Fake Long-Term Rental, Scammers Pretending to be Airbnb


I was recently scammed out of $2,800 for paying what I thought was a security deposit and the first month’s rent for an apartment on Airbnb in Australia. I found the initial listing on Domain; it looked like a private rental with the listing asking any interested parties to email rentscall@gmail.com. I had a response back from the owner ‘Harald Grabner’ (lab.teacher@novartis-pharmaceutical.com) who explained the apartment to me, attached scanned copies of his passport and license (see above), and explained that as he lived in Germany the rental (inspection and handover of keys) would be handled by Airbnb.

He explained the process and said that in order for Airbnb to put me in their system there would be an upfront payment (the $2,800 mentioned above) which would be held by ‘Airbnb’ and released to him if I decide to take the apartment. If I didn’t like the apartment, it would be immediately refunded. He told me that Airbnb would be in contact soon.

I received an email from ‘Airbnb’ with deposit information, which looked exactly like the other real emails I had received from Airbnb in the past. I transferred the money and in a few days time got confirmation from ‘Airbnb’ saying the money had been received and that an agent would be in contact to make arrangement to view the property but wouldn’t be for a couple of days, as he needed to come from Perth. I was never contacted and the real Airbnb has no record of my payment or emails. Beware: the emails looked exactly like the real Airbnb emails. The real Airbnb will never ask you to transfer money off their site. Lesson learnt.

No Apartment and No Money Thanks to Airbnb

After this experience, I contacted Airbnb by telephone. I sent them documents, data and evidences of the scam I experienced through the company. I still noticed that there were ads on Airbnb pages that follow the same strategy to persuade customers to book on behalf of the corporation.

On Saturday, November 12th, I logged in to Airbnb to search for an apartment. When I booked one, I received an email telling me that they were not able to verify my payment method (which was true because I had not yet updated my profile on their system) and they advised me that if I did not do it within 48 hours the account would be suspended and I could not book an apartment through them. They informed to me to verify the method of payment, and I had to send them my full name, address, expiration date, and the last four digits of my debit card. I also added a statement from my bank with sensitive data like my account number.

Someone sent me emails at the same moment I visited Airbnb and they also asked me about verifying my account. It sounded true. In addition, I had not still updated the method of payment on the application. On the other hand, searching Airbnb, I saw an apartment in New York for January 4-7, 2017, near Central Park and Times Square. The apartment, whose host was called Tammy (attached picture), was interested in us and we read the information given that they only accept bookings through WhatsApp, at the number indicated on the Airbnb website. This was something that initially did not seem dubious because we had heard that Airbnb was a very safe and reliable company, according to friends and acquaintances. When I contacted the host by WhatsApp, she told me that she would send me a pre-approval email with all what I had to do (attached image). There, I could read about how to send money (Western Union) and where I had to forward the payment confirmation by email to Tammy (tammy_bangle@yahoo.es) and to Airbnb (automated@airbnb.com; same domain as the website, something that made me trust the email). On Tuesday, November 15th, at 7:45 AM, I sent the transfer and exchanged messages through WhatsApp with the host. Obviously, it was a scam.

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.

Airbnb Consented and Approved of Fraud

I’d like to share with you how I was a victim of a fraud while using Airbnb’s platform and how surprisingly the company is doing nothing to prevent such fraud from continuing to happen. I used Airbnb for the first time to rent two apartments in Amsterdam for myself and seven of my friends, and after browsing Airbnb’s offers I saw that many hosts ask users to contact them via email in order to book the apartment rather than speaking to them on Airbnb (see screen shots below). I talked to a host via email and he sent me a confirmation regarding the booking for two apartments (it looks like a confirmation from Airbnb). I paid the host 2,100 Euros via wire transfer – and lost my money. I acted as many innocent and unexperienced users might do: following the instructions of an Airbnb host listed on Airbnb under the assumption that if information is published on Airbnb then it’s okay to comply, especially when Airbnb said nothing about avoiding this kind of practice when creating an account.

Now there are two major problems with Airbnb regarding this case:

1. Why does Airbnb allow its hosts to publish instructions to its users that are allegedly against Airbnb’s policies? Airbnb claims that they would never ask a user to go out of their site to talk to hosts but they allow hosts do to so and by that allow its users to be scammed by criminals using Airbnb’s site?

2. Even after I talked to Airbnb’s Customer Support and Risk Management Departments and described how the fraud works – the same fraudulent hosts and others were still active on Airbnb, publishing the same instructions to users and continuing to scam people out of their money all under Airbnb’s nose– the company did nothing about it. Even though they were fully aware and knew everything they needed to know about this fraud (as I said, my friend sent them screen shots and a full explanation of how it works), they did nothing. Only after I published the story on Facebook, tagging Airbnb, did they “kindly” remove the fake hosts from the site and there were about six of them in the Amsterdam section alone.

