Mykonos Villa Robbed, But Airbnb Nightmare Did Not End

My objective here is to raise awareness about how unsafe any vacation rental can be if you don’t ask the right questions early enough in the process. This is especially true if the owner has not taken even basic security measures, which Airbnb either does not require or does not concern themselves with. It is your responsibility as guests to ask.

This was our first and last Airbnb experience. Airbnb allowed us to walk straight into a mine field. Airbnb did not respond to our emails for help for 11 days. When they did, it was a form email requesting that we (1) get a police report; (2) document what was stolen; (3) prove our ownership of those items. For parents, if your children are the “guests” and you are not travelling with them, then a little forethought about what to do if trouble occurs would be good planning. If you are still going to use Airbnb, here are the top ten questions we did not ask but should have:

1. Is the villa an actual home or an investment rental property overseen by a management company?

2. Where does the villa owner reside? Are they in the country? What will be their physical proximity to the villa while you are renting?

3. Does the villa have a security system? Does it work? Are there instructions for use in the event one exists?

4. Is there a home safe in the villa? Is it operational?

5. Does the villa have external lighting or motion detectors?

6. Who has keys to the villa other than the owner? Have any keys been given to maintenance personnel or former contractors? Are all owner’s keys accounted for?

7. What is Airbnb’s policy for refunds for robberies/evacuation? While their refund terms and conditions state that you must report any dissatisfaction within 24 hours of arrival, why did Airbnb pay the owner when a complaint was already sent via email within 12 hours of our arrival? By the way: no one answers a phone at Airbnb. Do they even have customer support? Who takes priority, guests or owners, or neither?

8. What is Airbnb’s advertised response time to a serious matter such as a robbery? We arrived at the villa at 5:00 PM local time June 7th; the robbery was reported to them June 8th at 5:00 AM local/10:00 PM PST June 7th. We received an email response June 18th.

9. Does Airbnb know that their online availability calendars are excellent for determining when units are occupied and precise arrival dates? I’m guessing the best day for a robbery is the first night.

10. Does Airbnb know that their interior and exterior photographs are useful for would-be robbers to study floor plans and access points?

We were robbed on our first night in an Airbnb at 4:00 AM. We interrupted the thief (in a ski mask) in the third bedroom after he had already ransacked the first two (all the bedrooms were occupied). We chased him out of the house. The adjoining villa was also robbed where the thief knew exactly how to enter (broken door that was not obvious to guests) and had a key to our villa (from a former contractor). Thief took mostly cash.

The real terror occurred when the thief returned later that same day in broad daylight. The adjoining villa guest engaged him (slashed his tires, etc.). In retaliation, the thief called “friends” and within minutes a half dozen of his buddies arrived. Outnumbered and seeing no positive outcome, we reached out to local friends who found us another accommodation.

Robberies are not uncommon on Mykonos; it is a high-end island, with lots of private expensive villas and plenty of opportunities to steal. The police are not equipped to deal with the massive influx of people during high season; when they finally arrived at the behest of the villa owner’s management company we had alerted, they arrested the thief for drug possession. No cash or possessions were recovered. Knowing his “buddies” were still on the loose, not knowing his intent for returning, and knowing he had a key, we could not stay.

Sound security measures are available on Mykonos for those owners using common sense. At our next villa we found: external cameras throughout the property; external lighting and motion detectors; management residing across the street who lives on the island; home safes in villa that were functioning. These are basic security measures. The Greek people who helped us at the next villa were extraordinary. They too were upset that guests on their beautiful island were victimized. They value having guests and depend on tourism for their livelihood.

What is Airbnb’s responsibility? Is security ever mentioned in an Airbnb listing? Do they deliberately avoid the topic? It’s probably not good for business. Airbnb leaves it to you to address the security/safety topic. If you arrive at a villa and see that basic securities measures are lacking, it is not grounds for a refund. It should be. In one respect we were lucky: the owner was so appalled by our experience she refunded our payment directly to us that day. Ironically, the owner was afraid Airbnb would not be forthcoming or helpful. Mykonos is an amazing island, but you must use common sense and take responsibility for your own safety if you are using Airbnb. At every other accommodation we did not book through Airbnb (Santorini, Kefalonia, Zakynthos) we found all the standard security measures one would expect to find in a high-end property. Shame on Airbnb.

