Airbnb Won’t Take Responsibility For Fraud

I was unfortunately the victim of fraud from an Airbnb listing. Yes – I know, I’m stupid – I should have known better. I was new to Airbnb and had no idea that what I was proceeding with was not standard protocol. Ultimately I found a listing on Airbnb with a description that requested I email the provider to make the booking. He then used a very elaborate scheme to make me believe I had returned to Airbnb to submit payment for the listing. Now my money is gone and Airbnb is insisting that because I went outside of the platform I was 100% liable for what had happened. What really crushes me the most is that Airbnb allowed this user to make a listing with a description that gave detailed directions to email them outside of the platform. Airbnb did not properly vet this account and did not ensure that they were posting accurate information. I naively found this listing on Airbnb’s trusted site and thought that because it was posted in the description, it would be ok. After that I was quite foolish and fell for the rest of his scheme. I lost a good amount of money and it is devastating to my family but I’m sure big corporate Airbnb doesn’t care at all what they’ve accomplished; after all, this is pennies to them. The investigative “trust and safety” department issued a resolution with bias and untrue grounds that just so happened to benefit the company. Now they are refusing to speak with me any further and insist that there is no way to communicate with the investigative team. I’m just so thrilled to hear that their own investigation went so well for them without any of my cooperation. My point is that Airbnb did not properly vet this posting and fully allowed the listing to get published with detailed directions that resulted in me being the victim of fraud. They are partly responsible for this incident and refuse to accept that in any capacity. I don’t know what else to do to get their attention but they have been completely uncooperative with me.

Am I Being Fooled? Long-term Airbnb in Iceland

I was planing to rent an apartment in Reykjavik, Iceland. The price looked a little cheap. I wanted to ask if it was the real deal; the landlord said he lives abroad and he is offering to pay one month’s rent and one month’s deposit through Airbnb, that he will keep the money until I get the keys and agree to rent the apartment, and only then will the rent be deposited in his bank account. Here are his messages:

Hello, I just read your email regarding my apartment located in Reykjavik. It has two bedrooms, a living room, bathroom, and kitchen. I bought this apartment for my daughter while she was studying in Iceland. She’s back home permanently, so I’m renting the place for an indefinite time. Before we go any further I would like to know a little something about you: how many people intend to live in the apartment, and for how long? The flat looks exactly like the pictures, fully furnished and renovated. Also – very important – the utilities (cold/hot water, electricity, wireless broadband Internet, digital TV, parking spot, dishwasher, garbage disposal, microwave, refrigerator, washing machine, etc.) are included in the price of 125.000ISK/month. As for me, you can rest assured that I will never ask you to leave the apartment.

My daughter is building her life here, and I am too old to move to Iceland, so we won’t disturb you. You can use my furniture, or you can also use your own if you prefer. If you decide to use yours, you will have access to a very large and well-ventilated cellar, where you can store my furniture. Now, a little bit about myself so we can get to know each other better. My name is Thomas Nordanger and I’m a 58-year-old structural engineer. I work for MWH Global Engineering. I worked hard to have a good career and I really respect hard-earned money. The company I work for has projects all around the world so most of my time I’m traveling. I have a lovely wife, Sarah, and a 25-year-old daughter, Maria. I am very proud to say that soon I’m going to be a grandfather. Another member of our family is an 8-year-old Labrador which we all love, so, I have no problem if you will keep pets. I’m in Rome now working on a new project. The only inconvenience is that my job doesn’t allow me to leave Rome even for a single day. We just hired some new staff and I’m in charge of their training. However, this won’t affect you at all. I can make arrangements to rent the apartment from Rome (on my expense of course). Looking forward to hear from you soon. All the best from Italy!

After I expressed some concern about the situation, he wrote this:

Thank you for your reply but the problem is that I’m in Rome already. Like I have informed you, the price you shall pay for one month’s rent will be 125.000ISK, with no extra taxes to pay. The security deposit is 125.000ISK. I want to retrieve the money from my bank account on a monthly basis, so I hope it will be no problem for you to wire the money to my bank account. The apartment is ready for you; you will need only to receive the keys and the contract to check in, and see if you like it. Obviously we need a way to complete this deal, that will allow us to make sure we receive what we are after. Along those lines, I have found a way for us to complete the deal safely and fast, and in this way you will receive the keys in less than three days, if you move quickly as well.

