Listings on Airbnb Can be Deceptive. Whom can you Trust?

Airbnb’s concept is fair, but you always take a chance. How do you know that the host is a decent, law abiding person? How do you know that the host believes in keeping his place clean and as advertised? I recently spent four nights in the Bay Area, and I can tell you that I used every ounce of patience and kindness towards my host. The host was an older person who had health problems. Compound that with an extended stay in the hospital and the inability to adequately clean their home, and I was bitten by fleas for numerous nights. The stench from not being properly cleaned didn’t help either. What’s more, even after speaking to the Airbnb personnel, I didn’t get the response I expected. I asked immediately to be placed in another unit at their expense. Their response was that I had to document the host’s offenses. I was doing some important work and told them that it wasn’t fair that I had to spend my time, not to mention the possibility of humiliating the host, with the conditions forced upon me. I didn’t get a refund except for the last night, and this was due to the fact that I left two days early and actually booked with a very nice lady in another part of town. I asked them to remove this host from their listing, but I haven’t checked and seriously doubt that they will do so.

Horrible Host in Lecce Left us Homeless

After informing our host, Angelo, of our arrival time at his place, 11:30 PM – well in advance of our trip (even in the first message) – we called to check everything was okay and he claimed he was not in the area. We could not access the accommodation until he arrived, four hours after our scheduled arrival time. We were stranded in the middle of the night after a long journey from Rome and effectively homeless. We were forced to find an alternative (and expensive) accommodation, as we were not prepared to sleep in the street until 4:00 AM. Angelo has since claimed this is not grounds for a full refund, and believed that refunding half the money was a “decent” goodwill gesture. In the end, Airbnb refunded the rest after opening a case on the site. Do not plan to stay here. Lecce, however, is lovely, well worth the trip, but find other Airbnb. It turns out that this profile is fake, Sabrina is in fact Angelo.

Another Airbnb Scam: Stranded in NYC

I booked a verified listing that was an amazing apartment near Central Park in New York City. The host contacted me with information on how to receive the keys, and asked about my stay and how he could help with suggestions. After arriving at the “place” only to find that the building had been torn down (the police said three years ago…), I was effectively stranded with nowhere to go; we had to book the only hotel we could find available for $500. When we called Airbnb, we were put on hold for over 20 minutes to finally be told they would refund the amount that we paid. When I insisted they pay for the hotel bill that night, they refused saying they would book us in another Airbnb. When I asked them how they would verify that that building was not demolished either, they had no response…

This is a complete joke of a verification process. At least drive by the building to see if it is still there before allowing scammers to post fake listings. One of the customer service agents agreed to pay a portion of the hotel bill, which I have yet to receive…

First Airbnb Experience: Ripped off in Sag Harbor

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I’m a first time Airbnb user. We were very excited to book our first trip, an entire home called a “charming country cottage” in Sag Harbor. What we found was a house that was not the same as that in the picture in the ad, and we did not have the whole home but one small apartment on the first floor. It was Sag Harbor in the summer; everything  was full and with two small kids we could not exactly sleep on the street. We had to accept the accommodation despite feeling incredibly deceived and ripped off with false representation.

Afterwards we asked for a refund of around 60% of the booking cost which seemed more than fair and we expected the host to be removed from the listings; from previous comments it was clear she had rented by the room. As soon as she saw we were unhappy she turned from nice and charming to throwing mud at us. Now our only comment on our Airbnb profile is by her: “I am speechless how insulting the experience was hosting Carter. I would want to warn other hosts of this guest.”

This is nuts. This is like going to the police because you have been mugged and then the person who mugged you gets to post defamatory comments on your page. Look at the two pictures and guess which one is on Airbnb and which one is the actual house. Then assume from looking at the nice pic you are booking the “entire home” and just get the ground floor… I am so disappointed. We are waiting to hear back from Airbnb as to what action they will take and what refund we will receive. I have found no way to have the owner’s comments removed. I guess this is our first and last Airbnb experience and we have gone from huge enthusiasts and promoters of all we had heard of the brand pre-experience to hard core detractors. It’s such a shame. I still don’t understand how anyone can ever book a home on Airbnb when owners are allowed to post pictures that are not of their actual homes!

Bogus Airbnb Listing: Scammed in Brighton

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Hi Natacha,

I’m Dan from Airbnb’s Trust and Safety team.

On our site we only have one confirmed reservation with a Host John. There are no other records of you enquiring or corresponding with others hosts.