Airbnb Wants to Know Everything About You

I have already purchased tickets for flights but have had so much trouble trying just to pay for my two-week accommodation. I’m new to Airbnb, and have felt nearly buried under the formulaic questions and instructions. I am not that computer savvy but wish to make all my payments on my desktop account. When it comes to numerous instructions for identity verification and security, Airbnb keeps referring me to download their app onto my Android phone. I have told them numerous times I don’t trust to have personal details on my phone – only on my desktop, which has better security. Instead I just keep going around in circles with them. I have also told them how intrusive and extensive their requests for personal information are. Airbnb doesn’t even supply a telephone contact number so as to speak with a human being. Now I’m concerned if I cancel my accommodation reservation I’ll lose money. All I wanted was to book and pay with PayPal, which doesn’t seem like an option anymore. They keep sending me emails, but when I go into those it’s the same old story: connect with Google on your mobile device. As I have had serious health issues I haven’t been able to have a vacation for years. Trying to do a business transaction with this company has caused me frustration. My last request to them was for someone to phone me, and not text. I’m still waiting.

How Safe is Airbnb Really if Guests Can Copy Keys?

Last weekend my girlfriends and I rented a super pimped out, amazing three-bedroom house near old Montreal. We’re talking high roller kind of place… after all, it was my bachelorette party, so we figured we would splurge a bit. The reviews were great, the host was nice, and the place was amazing. Everything was great until we got home at 3:00 AM on Saturday night to find everything ransacked, and all our stuff stolen. Not just a few things, but a lot of things: $20,000 worth of iPads, diamonds, purses, sunglasses… all gone. They even took one of my wedding shoes. That’s right, just one.

After dealing with the police, filing a report, doing all the things we had to do we were finally able to contact the host. He came the next morning, and as he was inspecting the place he told me that someone had rented his place a few weeks ago, under a false name and stolen credit card, and stole a bunch of his stuff. Why didn’t he tell us that before? The buggers probably copied the key to the place and just came back a few weeks later.

Which leads me to ask: how safe is Airbnb? Keys can be easily copied. A quick trip to a convenience store or home depot – that’s all it takes. You can’t tell me that every host changes their locks after every guest. I’m guessing that doesn’t happen. So really, how safe are you sleeping in a house that could have hundreds of copied keys to the front door? We were just lucky that none of us stayed in that night. The night prior, one of my girlfriends stayed in. If they came in on Friday things could have been much worse. All of this tell us Airbnb is not safe unless the host has a pin pad lock and changes the code after ever guest. Always ask, and really it should be mandatory by Airbnb. By the way, none of the host’s stuff was stolen, not a thing.

Airbnb can Block your Account Whenever it Chooses

On April 24th, 2017, I was sharing a message with a host to book a reservation for Japan. The host had my reservation from April 25-29. However, Airbnb did not allow me to make my reservation for some reason, then blocked my ID so that I could not log in. I was embarrassed to call customer service directly, and I did not receive the answer to a question that I posted on Twitter and through several emails over two days (see picture). There is no obligation to respond to the deletion of my Airbnb account or even the prevention of deletion under the terms and conditions. The company still has my passport image, my name, phone number, and my credit card number. I am extremely unhappy and afraid of revealing personal information. I am still not going to use the company and I will not be able to hear their answer. It is irresponsible to say that there is no obligation to notify someone without informing him of the reason for deleting his account. It looks like Airbnb has no legal responsibility.

Credit Card Verification – Security Check Process is a Failure

I’ve just read the post on April 18th on Airbnb Hell from the first time guest who had a nightmare with the verification process and needed to book a room. Specifically, he was asked to enter specific amounts from his credit card into boxes on his screen. When he was unable to do that (because it’s impossible to know what amounts to enter), he was asked to submit a credit card statement. Still, Airbnb requested more information until he gave up. I am going through the same experience. The difference is: I’m no first time user. I’ve been a host for two years with a dedicated townhouse that I use for short-term rentals on Airbnb all year round. I’ve been a guest for much longer. I have a single credit card that I’ve used for years, which I’ve used many times before to make Airbnb reservation. I used it to buy airline tickets within an hour before I tried to book accommodations through Airbnb on April 18th.