The solution is a worldwide third party company called Airbnb (www.airbnb.com). They will provide assistance in handling the payment and delivery of the rental package. We use this company to see that you are a trusting and serious person. With this procedure you will be able to check the apartment before I receive the payment. Please be aware that it is not necessary for you to register with Airbnb given that I’ve been a registered user for four years and I’ve made over five transactions with them so far. They are really professional and they have great services. Let me know if you are interested so I can provide you with all the steps of this transaction. You need to know everything about this process before we get this started. I think is right for both of us.

I replied again asking for more information, and he wrote back:

This transaction cannot be made face-to-face. This is the whole reason for using Airbnb – for both of us to be 100% protected. Regarding the process, you will only have to deposit the first month’s rent with Airbnb for the contract and security deposit 125.000ISK + 125.000ISK = 250.000ISK and they can proceed with shipping the rental package (keys and documents). I will pay for three-day delivery so you will receive the keys and the contract signed by me right away. I will explain you step by step how this process will work:

To start the process all I need is your information (full name and address). I will go online at Airbnb to deposit the keys and the contract with your name as the intended receiver. Airbnb will check the package to see if everything is in order and also the legal papers that will come along with the keys and proof of ownership with their Real Estate Professional Department. Airbnb will send you a delivery notification to let you know they have the keys and the papers in their custody. They will also send you all the payment instructions to complete the rental transaction.

At this point you will have to go to your bank and make a money transfer to the bank account of an Airbnb representative for the amount we agreed upon; the total amount you shall deposit is 250.000ISK. After you make the deposit you will have to send the payment details to Airbnb. Airbnb will verify the transfer and if everything is in order they will start the shipping procedures using UPS or TNT Next Day Shipping Service. After you receive the package, you will go and check the apartment and in three days (inspection time) you must contact Airbnb to inform them if you want to keep the apartment or not. If everything is in order you will instruct Airbnb to send me the information about the money deposit and I will be able to receive the funds.

If you don’t like the apartment they will be sending the money back to you and you will send back the keys and contract. Airbnb can’t release the funds without your approval. Now I must know for sure if you agree because there are a lot of people interested in renting this apartment and I want to know for sure if I can tell them it’s unavailable. If you agree to what I suggested I will tell them that my apartment is already rented and I will keep it for you. If you agree then I must have all the shipping details so I will be able to make all the arrangements for the Airbnb delivery. Thank you for your interest and I await news from you.

What do you think?

Price Gouging Airbnb Host in the NY Catskills

Our family is planning a trip to New York. Upon finding a house that fit our needs and that was in our price range, we decided to contact the host for more details. We liked what we saw and heard, so we decided to book the seven nights, paying with our credit card through Airbnb. After the request for booking was made and after having several messages between the host, Frann (the host) decided to significantly raise the price per night of the house, and raise the cleaning fees. Therefore, the Airbnb fees were raised, adding an additional $1200 dollars to the total bill. Frann was not willing to accept her advertised price. Therefore we had to cancel our reservations. Under the Hosting Responsibilities portion of Airbnb, the host is required to advertise the correct price. I’m very disappointed and makes me leery about using Airbnb for future rentals.

Referring a Friend on Airbnb Impossible to Redeem

Airbnb is having a promotion where if you refer a friend, they receive an automatic $35 credit in qualifying first time bookings. Well, according to them, “qualifying” is referring to a trip of at least $75, which was fine since the trip my friend wanted to book was over $350. However, every time he clicked on the link, there would be some kind of error that would prevent him from redeeming the coupon. First, the IDs that they requested were constantly being declined for no real reason. After trying for 30 minutes, he finally got them to accept an ID. Then, of course, the credit was not automatically added to the trip during check out, as had been promised. Thinking it was some sort of error, we tried again, and again, and again… and nothing. We tried making the booking using the phone app for maybe an hour. So he became frustrated, and we try to find some way to contact Airbnb. When you click on “Contact Airbnb” in the help section, nothing happens: no link, no number, nothing.

