Fake Host Tries to Use Airbnb for Rental Scam

I posted an ad on Gumtree that me and my partner were looking for somewhere to rent privately. I was a little confused when I received an email from a guy in Germany. He thanked me for my interest in his property (I’d never seen it) and sent me some photos to review. He said he was a live-out landlord from Germany and wanted someone to take over his property and make it his own.

I should have questioned where he got my work email from (the ad I had posted on Gumtree was via my personal account). He asked for some personal details about myself. I replied with a fairly lengthy message stating I like to knit, don’t really party, and am a clean, reliable person, etc. He told me the all in rent PCM (per calendar month) was £600. I was already thinking this was too good to be true: a place in the centre of town, less than I currently pay for my room in shared accommodation, all bills included, a parking space included, etc. All the other places like this I had been viewing were double the price.

He told me that as he is in Germany he cannot show me the apartment beforehand. He said I must pay one month’s rent plus a two-month security deposit, and to do it through Airbnb as they allow me to cancel my booking up until the day I check in/move in. I asked him for details on the tenancy agreement, and apparently he could not send me anything without my ID, full address, etc. He said after I moved into the apartment he would send a signed contract and a spare key.

I kind of kept this going to see how far this person would go. I had no intention of renting this property and sending a stranger £1800 without first viewing an apartment. I have forwarded this to a number of scamming sites and reported it to Gumtree but the ad is still left up as live. I’m not sure what else to do. Maybe posting on here will help. Email thread below.

[Editor’s Note: grammatical errors left intentionally so you can have a better idea of the writing style of scammers]

“Host”: Thank you for taking the time to look at my property. I am a civil engineer, originally from Germany. I bought the apartment with bank credit 5 years ago for our child who went at college there, but this year he finish the college and moved back to Germany because he has found a better job here in Germany and now we have to rent it to pay the remaining credit to the bank. I am looking for a responsible person that can take a very good care of my apartment. I am not after the money for the rent but want it to be clean all the time and the possible tenant will see the apartment as his or her own and I hope that you can send me some personal information about yourself.

Me: Many thanks for getting in touch, glad to hear from you. Your apartment looks lovely – thanks for sending over some photos. I see we both work in the electronics field. To tell you a little about myself; I moved to Brighton just over three years ago for my current job as a Recruitment Consultant based in Central Brighton. For the past three years I have lived in rented shared accommodation (always through private landlords as I prefer to have direct contact) and am now looking for a flat with my partner to move in together. I have been working in recruitment for around seven years now, hold a senior position within my company, and can provide proof of earnings if needed.

In my current flat, my roommates and I have total management of the property – our landlord lives abroad in France so we are in charge if anything needs fixing, etc. My partner and I are extremely clean people and have never once had a complaint from living in shared housing for the past three years. I have only lived at my current flat for just over a year and have already paid to have a professional cleaner and carpet cleaners come in during my time there at my own cost, just to freshen the place up.

As a person, I enjoy doing crafts (knitting, painting, sewing) and my partner is a musician and plays in a local Brighton band. I am a working professional so we don’t “party” during the week or anything like that. One of the reasons we are looking to move out of shared accommodation is because we would prefer a quieter space for ourselves. I am able to provide references from previous and current landlords if required, or feel free to let me know if you have any other questions. I have a few questions:

• Where exactly is the flat located?
• How much is rent/bills per month?
• What is the minimum/maximum tenancy you are looking for?
• When are you looking for someone to move in?

“Host”: The apartment (1 living room / 1 kitchen / 1 Baths / 1 bedroom with king bed, 1 parking spot) is located on ______, Brighton. The apartment is fully furnished with all necessary amenities (it’s exactly like in the pics). I’m sure that you will love it. It has dishwasher, washing machine, air conditioning and clothes dryer. The rent of the flat for 1 month is £600 including all utilities (water, electricity, Internet, cable, parking, garbage, tv) and two months security deposit £1,200. I am looking for someone to rent anywhere from three months to three years or more.

Obviously we need a way to complete this deal in a safe and fast way for both since I am in Germany and i can’t show you the apartment. The solution is provided by a company called “Airbnb” (www.airbnb.co.uk) which will handle the payment of the first month and the security deposit. I guess you heard about Airbnb. They are the largest and most secure site for rents. I chose Airbnb because you send the money to them and you can cancel your booking any time until check in date (https://www.airbnb.com/home/cancellation_policies) and Airbnb will send your money back. Let me know if you are interested because I really need to take care of this matter as soon as possible.

Me: Thank you for getting back to me, the place really does look ideal. I have searched for the address on Google Maps but it brings me to Lloyd’s Bank on North Street. Do you have any outside photos of the property or a link to an online advertisement? When are you looking for someone to move in by? I will need to give notice on my current apartment. I am familiar with Airbnb but only for making short term/holiday bookings. Will there be a chance to view the apartment beforehand?

“Host”: If you are ready to proceed with this transaction I must tell you how this service works and what we need to do. You have to pay the first month of rent £600 and 2 months security deposit of £1.200 (total £ 1,800) to Airbnb (after first month you will pay directly to me in my bank account), after you book the apartment from Airbnb I will send you the keys via UPS (2 days urgent delivery) and then you can go to see the apartment. If you decide not to rent the apartment, Airbnb will refund your money back in the same day but I’m sure that you will love it because it is like in the photos. If you like the apartment Airbnb will send me the money only after you check in (move), in the apartment. So you can put the checkin date the end of this month so you have time to decide if you keep the apartment or not. After you move in the apartment I will send to you the contract signed by me and a backup key. Let me know if you are interested because I really need to take care of this matter by the end of this week.

Me: Thank you for getting back to me. Everything really does sound lovely but unfortunately I am too wary to send over that amount of money without first being able to view the apartment / without anything tangible to show that this apartment is for rent. Do you have a copy of your tenancy agreement? I also still need to give notice on my current flat, so wont be in a position to move immediately.

“Host”: In order to make the contract I will need a copy of your id and your full address. You don’t have any reason to worry because you can cancel your booking any time until the check in date and Airbnb will refund your money back. You will send the money to Airbnb, not to me and I will receive the money from them after the check in date.

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4 Comments

  1. It just happened to me as well. It’s exactly the same words they used. It’s too good to be true. But anyway, I was a fool ! Didn’t check well as I was very excited to move in . But then after sending the payment through wire transfer I was a bit confused as I didn’t receive a payment confirmation but infact she asked me the confirmation that I have made. So I took a screenshot and sent to her. So then I changed my mind and I cancelled it. She said that’s fine I will request a cancellation for you. Then She said cancellation is been made. So then 4days later I haven’t heard from her and didn’t receive my refund. I am really really upset. Are you interested to get the passport photo of the person I was dealing with? Please let me know.
    I’m so mad the fact that I won’t get my money back. Hope that bitch will pay million times the money she scammed has anyone paid and get their money back? Please let me know what to do next?

  2. This happened to us as well. Except we were in Germany, looking for a German flat and the landlord supposedly was in England. It was also a very nice apartment, fully furnished for very cheap. He first communicated in German and even to us (basic level German) his correspondence was suspicious. We thought that maybe he’s English but then his English correspondence was also full of mistakes. We reported his ad eventually and kept an eye out on the rental app. An ad kept coming back for the same address with different pictures. I kept on reporting them. It has made me really paranoid and I am about to go stay at an Airbnb place next week that’s making me a bit worried. Stay sharp out there people. Crooks are everywhere.

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