After submitting my credit card statement, which I did quite reluctantly, I received a message that Airbnb would get back to me within 24 hours about my reservation. They didn’t. I checked my credit card balance. I have a credit. In other words, there was no debt on the card, which has a large maximum. I’ve never defaulted it. I didn’t get a response yesterday so I called again. I asked the customer service representative to escalate it. She was nice and pleasant and said she would. I also replied to the email I received from the customer service representative I talked to the day before to let her know how badly Airbnb was managing the situation and that I wanted a resolution.

I just got off the phone with my third customer service representative in three days. She was able to get a supervisor on the line. He said he will try to resolve it for me and promised to call me back within two hours. He said that Airbnb has new security procedures in place that are being handled by a separate unit. He admitted that they aren’t working so well and other guests have been having the same problem. This security unit is somewhat isolated in that they will not deal directly with guests. I get the feeling that the customer service unit has little or no access to them as they held me hostage while determining if I am a risky guest. Meanwhile, I’m waiting. It’s certainly possible that the accommodations I tried to book (for 4/28-4/30) are no longer available and that other places may not be either as time is quickly passing and my trip approaches. Not only is this a problem for guests, but for hosts as well, as they are forced to wait and wait to see if a guest’s credit card is approved long after a booking request. The entire process is seriously deficient and needs to be modified by Airbnb. Needless to say, I’m quite disgusted and my confidence in Airbnb has plummeted.

Hacked After Concerns About Identity Theft

I used Airbnb once and was pretty satisfied with it. Shortly thereafter, Airbnb required that users upload two forms of government-issued ID. With seemingly every large online business being hacked every other month, I simply won’t do that. My credit card has fraud protection, but should Airbnb be hacked and my bloody passport stolen, I think I’m fairly screwed.

I decided to cancel the account. When you try to go to account settings, you’re blocked until you upload your ID. Airbnb, of course, lists no way to actually contact anyone at the company, so I put it off. Like a fool, I forgot about it. Now someone in Poland has accessed my account. I was able to reset my password, but when I finally dug around on the web to find a phone number for Airbnb, courtesy of Airbnb Hell, they said they can’t help me access my account until I give them the credit card number I used to pay for my one trip. I can’t access my account to see which one it was, and I don’t have it on me – because both of my credit card numbers had to be changed after retailers at which they were used were hacked. I left some negative feedback on the site briefly spelling this out. I did actually get an email from Airbnb letting me know that I could cancel my account by going to my account settings. Helpful…

Fraud from Stolen Credit Card Number on Airbnb

Last year, I booked a room on Airbnb. Everything went okay for the reservation and stay. Last week, I wanted to book a room again with Airbnb before and after a tour in Europe. I sent an email to the host to check the availability for August 2017 but to my big surprise, the room was automatically booked as Airbnb had kept my credit card information in their files. All I wanted was to check the availability, as the website was not posting a calendar like the last time. A refund from Airbnb was made for both transactions the same day as the host understood what I initially wanted to do.

A week later, I received a phone call on my voicemail at home from a well-known USA airline company (we live in Canada) to check if I had booked flights in Las Vegas to New York for $900 that morning. I spent more than two hours trying to reach the airline’s customer service (the booking number of the flight was left on my voicemail) and getting my credit card company to cancel the card. I was lucky that the airline cancelled the transaction for those who were trying to use my credit card and the scammers were not allowed to board the flight. I also found out from my credit card company that while having a good time in Las Vegas, the scammers had also tried to make a purchase for $3000 before booking the flights but the transaction did not go through because it was over the limit.

I will never use Again again. Please share this information on social media before other innocent victims fall prey to those leeches. My computer is protected with top of the line anti-virus software, so someone on the Airbnb side has connections to steal my credit card information.

Silk Purse Description for a Sow’s Ear in San Diego

The photos on the Airbnb website of this full apartment on “Golden Hill” were outstanding. When we walked in, it was a very clean full apartment. However, after we had been living there for four days, it was clear the fresh paint and cleaning were bandaids on a poor foundation. There were so many problems with this property that this has to be a long review. Sure, the cosmetics were all attended to. The cleanliness was excellent, but things went wrong at every turn.

We arrived in the rain at 2:00 AM due to a red-eye flight. As we approached the apartment area, only ten blocks away, we encountered a tent city of homeless people. There were people walking around, in the rain, at 2:00 AM. This was discomforting. As we approached the residence, there was a liquor store on the corner. Turning onto a side street, there was a tattoo parlor. It was a neighborhood we totally didn’t expect from the polished guest reviews. In front of the tattoo parlor was a large black beach truck. Again, the fact people were walking around at 2:00 AM was disturbing. Across from the property was a disabled van in the driveway. The property was lighted. What struck me immediately was the heavy metal fencing and gates – unusual for a supposedly safe area.