Although I have had relatively positive experiences with Airbnb in the past, the inability to redeem credits that they keep pushing feels unpleasant. It almost seems like a scam in my opinion: they push and push and when you finally refer someone the credit doesn’t even go through. Since the person already went through the hassle of registering his ID and everything, chances are he will make a booking anyway. By the way, we are not unfamiliar with technology; we’re in our mid-20s and grew up with computers. We know our way around websites and software, and we’re pretty convinced this is something on Airbnb’s end (potentially deliberate). Now we’re here to complain about the issue, and I feel my experience with them has been tarnished. It’s for something so silly too: not giving credit that they constantly advertise. It seems greedy to me.

Scam on Airbnb: Austrian Holiday Falls Through

We were looking for accommodation in Austria near Kitzbuhel for February 16-19th this year. After looking for a bit we found a very nice chalet with amazing views hosted by Mark on Airbnb. I checked his profile: it was verified by Airbnb, with 39 reviews. On Monday, January 30th I contacted him via Airbnb, and he responded saying I should contact his wife via email to confirm the dates. Then I wrote to his wife, to confirm the dates and the availability. We exchanged some emails, and they told me more about the property and rules. After agreeing on the dates and all the details, on January 31st they send me a link, which linked back to Airbnb. When I clicked on it, I was directed back to my Airbnb reservation. I selected my desired dates and it let me enter all my credit card details. I put everything in and submitted it. At that moment, it said that the payment couldn’t go through, so I ha to use a wire transfer. All the details to make the payment were included, so I continued as advised.

Meanwhile, I received an email confirmation from Airbnb for the accommodation, including an invoice and itinerary, all looking totally normal and original. I contacted the host and wrote that I made the payment and informed him of my arrival. He answered that everything was fine and we would stay in touch. The next morning I received an email alert from Airbnb stating that I was probably contacted by someone using a fake profile. I wanted to check this host’s profile but it wasn’t available anymore. I contacted Airbnb, telling them I already made a payment. The host was still communicating with me but his phone number which was listed in his email only rang; no one ever answered.

This morning I received a text from my bank, with the verification code for some payment by my credit card (the same which I used for paying for accommodation on Airbnb) for 53.84 USD. I was just in my car driving and my card was in my wallet. So was obvious that someone stole my card details when I made a payment on Airbnb. I had to cancel my card at the bank, and asked my bank if they could request a refund from the receiving bank. I’m not really sure that they will ever send my money back. I went to the police to report this whole situation, because I was a victim of a scam on Airbnb, having paid 1363 euro for this accommodation. I was using their application from time to time, and many of my friends thought it was trustworthy and safe. I will never book on Airbnb again, because I don’t want to lose more money. Unfortunately this was my experience, which was difficult to recognize, as I was trusting Airbnb. Their attitude is just ridiculous; they take no responsibility for anything. It looks like Airbnb has a dark side. Maybe all these scams are the way they make lots of money.

Airbnb is a Free Breeding Ground for Scammers

I signed up for Airbnb a week ago looking for an apartment in Copenhagen for me and my family to stay during a business trip. I thought that renting an apartment would be more comfortable for my two children. I filtered through many apartments. I requested a few and was denied by the hosts, saying that the apartments were not available the days selected. So after a few automated rejections I decided to send messages directly to the hosts asking if the apartments were available the days I needed. I found one conveniently next to the convention center in Copenhagen that was available. The description had a name and picture of the host and said “verified”. I now know verified means something entirely different to Airbnb. The host sent me a message asking for my email so he can send me a rental agreement. I received the agreement, signed the paperwork, and sent it back.

I then received an email from Airbnb requesting to pay for the apartment. The email name plainly said “Airbnb”. The email was identical to the ones I had received from Airbnb in the format and design, from the apartment listing to my photo and the host’s photo. I mean exactly the same. I clicked the link and it directed me to a website that was exactly the same as Airbnb. I was logged in and as I clicked links it clicked in and out of my account. It had my PayPal info. I went to pay with PayPal and it showed an error message that said only wire transfer were allowed. It provided details for the wire transfer and said to please upload the confirmation to Airbnb afterwards, all through this phony Airbnb website completely identical to the real one. This wasn’t some small scam; I could upload data, and log in and out.