At Airbnb, we work hard to keep our community trustworthy and safe, but in rare cases, attempts at fraud do happen. To help us look into this case, please reply to this email and include:

– Screenshots or copies of your emails with this person
– Details about how you came into contact with them
– The web address of their listing or Airbnb profile
– The method of payment this person requested
– Proof of any payments being made

Keep in mind that Airbnb will never ask you to pay off-site or through email. If you receive an email from anyone (including an automated@airbnb.com or any other username@airbnb.com email address) asking you to pay or accept payment off-site, don’t respond, and always report it to safety@airbnb.com immediately.

Anyone who contacts you through an external site claiming to be a trusted service for Airbnb who asks for payment via bank transfer, Western Union, MoneyGram etc. should also be considered fraudulent.

Thanks for your reply. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you have other questions or concerns in the meantime.

Best,

Dan S
www.airbnb.com/help

 

Dear Airbnb,

Thank you for your response. Having read numerous articles on Airbnb since this happened to us, I am amazed at how often you allow this to happen as it seems it been happening regularly since you started the website. As travellers, we are forced to verify our accounts in order to be able to stay with a host but it would seem that anyone can advertise anything on your site with absolutely no security procedures or verification. Essentially, I could advertise a fictitious chateau in France (which I do not own) but under UK law, that would be fraud. How, therefore, are others allowed to offer a product through your website and use you as the contractual partner?

This incident hurts on so many levels but, in this case, it is not just about the money… my friend’s son is disabled. He has just finished school for the very last time. There is nothing at this stage to look forward to – not going back to school in September to see his friends with whom he has spent the last 16 years, not going back to the establishment where he has built relationships with a fantastic team of staff who dedicate their lives to children with a variety of disabilities, children who would not understand the horrible world in which we live, where large organisations allow hard-working people to be swindled. Therefore, as a special treat, his mum wanted to make the end of school a special occasion rather than flatly going into the school holidays. She booked a show in Brighton and found a lovely place for him to stay with his two respite carers (yes his disability is that severe that he needs two). She asked me to pay for it as I had an Airbnb account. Having used Airbnb only once before, I followed the same process and was sent an email from yourselves asking for payment. I duly paid the money and then heard nothing more. The first time I used Airbnb I paid via the website but not having been a member for long, I assumed that some hosts have different methods of payment and that AirBnB would have verified them, especially as the email came from yourselves.

When this young man goes away (which is rare), the preparation process is vital. His mum spent ages this week, printing off photos of the accommodation to put in a scrapbook for him to get used to his environment – an environment which we found never existed. The impact on this young man is phenomenal. Most of us can get on with things and contact the police, the bank and hit our heads against the barriers that Airbnb put up to facilitate contact. This young man cannot get past the fact that he has been let down. Whilst his naivety is refreshing, it does not help his mum manage the situation that the ensuing stress causes, such as fits. Despite having sent you the email I received from you via Twitter, you are now asking me for it again, so here are all the screen shots and the email.

We look forward to the refund of the money.

Kind regards,

Natacha

Airbnb Scam: Set up and Burglarized in NYC

We were burglarized the morning of our first day in an Airbnb apartment in New York City. The host refused to refund our rent for the apartment and so far Airbnb has refused to support us in any way. We lost over $5000 in property: every valuable thing we brought including luggage, jewelry, medication, clothing, along with passports and other personal and financial documents. The police confirmed it was likely a set up and the host has now removed the listing from Airbnb. We have since learned that renting apartment units in New York City is illegal. We are furious about the lack of support from Airbnb customer service, who is now telling us that it is our responsibility to ensure the safety and legality of property that we rent through their service. We will soon be employing an attorney to file charges if things are not corrected soon.

Fake Airbnb Listing: Cliffhanger in Alabama

So, I never used Airbnb before. I was encouraged by my friends to do so despite my misgivings about staying with total strangers or even being alone in someone’s home without them there as really, anyone could have keys. Imagine someone walking in on you as you never know who the owner gives keys to! I booked a place in Birmingham and had never been to Alabama, so I thought it was flat and swampy and that working class people like me live there: only things I had seen in the movies. I did not care as I am not a wealthy person. Mind you, the ad said “Birmingham” but this home is not in the city at all. Beware of people posting ads saying this as it can make all of the difference in your experience.

Well, the obviously fake glowing reviews of the place did not mention this man’s house is on a cliff! The house is IN THE APPALACHIAN MOUNTAINS and he referred to it as a “little hilly.” Literally all the houses in the neighborhood sit on the side of a mountain with million dollar mansions and his house is empty because he is selling it. He says he “travels” but he lives in another state when I actually got him on the phone. He even said we might go for a bike ride… as if he lived in Alabama! He said, “I travel for business,” “I live in Arkansas,” and “I live there full time” all in one day to me! Does this sound normal to you?