Two days before the trip, we had a change in transportation and decided to rent a car rather than hailing a cab. I sent the owner a message asking about parking. He didn’t reply. Going back over the description, I found a statement that said, “There is ample street parking available.” The problem was when we got there there was no parking for blocks in every direction. Because of the neighborhood, I wasn’t going to leave my partner alone with the luggage or walk alone from where I parked. We both pulled our luggage in the rain for two blocks. The next day, I sent the owner a message asking about this. His reply: “There is ample street parking available. Yes, its very available around there. No one has complained about lack of parking.” Since I knew this was a lie, and the condition of the property wasn’t as described, I decided I couldn’t trust anything he said anymore and stopped contacting him except for the confusion with the gate.

We found the yellow gate mentioned on the listing. When I tried its handle, the gate opened; someone had already defeated the security system. I was also concerned when the owner gave me the codes to the gate and the apartment. He said they were the same and presented this as if it were a convenience to memorize. What it actually meant is that every apartment dweller or guest (for at least four units) also had the code to our apartment door. Why? Because they all needed the gate code to access the laundry. Going through the gate we entered a long completely dark hallway. It was dark because it had a motion light, a mercury vapor type which made it take a very long time to get bright enough to light the hall. We waited almost a minute in the rain for enough light to see.

The second night and all during the day, the gate lock was opened. I thought it might be broken. The third night, as we came back from dinner, the gate was locked. I tried the code. It didn’t work. After three tries it would no longer take new tries. We were lucky that the dinner included business, so I had all the rental paperwork with us. It provided three contact numbers. The first was the owner; I got his voicemail and left a message. The second was a female voice: also voicemail, left a message. I called the third number and got a live person who said he was the property manager. He said the code had been changed and he gave us the new code (which was not the same as the apartment code). The implications are bizarre: if the gate had not been open the night we came, we would have been stranded outside the gate at 2:00 AM because no one would have answered their phones.

Entering the apartment, our first impression was positive. It was clean, but there was clearly a big problem; it did not have a bedroom. The photos had been taken to make it look like there was a bedroom. The bed area was simply a screened-off section of the living room. The screen didn’t go all the way to the ceiling or across the room. This caught my attention because the description said: “When cooking, close the bedroom door as the smoke alarm is sensitive and will go off.” There is no bedroom door, because there is no bedroom. The lack of a closed bedroom isn’t a problem for a couple alone, but for four people, or if there are guests, it’s a big limitation on privacy. It also doesn’t allow a quiet space for someone sick or who wants to sleep. There is also no clothing storage in the bed area – just a night stand and a chair. Clothes could be hung at the far end of the living room. The other clothes’ storage was in a dresser in the living area. The bed area was very small.

The bathroom appeared bright and clean, but when we tried to use it, the problems became apparent. In front of the shower was a thick rug. The bathroom door wouldn’t open enough to get to the shower unless the rug was folded back. Even with the rug pulled up, the door stop was the wrong kind; the door wouldn’t open all the way so the rug could be folded back down. There were signs on the wall talking about conserving water: “turn the water off while soaping your hands”, etc. The old single handle water tap was defective; it wasn’t marked for hot and cold, so we had to guess and turn it to one side or another and let it run to find the hot water. Not knowing how long it takes for the hot water to kick in, it can run cold water for minutes before you try the other side. Once you find the hot-cold direction, setting the temperature is almost impossible. The valve jumps between hot and cold with the smallest adjustment of the dial you can possibly make. If you finally get it right, and then push it off, when you pull it on again, it doesn’t come to the same temperature. So, you spend a lot of time freezing trying to get it right again, all the time defeating the idea of saving water.

The floor mat in the shower has nothing like holes to let the water drain. If you leave it down, the water doesn’t drain. If you take it out, you slip on the tiles. The toilet is the smallest I’ve ever seen. It looks like a child training device. It appears they recently put on a cheap new plastic seat, but the material is so flimsy that anyone over about 120 pounds will make it slide. Every time you sit on it, it seems you’re going to fall in. If you close the cover and try to sit on it, it bends in the center, seemingly like it’s going to break and you’ll fall in. The sink is a simple pedestal sink. That means there is no surface area to spread out toiletries. The towel holders are positioned poorly. If you use the “hand towel” holder, the towel falls either into the sink or blocks the limited surface space. There was only one hand-sized towel (which means none for the kitchen).

