Scammed out of my Pension in Airbnb Nightmare

I am retired, and I have six children who live abroad so I don’t get to see them that often. We planned a family vacation in September, and since we are a big family, I looked for a listing that could accommodate us all. I found the perfect listing on Airbnb – a nice house in the city, a verified host – so I booked it for three nights.

After a few days, I realized we would need an additional night, so I asked the host to add one more night. She told me we would need to cancel the reservation and do the process again, and that she would send me a new invoice through Airbnb. I received this invoice, from “Airbnb” (rooms@airbnb.com) instructing me to send payment to Airbnb Holdings.

Once the payment was done, I got a confirmation from Airbnb stating “pack your bags, you’re going to Germany” – the text you see in the regular emails with links to the Airbnb website, policy, etc. In other words, I got an Airbnb email from an Airbnb address, and because I was sure Airbnb is building “a trusted community”, I did not doubt for a second that something could be wrong.

The day before the trip, as the host wasn’t answering my emails, I called Airbnb, who told me it was a scam, and there was no booking. However, the listing was still online, on the Airbnb website, waiting for people like myself to fall for it. I had to find a last minute booking (at twice the price) to accommodate all my family, because we were all on our way from all over the place, with nowhere to stay. Airbnb declined responsibility for scams they advertise, even though we paid for the service. They did not do the simple verification steps to check that the listings actually exist (not that complicated – just ask the host to send an invoice or official paper with the address). You had one job, Airbnb.

I lost a lot of my pension money, not counting the stress, frustration, sadness of being robbed when you feel secure on such a well known website. Airbnb refuses to refund anything, not even the fees they took for the reservation, which is the minimum they could do in that situation. The truth is, I am sad and disappointed that Airbnb takes so little responsibility towards the community they claim to be building. It’s easy to take fees on our transactions, to encourage us to open our doors and trust their users, and then they disappear when something goes wrong.

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.