the road at the service station waiting, as the dog was patrolling the yard and there was no way past him. At 11:55 PM she texted us and said she was “coming” and would be there in thirty minutes. At midnight, the service station shut down and the employee told us we had to leave, so we went back outside into the cold and tried to huddle up on the side of Nelsons Road, a 90-kph zone. At this point we were exhausted, afraid and freezing. By 12:45 AM there was no sign of Deborah, so we called her again. We asked where they were because we were afraid and cold. She told us they hadn’t left yet, as the guy she was seeing was playing the pokies and drunk and she was afraid to ask him to go.

She told one of our friends to put the phone on speaker and hold it up to the dog, but the dog went berserk and tried to bite us through the gate. At this point she told us she would be asking him to leave or leaving herself right now to let us in, and she would call us back in a couple of minutes. Nine minutes later we hadn’t heard back, so I called again. She told me that she was definitely on her way home, however she needed to stop for petrol, but she was coming as quick as she could. While talking to her, I could hear the man she was with talking about how stupid we were for not being able to get past the dog. At 1:06 AM she called us and told us that her house mate was at home the whole time, and that she could get the dog away for us and we could go through the front door, and the call ended. Five minutes later we saw her housemate Kathy open the front door, she came out and started leading the dog inside, taking him around to the back room. She then came and gave us the all clear to come inside, and had a giggle about what had happened.

Once we were finally in our room and in bed, I was so cold that I was having trouble breathing. We heard Deborah and the guy come home at around 1:25 AM. We could overhear him with a raised voice continuing on about the situation, and Deborah tying to calm him down. We felt incredibly uncomfortable and unsafe going to sleep. Before we slept we received a message from Deborah saying “So sorry, sleep in till late AM.”

We ended up leaving as soon as we woke up and started our eight-hour drive home completely sleep deprived. While on the way home we took a closer look at the reviews and saw this is not the first time this has happened. A  couple had been kicked out by a drunk host at 12:00 AM onto the side of the road and left with nowhere to go. The fact that Airbnb allows people to host in an environment such as this, let alone with a vicious dog on site, is insane. I’m glad that we are older and it wasn’t a family with young children as I don’t know how they would have held up in the cold.

Cockroaches, Ants, and Construction Disruption in Airlie Beach

There were cockroaches, ants in the bed, and no privacy. We were even kicked out of our room for construction work. We booked a four-night stay at a place in Airlie Beach that was advertised as a ‘penthouse apartment’. The listing can be viewed here. This is possibly one of the most misrepresented listings I have stayed at through Airbnb. Advertising this as a penthouse is like advertising Adolf Hitler as a peacekeeper. It was dirtier than a Rawalpindi market, and the host, Leah, was as helpful as fly screens on a submarine. Jokes aside, here is the story.

The ‘King Bedroom’ was separated (used loosely) from a storage room by a tall cabinet and a piece of material draped over it, with a car’s sun visor leaning against it. This offered little-to-no privacy from the adjoining storage hall. The glass doors to the room had gaps between the walls, letting sound and light easily pass through. The sliding door to the balcony was old and unsturdy. It had a gap where, even if shut properly all the way, wind could come through and made sleeping at night impossible.

There were cockroaches. We saw several crawling around during our stay: two in the room (see pictures), and one in the laundry/bathroom area. There were also ants in the bed and on the walls. As we walked into the room at check-in, the building manager picked up a pinchful of ants from the floor. In the middle of the second afternoon of our stay, the building manager asked us to leave the room so that a wooden board (making up part of the wall of the room) could be patched up and fixed. We were trying to take a nap because of the lack of sleep we had on the first night.

By the second night, we’d had enough. It was approximately 8:00 PM when we looked for an alternative place for accommodation. As it was a Friday night, there was nothing available close by or within our price range ($100-$150/ night). We reluctantly spent the second night there and agreed to cancel the stay the next day, forfeiting the second half of the stay that was booked and paid for. Upon cancellation, I reached out to the host to try and request a refund for the total amount paid. We had not stayed for the last two nights, and the first two were atrocious. I did not think it unreasonable. I sent through photos of the uncleanliness and explained the poor experience we had. She sent back an animated response, wrought with spelling errors and incomprehensible sentence structure. I could barely understand the bulk of it.