I received confirmation emails identical to Airbnb’s emails. The night I was traveling with my family I received a message from the host saying the apartment had flooded and I should find other accommodations. It was midnight; I was furious. I got on a plane with two little kids and nowhere to stay. The host emailed me through Airbnb again saying I would receive a refund shortly. I called Airbnb and found out this whole thing was a scam. They would do nothing as they had no information about the host. Nothing.

What if this person was a murderer, rapist, or junkie? My family could have been in real harm. I can’t believe they have no information about this person except an email. They accept no responsibility and still have his listing on their site. I will provide a link. I searched around the internet and now understand this has been a scam that has gone on for a while now on Airbnb. Their safety precautions now are to tell guests to simply beware through their terms and conditions, not to really verify their hosts by asking for identification, bank accounts, or credit cards. I just can’t understand how they can openly offer a service that allows scammers. They have done nothing to protect their users after scams have been uncovered and will do nothing. Something terrible will happen if they don’t really take some action. I have notified the FBI about this fraud so if enough people do they will examine their business practices. It’s called an IC3: Internet complaint center. I would stay clear from booking anything through Airbnb. If it’s my first time and this happened there has to be a lot more going on. I provided pictures of the listing that is currently still up after I provided Airbnb with the details. I also submitted a complaint with the BBB.

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.

Illegal Scams and Fraud Run by Airbnb Hosts

I am new to Airbnb but my college kid and her friends use it when they travel. I thought I’d give it a try. What I have learned is that as a guest there seems to be a lot of identity validation requested and they ask for a lot of information. At first I took some comfort in this. Then I tried to reserve my first property. The host claimed on the listing that they have trouble updating their calendar so to email them to confirm availability. Not thinking too much of it, I did that and they responded promptly. They then said to get started they would need my name, address, and government-issued ID. I wasn’t sure if they meant put it into the platform or send it directly (which I would never do). Anyway I used the platform to request the reservation and woke up to an automated email from the Airbnb Trust & Safety team saying I should never contact hosts directly off the platform; the host is now being put through a verification process. They said they were suspending the host’s account.

So it doesn’t appear that there is much of a host verification process at all. In fact, this looks like an identity theft scam. I wanted to point out this detail to Airbnb but their automated alerts do not mention any way to discuss this with them. From what I can tell, there is absolutely no way to communicate with the operators of the platform. The way they treat someone using their platform for identity theft, a very serious crime, is to simply remove their account. I’m sure that will really scare them off. Assuming they actually know the identity of these hosts and I could correspond with someone on the platform about this fraud, I would expect them to alert the relevant authorities. Their behavior is both irresponsible and negligent.

I found Airbnb Hell searching for any way to contact Airbnb and I am concluding that it simply does not exist. Not wanting to give up on one bad first impression I went to book a second property. The 24-hour mark has almost passed and I haven’t heard anything from this host either. I guess I’ll take a third swing but then it’s three strikes and I’m off the platform. I know there are many wonderful and responsible hosts on the platform but Airbnb appears to be doing next to nothing to filter the bad and fraudulent ones. It seems you can post listings that you have no legal right to rent out; how can that be their practice? What I have learned is you have to do your own vetting of the host and be very careful. They could be frauds and criminals, and Airbnb does little to prevent them from using the platform. If anything goes wrong you are on your own.

Scammed by Guests, Airbnb Denies me Due Process

Hello fellow Airbnbers. I’m a superhost with more than 100 five-star reviews, and although I’m new to this forum, I’ve certainly had plenty of experience with Airbnb bookings. I just had the most obvious scam pulled by a guest on MLK weekend (I’ve experienced this sort of fraud only once before, and Airbnb mediated, agreed, and ruled in my favor) and amazingly, Airbnb refused to pay me out for the booking (about $950). Things have really changed in Airbnb customer service. I’m an attorney and pride myself on being reasonable, but they totally denied me the opportunity to inspect my property, respond in full, and go after the $300 damage deposit when the scammers left the place trashed.

