Late last night I had a notification from PayPal saying I had been charged £450 for an Airbnb. I looked at my emails and had three emails that stated:
1. Confirming a reservation I had never made
2. My receipt from PayPal
3. Airbnb confirming the reservation had been cancelled and due to the host’s policy I wasn’t eligible for a refund.
Airbnb said to use the resolution centre for extenuating circumstances (which was impossible as my account was later cancelled). In the next 2-3 minutes I was also sent a billing receipt email from Airbnb, an email asking for payment verification details, and then finally an email saying my account had been cancelled (in which it implies it wasn’t cancelled by Airbnb, but rather, had been cancelled by the ‘user’).
At this point, any attempts to log into my account failed (as it was cancelled) which means I had no way to access my account details, or to access the resolution centre previously mentioned, and no way to contact customer service since every help or “contact us” page seems to just link to a “log in for help” button. I am astounded at this – surely if you have a cancelled account you should have the means to be able to contact Airbnb to resolve problems? Apparently not.
I then had to Google a contact number for Airbnb. Why they couldn’t have just put that in their emails is anyone’s guess. I called customer service. There was no answer at all; I was on hold for 30 minutes. I then sent a Twitter message to Airbnb help, advising them of the problem. They didn’t reply until four hours later, and even then, only to ask for my email address. It has now been 12 hours since I messaged them and the only progress made is just messages from them asking for my account information or reservation information – no real action, no offer to call me, no information on a phone number I can call for more help, and certainly not sorting out the issue fast enough given the amount of money involved.
I spoke to my bank who said that I need to go via PayPal first, and if they don’t refund the money then I could come back to the bank who would then try to help. I raised a dispute via PayPal last night, and this morning called their limitations team to ask for more information and to get a fast resolution as it was a lot of money. To be fair to PayPal, the customer service agent was very helpful and was able to confirm during the call that my case was closed in my favour. They have now refunded the full amount back to my account.
It turns out that Airbnb was able to charge my PayPal account because they were set up as a subscription on PayPal for automatic payments, something I was not aware of and something not made especially clear on their website. Given that someone else had a very similar problem only three days ago this is obviously not a one-off instance. Someone is accessing accounts without permission – both guests and hosts – in order to steal money. Something needs to be done about this, as it is fraud.