I managed to deduce that she had denied the request, so I pushed on to Airbnb’s Resolution Centre. After several email exchanges, the case manager concluded that as per the terms and conditions, 24 hours was the window for cancellation and receipt of a refund. He offered a credit of 49 AUD as compensation towards my next stay. I responded by saying I would not be using Airbnb again to redeem this credit, so it is useless. I explained 24 hours to request a cancellation was an unreasonable part of the terms and conditions, as the bulk of the issues were encountered after this window. I referred to the ‘extenuating circumstances’ clause, highlighting the exception to their policy of ‘severe property damage or unforeseen maintenance issues’. He ignored this. He thanked me for my time in corresponding and my understanding in the matter.

Needless to say, I couldn’t understand a single shred of logic observed by this case manager. I initiated a chargeback through my bank for the $400 charge to my credit card. The outcome is pending. I have resubmitted a formal dispute with Airbnb. The result is pending. I have also investigated using the ACCC (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission) regulatory body to lodge a dispute. This will only take place if my bank is unsuccessful in recovering the charge. I’d like to note that this is not about the money, so much as the principle. Even if my bank is successful, I would like to warn users and non-users of Airbnb’s unreasonable customer service policies and poor support, as well as this host’s lack of consideration and diplomacy with respect to her guests. Stay here at your own peril.

Filthy Bed, Soiled Bed Linen = Airbnb Unfit for Use

This was my first experience at using Airbnb for accommodation in Sydney, Australia near Elizabeth Bay because so many places were booked solid. This will probably be my last time too. The place looked cute in the pictures, but when I arrived it was completely unclean. It was an old 1960’s apartment that was tidy, but so dirty. I did know that I would have to make up the bed myself and was fine with this, but I was not expecting to have to clean the whole place before I used it.

The previous guests had left four bags of garbage, even though they could have disposed of them; there were plenty of bins in the street. They also had left their soiled bed linen and towels on a pile on the carpet. If I could have vacated and found another place I would have. There was thick dust on the TV and stand. The bathroom floor was dirty – and I mean really dirty. Under the basin there was dust and debris, used cotton buds, and hair pins.

The toilet was not sanitary. In the bowl were fecal stains and the deodoriser was empty and soiled. The shower base was cracked, crazed, and dirty. On top of the toilet cistern was sitting a huge gilded mirror with years of dust on the top and mould on the air vent. The carpet stank of dog – the hostess did not disclose in her ad that a dog lived on the premises – and was dirty and gritty.

The mini refrigerator was dirty. The ice box was completely frozen over with a piece of fish in a plastic sachet completely “cemented” into the ice. The ice trays were mouldy and there was half-eaten food still in the fridge. The stove elements and rings were encrusted with baked-on food.

Now for the worst.: the bed. The mattress had many large stains. It also stank of dog. The sheets were not fresh smelling nor clean. The quilt that I had to go searching for was ancient, stained, and torn. So was the cover, which was also flecked with red paint which matched the colour of one of her walls. When I contacted the hostess she asked me to please “excuse the holes and tears”. I was horrified to learn that she herself sleeps with the same quilt that she supplies to her guests.

The next morning I purchased my own quilt and sheets. The hostess agreed to reimbursing me for these, but never did. Underneath the sofa cushions were years of dust, crumbs, and debris. I doubt whether it had ever been vacuumed. I found the vacuum cleaner shoved in the totally messy wardrobe. I switched it on to clean the carpet then quickly switched it off because it stank of dog. I took it all apart and scrubbed every component. It was clogged with matted hair and all kinds of filth. The filters had never been washed or replaced. I spent six hours cleaning and trying to make the place livable.

The large black-out curtain was folded underneath a sofa. At nighttime I had to hang this curtain on nails on a pelment. The curtain had a terribly cheesy odour. No amount of eucalyptus spray that I purchased could eradicate the stench. The other window had no covering at all. Fortunately I brought an eye mask, otherwise I would have awoken at dawn with sunlight streaming through the window.

The hostess gave me all sorts of excuses: “the cleaners were away”; “the previous tenants must have left the place dirty.” She even said that the carpet (which I vacuumed three times because the barrel filled up) had been cleaned with an “industrial cleaner” only three days prior to my arrival. This was a total fabrication. The woman who lives here is not one who has tidy habits. Just one look at her cupboards and you would know. I suspect that she relies on the kindness of her guests to clean up after the last. When I vacated, no cleaning was required, except to replace the linens. No basic amenities like tea, coffee, sugar or milk were provided. Fortunately, I brought my own. I was expected to go rummaging around in her dirty pantry. No garbage bags or cleaning cloths were anywhere to be seen. The only things that were clean were the towels. All this for a place that charges similar to hotel rates.