To make a long story short: I had guests who wanted to stay only one night, when my minimum is two (and on holiday weekends it is a three-day minimum). I had several requests for two-day stays, which I turned down when this scammer changed her mind and agreed to the three-day stay. She asked tons of questions which were fully addressed in the house manual I had sent her in advance. I have an old stone lake house – very charming but quirky in terms of small details – so my house manual is very thorough. The scammer kept trying to book it for one person so I pressed her for an exact number (I charge for extra guests after four since it involves a lot more cleaning). She finally told me it was going to be four.

I approved her request for three days; she then asked if she could arrive early on Friday since they needed to get ready for an event (her son’s concert at West Point). I agreed to let them arrive early since the house was empty. I also told her that I was in Australia that weekend and on long flights, and reiterated many times that if she had any questions or problems she should try me first, and if she couldn’t reach me, she should contact my professional cleaner/Airbnb manager or my handyman. Take note: she knew I was overseas and on my way back to the US that weekend and would be hard to reach. She counted on this.

The scammer and her family arrived (yes, more than four people as confirmed by my CCTV system) and fully used the house: all four beds were slept in, every towel was used and soiled, the entire kitchen was used for cooking a big greasy meal, my cast iron cookware was burned black beyond salvage and hidden away in a different place, glasses were broken, and the toilet was clogged and overflowing. They obviously went to their event Friday night, enjoyed the house until Saturday morning (which was all they had originally wanted) and then called Airbnb just shy of the 24-hour mark required before the payment is released, and filed a 100% premeditated and fraudulent claim that the place was dirty. To be clear, I have a consistent 4.9-star cleanliness rating with more than 100 reviews, and the house is always professionally cleaned before every guest.

Airbnb stopped the payout and sent me an email asking me to contact them. They included some photos in huge files (so big I couldn’t open them on my smart phone at all) of a cobweb in the skylight and some dust in a corner behind a big speaker. They even pulled up an area rug and took a photo of dust in a nonworking heating vent and some 20-year old microscopic paint splatter under the rug. They included a photo of water splatter on the bathroom mirror which was obviously caused by them. She also threw in non-verifiable (non-photographable) complaints about no hot water and no wifi. Both the hot water tank and wifi were working perfectly when inspected by my cleaner/manager an hour after they departed. This email arrived at 1:00 AM Australia time, so I was asleep. A full warning came through at 4:00 AM (three hours later) telling me that I had one hour to respond, and luckily I was awake to see it and call Airbnb (long distance, from Australia) to see what was going on. Airbnb could see I was in Australia because I had booked all of my stays there through them so it was obvious I wasn’t anywhere near my home in the US.

I was so freaked out to hear that the guest had abandoned the house that I thought something awful must have happened (like my cleaner forgot to prepare the house). I couldn’t see the photos on my phone, and the representative I spoke to, “Colleen”, chastised me and said that spiders don’t spin webs overnight (actually, yes they do) so the house clearly was filthy enough to give her a refund. I asked why she didn’t just turn around and leave upon arrival the day before if the place was so filthy, and Colleen had no answer for me. Colleen was so adamantly pro-guest and anti-host that if you told me that the scammer was her mother, that would be the only explanation for her bias that would make sense. Mind you, the scammer never called me, texted, or emailed me, my cleaner (who lives nearby), or my handyman at any time. This is how you know she is a scammer; she had no legitimate complaint and she didn’t want to give anyone a chance to inspect or remedy anything that might be a genuine complaint.

The scammer simply got online with her huge photo files and just lodged her complaint with Airbnb knowing they would not be able to reach me, and then left after that since they were obviously done with their one-day stay. I had my cleaner run over to the house to see if she could be of help. She was freaked out, obviously – she had to rouse her sick son from bed and bring him with her to run there. We really thought something horrible had happened. There was nothing wrong at all except the mess they had made and the destruction they had caused. The cleaner was so upset she didn’t want to work for me anymore because she’s afraid she will be blamed when scammers succeed with their false cleaning complaints. By the time my plane landed, before I had a chance to even get home and inspect my house myself for any damage and investigate fully their complaints (again, I couldn’t open the photos until I got to a computer), Colleen had issued the scammer a full refund and removed the listing completely from my roster. Not canceled. It has fully disappeared from my Airbnb history.