Airbnb is saying that they are responsible for their users’ safety but in practice they are doing nothing to protect their users from criminals using their site and platform. They can and must do so using very little resources, and to add to them doing nothing they also ignored my many emails and phone calls to their support center and responded only after the story was published on Facebook. Is that a user-concerned site and company? Is that the type of security and service a company of Airbnb’s scale should supply its customers? I regret to say that Airbnb’s behavior is shameful and shows just how much they care about the safety of their users and customers: not at all.

Scammed in Spain: Another Fake Airbnb Listing


We have never used Airbnb and will definitely not use it again after we booked a villa advertised on their site. We were looking for a villa to sleep eight of us in Alcudia Palma Mallorca, Spain when we found this property called Villa Pretoria with stunning views. We thought it was beautiful and suited us so we went ahead and made a booking. However, when we tried to pay by the secure credit card payment on the site it was not going through. The host said Airbnb was having some issues with this and advised us to use a link he provided with his bank details to do a transfer. We did, and paid 2,700 Euros. We were all looking forward to our family holiday as our daughter is working in Alcudia and we had not seen her for a while.

A few days before our travel date we emailed Hector for details of how to pick up keys for our stay but he did not reply. The day before we were supposed to travel we went on the Airbnb site to check our booking and there was not one there; it was then we became suspicious. My son got in contact with Airbnb and they said it looked like we had been scammed. They were going to report this but then we got an email from Hector with his contact details, telling us to call him when we landed to arrange to meet to pick up the keys. We thought maybe this was not a scam so we all got on the plane and landed in Palma at 9:00 am on Friday, August 26th.

We got our baggage and our car and rang Hector. There was no answer so we left a voicemail. Still no reply. It was then reality sank in: it was a scam. There we were eight of us stranded at Palma airport with nowhere to stay. This was really embarrassing as one couple who were our friends had not been away with us before. We then sat in the airport and got on the website to look for accommodation and was lucky enough to find a villa in Pollensa that was available. We then had to pay another 2,100 Euros. We were only there for 5 days so it worked out to be a very expensive 5 days.

We went to the police station to report this but they were no help at all as no one could speak English. They said sometimes a translator comes in but they never know when. It would be a matter of waiting around all day to see if they came in or not and as we were only there for 5 days we did not feel we wanted to waste our time hanging around. We did ring Airbnb from Spain as well and they apologised and said they would look into this. It took a few weeks for them to come back to say there was nothing they could do as we paid outside of the secure payment system. What chance do you have as a guest? We tried to make a secure payment and were told Airbnb was having problems and we should make the payment directly to the host.

As we said we never used this site before and will not again. We always use travel agents and think this is what we will do in the future, sticking to legitimate companies. We are so angry and disappointed that no one will help us get our money back. If there is something you can do to assist us in finding this crook who scammed us it would be appreciated. He gave us his picture and phone, which obviously may not be him at all. I do not know how people can sleep at night stealing from hard working people that save up to have a holiday for it to be taken away just like that. I have attached the emails and a copy of the Airbnb site with the host’s details so you can hopefully find out who does own this villa to let them know they are being scammed as well. If there is a villa there, we didn’t find it.

Fake Airbnb Amsterdam Listing Interrupts UK Vacation

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.

Airbnb Villa Scam Cons Families on Holiday in Ibiza

We have recently been the victim of a scam on Airbnb that cost us nearly £4,000. My partner, my two children (5 and 1), and I wanted a last minute getaway due to a stressful few months, so we booked cheap Ryanair flights to Ibiza with the hope of finding somewhere to stay last minute and managed to stumble upon the Airbnb website through Google. Before this point, I’d never heard of Airbnb. I registered with the site and contacted a couple of hosts regarding availability but had no luck in finding anything as the places we could afford were fully booked. We had almost given up and nearly cancelled our flights as we couldn’t find anywhere to stay but at the bottom of the list of properties I saw some villas that said ‘others you may be interested in.’ I clicked on an amazing looking villa that showed our dates were still available. It was still out of our price range but as we were due to fly in less than two weeks we contacted them to see if they could offer us a late deal.

We didn’t hear anything for a few days and then I had an email through Airbnb from the host, saying her messages had not been getting through to her and she had been told by Airbnb to put her private email address on one of the pictures so she could receive the messages that way. We asked about the dates available via her email address to be told they were available and we managed to get the price down to £3,000 for the nine nights plus a £600 deposit which was still very much over our budget. However, we were thrilled about this as the villa had five bedrooms so we thought we could invite some friends over with their kids and make it a holiday of a lifetime, splitting the cost of the villa. We invited two couples along with their four children, who also booked flights to Ibiza and were going to stay for a few days each. As we had never used this website before we weren’t aware of the payment system or the way the website worked in general but we asked a few people about booking on Airbnb as we were a bit wary; the people we spoke to said it was a legitimate company and it would be fine.