The hostess said that “my expectations were more than most.” Is it too much to expect a clean bed? I don’t think so. This hostess makes no attempt whatsoever to provide a clean environment for herself or her guests. I wish I could show you the photographs. The most puzzling thing of all is that my review was the only negative one.

Anyway, my advice: there are plenty of other lovely places listed on Airbnb and much cheaper ones too. Some even in the same building. Here is the link to the dirty dump I stayed in.

Impossible to Speak to an Airbnb Decision-maker

Airbnb has insufficient customer service: everything is automated, and the staff has changed from the US to an overseas call centre where nobody has any authority to handle anything but straightforward cases. There is no email address, no complaints department, and no phone numbers a robot company with incompetent employees. There are two issues with this system:

1) My previous guest did not check out, left half of his stuff in the room, and took the house key to my home where I live with my family. This is a major security issue because a stranger is somewhere out there with the key to my home in his pocket and nothing has been done from the Airbnb side. I spent the whole evening on this speaking to four people. Now it is 10:00 PM; I started to ring them at 6:00 PM. To change a door lock in Australia costs $350. That’s not enough cover for damage done by guests.

2) Photographers. After I moved houses, it took nine months to finally get someone to take an accurate photo of my single room. Because I have no fish eye lens I was not able to take a decent photo of the room from an angle where everything is visible. After the photographer finally arrived (three hours late) he took photos and downloaded them to the wrong listing. This was four weeks ago. In the meantime I got bad reviews of guests who thought rightly, that the advertised photo (room in the old house) is inaccurate, even though the same furniture is in the room. I called Airbnb four times where I was left waiting for hours. Despite this, nothing has happened. Airbnb threatened to cancel my listing because I do not have five-star reviews due to the inaccuracy issue.

In addition, the expectations that hosts have to provide five-star accommodation and service is unrealistic. A hotel room in my area starts from $180 per night and I charge $26. I provide low cost accommodation in an almost brand new, meticulously clean home in a beautiful area. 98% of all my guests were very happy with my service and facility. Surely one cannot expect butler service and five-star accommodation for $26 per room per night in an expensive tourist area in a western country like Australia.

Shady Airbnb Host Says Room is Unavailable for My Daughter

I had booked an apartment for my daughter to stay for six nights from February 23rd to March 1st, 2017, with instant confirmation. I had checked with the host if it would be possible for early check-in as she will reach Melbourne, Australia after a long journey. He said he can make her stay in the apartment where he was staying with his brother and sister for two days and then shift to the apartment where I had booked. I queried him on the need to stay elsewhere for two days while I only needed a few hours of early check-in. He said that the apartment was not available until then and the listing had not been updated. I was not comfortable with this arrangement. Airbnb suggests that, in such situations, the host (and not the guest) should cancel the booking. The host had promised me that he will cancel the booking and that I will get a full refund. He did not cancel. He stopped responding to my messages and phone calls. Finally, I could only request a refund of AUD 843 through the Airbnb site (as opposed to the AUD 1,030 I had paid). Since then, I have been following up with the host, who continues to ignore my messages. There is no straightforward way of contacting Airbnb. The balance of AUD 187 should also be refunded to me. In fact, this created a major issue for me to make alternate arrangements for her to stay, while she was still flying, on the way to Melbourne. Thank god I did not let my daughter stay with a stranger (host) who turned out to be so shady.

How Does Airbnb Use Your Information? Risk of Identity Theft?

Booking two nights away in Melbourne I searched through the listings and found what looked like a reputable host operating in a reputable building in a reputable part of Melbourne. I corresponded with the host and asked about the check-in procedures as I would be arriving after normal hours. They assured me it was very easy: all I had to do was book and pay and I’d be given access to an after-hours key box where I could collect the key. Sounds reasonable, right? I did what a reasonable person would do: booked and paid. Then nothing happened. When I followed up the host just a couple of days before we were due to travel I received an email from some nameless management company in Melbourne, “Apartments Melbourne Domain” requesting me to send a copy of my driver’s license as well as my credit card details, i.e. number, expiration date, and CCV number by email.