This is infuriating because I don’t even know the amount that I was supposed to receive, I have no way of asking for verification information on the scammer, and I have no ability to file a counter-complaint for all the cleaning and damages left behind. It’s now been more than two weeks. I have called and left multiple messages for Colleen, or preferably a supervisor, to review the case and get back to me about their frustration of my contract and denial of my due process rights to go after a guest for the damage deposit. Each time I call, the “system is down” so they can only send Colleen a message. They reassure me she will get back to me. The new representative I get each time puts notes on my ticket, and that’s all they can do. Colleen never has called me back even though I’m told the “ticket is still open.” This is baffling and infuriating – every time I have dealt with the customer service team in the past they have been thoughtful, thorough, reasonable, and communicative; it’s all in my history. I’m the sort who always pays people partial refunds if they have even a minor complaint, and Airbnb knows that.

I have sent at least five detailed emails, including photos of the damage and filth left behind in my house. I have received no response. Their method is clear: they hope they will just wear me down by frustration and attrition, never responding to my very reasonable observations supporting my claim that my guest was a premeditated scammer. For what it is worth, last year I brought in more than $100K in Airbnb bookings, and Airbnb happily kept 15% of that ($15K) plus all the interest on the credit card pre-booking payments they sit on. I cannot believe they would treat a three-year proven superhost this way. They just refuse to respond. Isn’t it reasonable that they at least explain how they came to their decision, even if they refuse to modify it? On principle, I’m ready to go to arbitration because my only other choice if I’m able to sleep at night is to completely divest myself of my Airbnb listings and go to Homeaway. Obviously, I want to do this as a last resort, so I’ll take all the advice you other hosts can offer.

Scammed Because Airbnb Really Doesn’t Care

I admit there are numerous statements across the Airbnb website stating do not book outside the site. Being a new user, when faced with a message on a listing to contact the host directly, I did. In all innocence, I actually thought that the listing had been validated by Airbnb prior to uploading and that no changes could be made once live. Therefore if the listing had a request to contact them directly I would assume that Airbnb had approved it. Logical, not stupid. However, we all know that’s not true. Airbnb has no security measures, procedures, responsibility or morals. Apparently you can easily create a bogus host, draft up something pretty, wait for it to go live, and falsify it as much as you like, including adding and amending details. Then if they are unfortunate to be flagged or worse still, have been successful in their scam (as in my case) they take the listing down and Airbnb has no way of tracking them. It’s an absolute playground for scammers.

So how does Airbnb deal with this? Do they install preventative measures to stop this happening? Scrutinize and have more background checks on hosts before uploading? Do they ensure no changes can be made once the listing is live or they are only managed through administrators at Airbnb?

Don’t be silly. That would be taking responsibility and accepting that when you start a business providing a service you do so accepting an obligation to ensure the security and safety of every single user. But wait: I hear you say they have disclaimers, so this excuses them for not taking responsibility for investing in the site. They can continue to scrape as much profit as possible while hiding behind these warnings. Basically Airbnb are giving scammers carte blanche to take advantage of the site, targeting the vulnerable and naïve.

Can you talk to anyone about this? Absolutely not. I did manage to get a lovely superhost representing Airbnb who was understanding, but in his words:

“I do understand that this does happen often and we do have security measures. For these scam listings, they are fine when they set up their listing but then they change the information or add a picture with a number and then remove it quickly or remove the listing before we can get the ID. I can assure you than once we find these listings; we do notify our Trust and Safety Team to remove the listing and the host.”

I am sure that more can be done as well. So come on, Brian Chesky, be a man and face up to your responsibilities; stop hiding behind disclaimers or warnings. Create a site where every user feels safe and secure using it. Limit the possibility of scamming and fraud. Have some human contact – a customer phone line so if there are any issues they can be resolved quickly, professionally, and without the need to find these websites.