The area partitioned as a living room was both the living room and dining area. The way the furniture had been set up, the roll-out couch faced the dining table. The TV, however, was on a dresser to the left of the couch. We didn’t even try to use it. To do so, you either have to always look to your left (which would cause neck pain) or rearrange the room. The clothes closet was in the living area at the opposite end of the room from the “bedroom”, but it wasn’t really a closet. It’s a walk-in cupboard. To go into it, you have to climb up an 18″ step and go through a small door. It was helpful and had plenty of hangars, but was “unusual”.

There are not enough power strips to plug in electronics. The wall plugs were behind the couch, or far from the couch. I couldn’t find an extension cord. There were plug strips already plugged in, but they were totally full already.

The kitchen floor was not on the same level as the living area. It had a steep six-inch drop off. Since the floors were both dark, the drop off wasn’t clearly visible. All three of us (including a visitor) fell off this ledge. It’s a serious tripping hazard and clear code violation without markers like railings. The refrigerator is defective. During the night, it started making a loud buzz. When I got up to check, there was water on the floor. That’s when I noticed rust stains around the legs. It turns out the floor under the refrigerator is also uneven. So by rotating the refrigerator, I could temporarily find a way to stop the buzz. It took three tries to find a place where the buzz wouldn’t come back after awhile. By then the refrigerator had been rotated so much, it was hard to access and someone would try to straighten it. The opening lines for the listing say, “There is a separate full kitchen… decorated and stocked to be your home away from home.” Well, the decorations are great. The only stocked part, however, was a good array of spices. We found a coffee maker and coffee filters, but no coffee. There was an open box of tea bags with only two left. There was a basket mostly full of sugar – no Splenda. No hot chocolate. This hardly counts as “stocked” – and we were only looking for the basics that would be found in motel rooms.

A number of comments mentioned the high fees. A $90 cleaning fee is extreme for such a small, sparsely furnished two-room (actual count) apartment. Initially assuming it was reasonable, that implied a large space – misleading and unjustified. Seeing an additional management fee show up was also a surprise, especially one that high. You don’t see that in motel charges unless they try to scam you for parking. As a first time Airbnb user, I was very disappointed. I’ve heard many stories of fraudulent situations, including one in the apartment complex where I live. I wanted to believe otherwise. This was not a good start. Furthermore, I sent this same review to Airbnb and never got a reply. The listing for the apartment is now gone, but the renters have a number of other places in the area as well.

Airbnb Verification is Nothing but Invasion of Privacy

I was going to New Orleans for a work trip and thought I would find a nice Airbnb. I looked around, found one, and made a reservation. Everything was good so far. Then I started working my way through the reasonable verification process. I sent in my drivers license picture and then clicked the Facebook verification tab to complete the process. Despite having had a Facebook account for years, it seemed like Airbnb didn’t think I wasted enough time on it; they rejected my Facebook verification. Then I tried the video verification. The website said that I would get approval from their verification team within a few hours. I recorded the video, and nothing happened. There was no ‘submit’ button and it didn’t seem to submit itself. It just sat there. I figured I would let it do its magic and left for a few hours. When I got back I had an email from Airbnb saying that I only had a couple more hours to do my verification video before my reservation got canceled. I searched all over their website looking for a way to get an answer, but despite the friendly ‘we’re here to help’ messages all over the site I discovered that they were decidedly not here to help. There is absolutely no way to contact Airbnb through their website. I kept going back to the verification page trying to figure out what was wrong. When I did I saw that the Facebook verification option had disappeared and been replaced with an American Express tab. Then the video verification tab disappeared as well. When I originally tried to verify with Facebook there was a page that showed all of the data that they wanted to mine from my profile. That included all of my contacts. I deselected that box because I didn’t want my contacts to start getting hounded by this company. What are the chances that my Facebook profile was rejected because I wouldn’t give them unfettered access to my private data? I’m thinking pretty good. I always had a pretty good opinion of Airbnb and the way that they helped people make a little money. I now have a pretty lousy opinion of the company. They refuse to allow me access if I don’t let them scrape all of my friends’ information and they make it nearly impossible to get any customer service. Shame on Airbnb.