I do not know if this is a host or a guest problem because I was a potential guest who suddenly discovered I was a host with an amazing apartment in Amsterdam. I don’t even live in Holland. What’s more, I had many bookings for my fictitious apartment. Here is my story.
The very first time I ever visited Airbnb to browse for holiday destinations I clicked an email address on the listing. I did not – but now do – realise these listings are a scam. However, at this stage, I had not signed up as I assumed you only signed up to be a host, not just to browse. The listing was in Amsterdam. So I emailed the Airbnb host and I was told I could have the apartment and the host would even pick me up (how thoughtful). I became suspicious of the listing when I spoke to my adult kids who had used Airbnb before and I showed them the pictures. They said it was too good to be true and that it’s probably not a good idea to email someone directly. I was disappointed but relieved as I had made very little contact and had not gotten anywhere near paying anything.
So, I made no more contact with the host. I checked out more Amsterdam properties and many of them had email addresses within the images. This is also the case with San Francisco. I wrote to the problem section and sent an email to Airbnb and to the community. This was answered by a member but I never heard from Airbnb personnel. What happened next was frightening and very inconvenient. I had left my home country, just after browsing and making enquiries, and flown to the UK for a vacation. When I reached the UK I checked my emails and had received about 15 enquiries about the Amsterdam apartment about which I had made the enquiry. These emails were requests from guests wanting to stay in the apartment; they all thought I was the host and owned the place. I went to the site and, sure enough, I was listed as the owner of the apartment; a photo of me was even accompanying the listing.
I did not know whom to contact in Airbnb as none of the FAQ addressed this new development. If a phone number had been present I would have rung it. As I said, I was on holiday in the UK and could only access my email intermittently. I had already tried to work out how to contact Airbnb with no response. I started to wonder if even the Airbnb address to which I was writing was a scam. At this stage, I did not know if the people who had booked my fictitious apartment were genuine. The numbers were growing by the day. I could not work out how anyone would benefit from this action. I decided to assume all of these people – by this time there were about 35 – were genuine and were organising flights and holidays, etc. So I decided to write to each person and tell them the apartment did not exist and I was not even a host.
No one wrote back to me but they must have cancelled their fictitious bookings because I started to get emails from Airbnb that my account would be deducted by $128 for each cancellation. I didn’t have an account. I continued to receive bookings and wrote back to each person. I wondered if they were paying into an account somewhere or they were all fictitious. I explained the apartment was not mine and I did not even live in Holland. I felt like I was going crazy. I then got emails from Airbnb warning me about cancelling these bookings. I still did not know if any of the correspondence from Airbnb was genuine. As I was finding it impossible to sort, and be on the move daily, I asked my son to try to sort it out. He discovered my apartment would be listed and then taken down intermittently. My photo was still on the listing with my email address (this photo had come from my Facebook page).
Today, nearly two months later, I checked the Amsterdam accommodation. My fake listing seems to have gone, but there still many apartments with private emails in the photos. I think Airbnb took my listing down but never even bothered to contact me. Obviously they can’t keep on top of the scammers. I was a first time user and so had not been aware of the dangers of emailing this address. I am still not sure how the scammers hope to get money from people. Unless people pay them directly – which could be the case – if someone is new and assumes Airbnb is all secure, then everything on the site must also be okay.
Why make me the host? If people were emailing me, then how would the scammers get their money? If I don’t have an officially listed property, have not become a member, and do not have an account, why did the Airbnb system not recognise that? It’s become obvious to me that the wheels are well and truly coming off Airbnb. It’s a shame but the company’s arrogant and hands-off attitude to dealing with serious problems is earning them no friends. They are so difficult to actually get hold of. In fact, it’s impossible if your problem doesn’t fit one of their neat little categories.