Well, imagine not knowing where you are and driving for hundreds of miles through farmland and then BAM! You are not in Birmingham but in a weird place called “Shelby” where for some odd reason millionaires live in the middle of abject poverty; everyone around them is poor as dirt! The entire area is out of place and the hotel in which I ended up had transients and “regulars” living there, as the working class people are poor. It was like a dystopian future in which the feudal lords live on a mountain overlooking the peasants!

Well, I called the police, not believing this man’s ludicrous story anymore for fear I would be breaking and entering into someone else’s home: a bait and switch. Even the local police thought it was odd he was only charging 45 dollars a night for a MILLION DOLLAR HOME IN A MILLIONAIRES CLUB ESTATE ON A SIDE OF THE APPALACHIAN MOUNTAINS! My truck would not charge my phone due to a small electrical problem as it is new and had a quirk, so I had to sit in a local restaurant to charge my phone and when the police came and I showed them the home and the ad he even thought it was fishy and recommended a hotel up the street for my safety.

Can you imagine if I actually went into this empty home IN THE DARK and someone arrested me or something? Beware of a “too good to be true” ad or people claiming to live somewhere they don’t. Unless you look up the owner, how do you know you are not breaking into someone’s home for whom they got a key made? The entire night cost me $175 dollars and I was so scared in the DARK, never having been to Alabama. A house on a cliff in the middle of a neighborhood of rich and powerful people with nobody living there is ridiculous. If you could see the location you would think an eagle lives there.

The final insult was when I called the man who placed the ad, and he asked me if I knew where local roads were and to “pop” up the hill when his home is in the MOUNTAINS and the back of them drop off hundreds of feet to your death! An empty house, non-resident owner, no proof the person actually owns the house, and omitting pertinent details such as HOUSE SITS ON A CLIFF OFF OF A MOUNTAIN equal no more Airbnb for me. BEWARE normal everyday people, because if you end up in a millionaire’s estate, you had best believe rich people can get you arrested or worse. With all the shootings going on too, who knows what could have happened to me? I had no way of verifying this man even owned this home, and when you look at a property, ASK IF IT SITS ON A CLIFF!

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!

Nonexistent Building and Fraud in NYC

We booked a “charming studio” in Manhattan on 60th street, one block from Central Park. Initial confirmation came back confirming the listing as shown. BUT the week we were leaving we received a second confirmation with a different address. The new address was seven blocks away, under the Queensboro Bridge exit ramps, and adjacent to a strip club. I contacted the host about the discrepancy. I received about 20 automated messages confirming our “charming studio” but not responding to my question. I told her we wanted to keep our original reservation for the charming studio near Central Park and that her other listing showed it as two bedroom units, etc. She said there were also studios in the building. I told her we wanted to keep our original reservation near Central Park. Next, the host claimed it was a typo. WHAT?

I called Airbnb. The nightmare began. Then she claimed it was an administrative error. And finally two days before our departure she disclosed that the original address is for a building which doesn’t exist. Meanwhile Airbnb assured us that they would help me find alternate accommodations for us within our desired area. I explained that we were going to be in NYC for two and a half months and that my son would be receiving medical care and so we needed to be able to walk to his appointments and needed to be close to the original location we reserved. They kept trying to convince me to accept the other reservation. I explained that it would not work and that we would have to rely on cabs and that would add over $400/ week to the total. We were then assigned a case manager (Olivia) but every time I called I had to go through the whole explanation again and got more lip service. I was told our case manager would call us back. This never happened.

I was told our case was now labeled urgent. Still, there was no call back. Then I was told they would provide a list of available places but not necessarily within my desired location and price range. I was also told I would have to contact hosts myself. With a 24-hour turnaround response time and further “no availability” for the “available” listings they provided, I was told I was on my own to find alternative accommodation elsewhere. I was now within 24 hours of our departure, I still had no resolution and no place to stay for my son and I and they were still sitting on over $5,500 of our money. The stress they added to our lives cannot be measured. The experience was not just frustrating, it was unethical, fraudulent and illegal. Having a case manager is a joke if he/she does nothing to help you.

I finally got different case managers (Shawn and Buster) who told me they were going to refund our money. I have to see yet to see a refund. I contacted a friend in Manhattan and put me in touch with her realtor. When I told her what had transpired, she did not bat an eyelash. She said that many of her clients call her because they have rented through Airbnb and that many of the NYC Airbnb listings are illegal and so folks are booted out of their rental midway through their stay. Virtual commerce. Virtual crime. My “host”, Rachel, was actually in London. And the crazy thing is, as of my departure THE LISTING FOR THE NONEXISTENT “charming studio” with the map location on 60th street and one block from Central Park was STILL UP on the Airbnb website. I have not decided how I will proceed. Be careful out there.