Airbnb: A Place for Scammers and Fraud

So I will start from the beginning, at the end of September beginning of October I was looking to book an apartment for 10 to 12 people for a friend’s hen party, Airbnb had been recommended to us and even some of the girls had booked and used them i

I will start from the beginning. At the end of September, I was looking to book an apartment for 10 to 12 people for a friend. Airbnb had been recommended to us and even some of the girls had booked and used it in the past with no issues. So off I went in search of an apartment close to the centre of Amsterdam. I found one that looked great, sent the photos to everyone, and we all agreed it would be perfect for us. The listing even said we could add people if needed. I looked through the reviews – all fine – and it even said the host was “approved.” I clicked on the contact host section of Airbnb’s website to make sure our dates were available for next May. I got an instant message back to say they were and an email would be sent for me to secure the booking if I wanted. The email came directly to me, with my full name, a booking number, an Airbnb letterhead, the works… it all looked official.

I followed through the payment service, sent everything over, and let the girls know it was all booked. I then received an email from the “host”, who called himself Frank Bider, to introduce himself, tell me the best way to get to the apartment from the airport, and to let me know if I needed help on things to do or places to go to just contact him. I thought nothing of it and said I would probably contact him closer to the time to find out how I could check in, etc. A few days later another email from Frank came to say that Airbnb had not validated my payment and the confirmation number was incorrect for my booking; a refund had been sent and I could make the booking again if I wished. I asked Frank how long this would take and if he knew what had happened. He replied saying that it was an issue with Airbnb and should be sorted in a few days. I waited 24 hours but received no email from Airbnb about this refund or anything. I contacted them directly, waited, and still heard nothing. I sent email after email to Airbnb but still nothing.

All the time Frank was still in contact with me. He then asked me to send another payment but this time by bank transfer. This was when something in my brain figured it was not right. I was frantically trying to contact Airbnb but I had no response from them. Finally I got the standard robot response saying I had no bookings with them. I sent a copy of all the emails with their letterhead, and then the worst happened. I received an email back from Katie at Airbnb to state although these email had an Airbnb email address, they were not official and had not come from them, stating they would never contact me off site via email to make a payment. I couldn’t believe it. I started to email to ask for help and see what I could do: phone my bank to see if they could help?

Again, Airbnb went silent. There was no contact whatsoever, so I took to Twitter. After days of me sharing bad stories I had found and my experience someone contacted me and said I would receive an email soon. Finally Chris from Airbnb emailed me. I asked time and time again for a phone number but nothing. Chris asked me to send proof of my booking and the money leaving my account so I did. I sent a copy of my statement and all the emails with their letterhead and everything on it. He then asked for a copy of the fraud report I had made to the police so I sent that as well with contact details of the person to whom I spoke. I then received an email back to state that because the emails were not from Airbnb and I paid through a payment system that wasn’t theirs there was nothing he could do. I felt this was a very generic answer and then asked Chris what they have in place for their customers to safeguard them against this type of fraud, as at no point when making a profile on their site or when looking for an apartment were there any notifications or advice to say “don’t do this”, or if you receive a direct email, report it.

Then again I suppose if they did this they would lose customers and scare people away with their warnings. Chris then asked me for proof that I had been on their website in the first place. He asked if I had taken screenshots of the profile or a copy of the web address or anything to show I was on their official website? I thought this is absurd. Who would take a screen grab or snapshot when searching for anything online? I was most definitely not on their website looking to get scammed out of £1000; I was on there looking for accommodation and to book a trip. I advised Chris of this and explained how I though it was ridiculous to ask a customer if he had documented his search on Airbnb’s website to prove he was on their website. I know that this information will be on their servers and they would see I was on there website. He then told me he couldn’t see my profile but backtracked to say he could see I had logged in and confirmed my email address and added another. I replied back to say I had not been on Airbnb since and had not done anything with my account or email address.

When I went on to check this information for myself my account had been locked and stated I must take a photo of my ID before I could log in again. I will not be sending Airbnb or anyone a copy of my ID and think it is a complete joke my account has somehow been locked. The simple answer I keep getting from Airbnb is that without screenshots to prove I was on their website I cannot say I originally went through them for contact or that they initiated this contact between me and this so-called host as I have no proof. Even though all logic would say if I was not on their website why would the fake email of come through to me with an Airbnb letterhead, Airbnb logos and Airbnb information? Why would the fake host contact me saying “thank you for booking through Airbnb” and “Airbnb has not validated your payment”?

The problem with Airbnb is the security is not tight enough. Anyone can be a host and anyone can set up a fake profile. They do not check anything and only after an incident has happened do they start to change things on their website. Their customer service is shocking. I have been going back and forth with them via email this whole month asking for a contact number and only this week did I finally receive a response with a number to call. I have said I will be reporting this to ‘Watchdog UK’, ‘Ripoff Britain’ and other review companies but the problem for me is I’m over £1000 out of pocket. With no light at the end of the tunnel for me to be getting my money back, no compensation, nothing. All Airbnb says is that I can’t prove I was on their website so they won’t compensate me and hope I use Airbnb again. Well trust me… I won’t.

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