The host has subsequently ceased corresponding due to my requests for a refund as I refused to send this information via email and it’s in dispute with PayPal. Neither the host nor Airbnb UK (to whom the money goes) have responded to date, currently 48 hours since I disputed the payment. Hopefully I will get my money back. I’ve since booked with a reputable hotel that doesn’t require this sort of rubbish. If you comply with this kind of demand they would have your name, address, email address, driver’s license number, date of birth, your bank information, and your credit card number including the expiration date and CCV number. Identity fraud by these people is a very real possibility.

In this day and age, it’s not hard to set up a secure online portal for these things. The fact that they haven’t if they require this information to check in makes me wonder why they didn’t. Either they’re lazy and don’t care or it was malicious oversight on their part because it’s quite possible to actually set up a much better system. I’m sure my post will be bombarded by those of you have had great experiences, but think about how much you really know about the hosts to whom you are handing this information. If just one of them does the wrong thing once, what might that cost you? Please share, as I just finished reading a story on Huffington Post about one of their journalists being scammed out of thousands of dollars by a fake Airbnb user, so it happens. This platform needs to mature a lot before it’s user friendly and safe.

Airbnb Owners Traumatise Neighboring Family

We have attempted to communicate with our neighbours for the last three years to find some sort of resolution to the constant intrusion to our family life. Our communication has been up and down to say the least but we are now blocked. In summary they have countered, ignored and deferred our desperate pleas for action for three years. I guess if they are earning $600 a night for a heavily booked hotel with no consequences, it’s not in their best interest to acknowledge our concerns. Insulating the house and putting up a decorative privacy screen does nothing to mitigate the foul behaviour and assaults that emanate from an openly advertised party venue. The owners are running the business next door and they are responsible for what happens there. I believe that as an owner of the property they should be held accountable for what happens. We have been verbally and physically abused and my children now have to ask if it’s ok to play in our back yard. Airbnb have ignored our multiple reports and phone calls. I was hit by flying beer and wine bottles last week. What does it take?

 

Airbnb Put Me in Identification Verification Hell

I had been booking accommodations with Airbnb throughout New Zealand and Australia until one day, Airbnb would not let me make any new bookings until I complied with their ID verification process. I began the process and became very alarmed: I was being asked for a ton of personal data, with questions referring to my former spouse (from whom I have been divorced for twenty years), an address I had 60 years ago – where did Airbnb find this? – and past places of employment. The clincher came when they asked for my social security number, a scan of my passport, and access to my Facebook account. Smelling a scam, I Googled “ID verification” and found out this was indeed a legitimate Airbnb process. Then I phoned them and actually got through. No matter how much personal data I provided, they kept asking for more, assuring me all the while that my information was secure.

…secure until someone hacks Airbnb and has access to enough information to steal my identity and ruin my life, a situation simply not worth this risk. So now I am unable to book any future accommodations on Airbnb. I understand that a host needs to feel confident about strangers staying with them, but this verification process goes way too far and clearly exposes travelers to the risk of identity theft. I am a 70-year-old woman, retired from working in healthcare, with no criminal record who has been a pillar of my community for decades. I am not a threat to anyone. Furthermore, someone who really is up to no good could most likely obtain false documents and still get through their ID process. I am angry and upset that I can no longer use Airbnb, despite the fact that I am a totally honest, harmless and ethical person. My message to Airbnb: you need to figure out a better way to vet travelers. If an honest, harmless retired senior can’t use your site without divulging a ton of personal data, something is amiss with your process.

Hell in Apollo Bay: Australian Airbnb Fraud

I purchased accommodation through this host for a property called Diandera Dirrah a in Apollo Bay, Australia from the December 27th to January 2nd. I have confirmation emails from Airbnb confirming these dates. I paid $2617 for six nights’ accommodation and on the second morning the host arrived at the property and told us to “get out or she would call the police” as she had “spies in the neighbourhood who told her we had a party.”

We did no such thing. She was yelling, laughing hysterically and threatening us. I had no leg to stand on and we left. We had to camp at a local football oval and buy tents and yoga mats to sleep on as we were five hours from home; it was horrible. We drove past the property and saw she already had new occupants staying there. This is a scam. She took $2617 from hard working, responsible individuals and threatened us. We should have received a refund but Airbnb did nothing to help. She then illegally altered the receipt to say that we only stayed one night for $2617 which is an absolute joke. Please see the attached documents that prove we were confirmed for six nights and then the altered receipt. Do not stay here; they will steal your money.