We were emailing our host back and forth and asked how we should pay and she said she could not take the payment directly and that it would have to go through Airbnb. Rather, she would send them the details there and then and we would get an email confirming the reservation and details on how to pay. We received a very official looking Airbnb email, from an Airbnb email address with a confirmation booking number and details of payment by bank transfer to an Airbnb host. Like I said, we had never used the site before and the email appeared to come from Airbnb so we assumed this was the system of payment, as when I set up my profile on Airbnb I received no warning about how to pay other hosts correctly. Instead, there are various references of ways to pay littered across the site, including “instant book”, “contact host” and “expedite credit card payment”. These create enough confusion so that when an email is received from someone listed as a verified user you do not doubt it.

We paid the £3,600 by bank transfer on 01/08/16 and were still in contact with the host as we had various questions, e.g. did they have a travel cot, how far was it from the airport, etc. We were in contact with them up until the night before we were due to fly to Ibiza and the host even offered to pick us up from the airport but we said we had hired a car and we just needed the address. The host didn’t reply that night with the address and the following morning we rang her mobile number various times, contacted her by Whatsapp, and emailed her. By this point we were getting very worried as we were due to leave for the airport that afternoon. I contacted the Airbnb helpline and spoke to a lady to whom I gave the confirmation number, but she could not find my booking and suggested I contact customer services who would look into the matter for me. They did not have phones and I could only contact them by email.

I was furious by this point as I could not believe that if you have a problem or issue with a booking that you cannot talk to a human being in person and could only by email, hoping that you are able to get a response before you travel. I did get a response quite quickly luckily enough but it appeared to be a standard automated email that was not personal or did not sympathise with my situation at all. I gave the representative all the details that I had of the contact I’d been dealing with and I received a further blunt automated response back to say there was no booking and nothing Airbnb could do to sort out the situation or offer a refund as we paid outside of their system (which we didn’t realise we were doing). That would be the final email we would receive.

I’ve since had another email through Airbnb from another ‘lady’ asking me to provide further details of myself through her personal email address in order for her to accept a booking request, which I assume is another fraudster trying to take advantage. So it seems to still be happening on a regular occurrence. To summarise, we lost £3,600 for a villa advertised on the Airbnb website that I assume did not even exist! I had to tell my excited five-year old who had his case packed all ready to go that we were no longer going on holiday. We had to cancel our flights (another £356 lost) as we could not afford to stay anywhere else at such short notice. Our friends also had to cancel their flights and tell their children there was no holiday. We are still paying off a holiday we did not go on and will do for some time. Overall our loss was nearly £4,000! I am flabbergasted that the customer service for such a large company like Airbnb is so poor and they could not even apologise or compensate my family for the money we have lost. Since we were victims of this scam I have Googled Airbnb scams and found that this is not an isolated incident as articles have been written in the Guardian (04/06/16), The Huffington Post (27/01/16), and The Telegraph (20/03/15), just to name a few.

Regarding victims that have fallen prey to fraudsters on the site. It was suggested in one of the 2014 articles that a warning be issued to new subscribers warning them of the danger of fraudsters on the site and a guide be given on the correct payment process. It seems this was not looked into or carried out as had it been, then I would not have been a victim of fraud and lost £3,600. How are they allowing people to advertise villas and apartments on the site that do not exist? Are they checked out and verified before they advertise or can anyone post a rental on the site? I just don’t understand how this is happening! I wanted to write this story as a warning to others so the fraudsters cannot do this to anyone else.

Lucky Escape from Fake Airbnb Listing

My boyfriend and I are currently looking for a long-term rental in Milan, and we have already come across three scammers. The most significant one we have experienced was for a huge flat right in the centre, that was advertised on Bakeca. It was for just 940 Euros a month (very cheap for Milan)! The flat was beautiful, but we couldn’t see it in advance because (like I’m seeing with many stories here) he was supposedly out of the country. We exchanged a few emails and he said that he used Airbnb because it was the safest option. It was clear that it was an email he had copied time and time again because he never answered any of the questions I asked and he never addressed me by my name. Nevertheless, I trust Airbnb because I have always had good experiences, so I asked him to send the link to the flat. The site looked normal, the reviews were incredible, and yet something seemed off… then I noticed that the usual padlock that marks that you can pay securely wasn’t in the address bar like it is on the real Airbnb website, and if you tried to click on any of the links they didn’t work… apart from payment of course! Anyway, although I noticed before it was too late, I very nearly went through with it. DO NOT FALL FOR THIS SCAM!