As a first time user on Airbnb I had never used their site. I was booking a ski apartment in Morzine, France for me and seven others. I found a perfect apartment; it looked lovely and was at a perfect location in town. I emailed the ‘host’ using the link on the Airbnb website, which said “click here to contact host.” For over three weeks I asked questions and explained I had to get a commitment from my seven friends, hence it took three weeks to finally make the booking. We must have exchanged over 20 emails. Little did I realize this host had a fake email address set up with an Airbnb heading: all the fonts, fine print, everything. At some point during our conversations she switched addresses and all further correspondence went through this channel without my knowledge. When it finally came time to book she even mentioned to me that I was to pay Airbnb and not her directly.
I was then sent an invoice from what appeared to be Airbnb (since then I have seen a friend’s real booking – his invoice looks exactly the same) and I paid it. I even checked online 24 hours later, saw the money had left my account and the beneficiary was Airbnb, and so I had no reason to question it. It wasn’t until a month later, when the holiday was getting closer that I decided to touch base and all was revealed as the host didn’t answer her email. When I tried to click through to Airbnb on one of her letterhead emails the listing had been removed. Airbnb sent me their standard email three times stating, “as I paid outside their platform they wouldn’t help.”
They won’t take any responsibility for a fake listing on their site. Since finding out I was cheated, I have done some research and have discovered unfortunately I am not alone; this has happened to a number of people though my situation seems to be for the most money. I am not a stupid person; these people are very clever and know how to scam others. I do not think Airbnb protected my interests. When setting up my profile I didn’t receive any warnings about how to pay hosts correctly. Instead, there are various references to ways littered across the site, including ‘instant book’ and ‘contact host’. These create enough confusion so that when an email is received from someone listed as a verified user you do not doubt it. When taking on a property it should be their responsibility to verify these listings. It wouldn’t be difficult – even a copy of a utility bill from this property would have saved me and others like me from being scammed. Airbnb is a huge international company, stretching to over 190 different countries, so I am just a small fry to them. Unfortunately for them £3500 is a huge amount of money to me and I will not stop until I get it back.