Since it launched in 2008, Airbnb has transformed the way many of us stay overseas or find a last-minute room in an unfamiliar city. At its peak Airbnb was worth over $30 billion, with some 2 million people a day browsing for more than 6 million rooms in 81,000 cities worldwide.
For the most part, customers have a great experience, but as with any online service there’s plenty of scope for scams and fraudulent activity. Airbnb has faced criticism that it isn’t robust enough in policing users, so here are some potential Airbnb scams you need to know about to protect yourself and stay safe.
1. Bait and Switch
At the heart of any Airbnb booking is a trust exercise. Guests might be booking from a different country, with only the room listing and photos to refer to. That makes it tempting for unscrupulous hosts to use misleading or deceptive photos, to cover up for a dirty or substandard apartment, for example.
Alternatively, the host may request to switch the apartment at the last minute, knowing full well that the guest has little time to make other arrangements. The host may claim there has been an emergency issue, such as a plumbing leak, both to add authenticity and to avoid paying cancellation fees. Should this happen, Airbnb does protect you through the Guest Guarantee policy, but it’s worth doing your own due diligence too.
2. Multiple Bookings
It’s been common practice for years in some of the world’s busiest tourist hot spots for hotels to take multiple bookings and bump guests at the last minute. That’s why many guests prefer Airbnb, knowing that once the room is booked, the listing is removed. However, that doesn’t stop the host advertising the room on other platforms, or in local classified ads. Numerous guests report arriving at their Airbnb apartment to find other guests already installed. Again, do an address search to spot any duplicate listings online for the dates you have booked.
3. Bogus Charges
Let’s acknowledge that some genuine hosts find themselves burned by guests who abuse the Airbnb booking terms. It could be something relatively minor, like smoking in a non smoking apartment, but there have also been plenty of cases of guests throwing parties that cause significant damage. For the host, claiming damages is a time-consuming process that involves submitting several forms of proof to the Resolution Center and admitting claims specialists to conduct a review. Sadly, that doesn’t stop some crafty hosts from applying bogus charges for damage or breakage that wasn’t the guest’s fault. If this does happen, you are entitled to see receipts for any cleaning or repairs, and you cannot be charged a cleaning fee after you have left.
4. Requests for Off-App Payments
One of the key attractions of Airbnb is that it’s an easy to use, self-contained, end-to-end platform that doesn’t bombard you with pop-ups or send you to other pages at the slightest click. As a customer, you book, pay and communicate exclusively through the app or desktop site. So if a host asks you to use an alternative payment method or tries to set up communication through an alternative email address, be suspicious. Hosts who display an email address or phone number in their listing should not be trusted. As long as you stay within the Airbnb app, your consumer rights are protected. Stray outside, whatever the suggested excuse, and you could get stung.
5. Phishing Scams
Any site that processes transactions and stores personal banking details is a target of scammers, and Airbnb is no different. In this scenario, scammers send you a link for a fake Airbnb listing or offer you a last-minute deal that is only available through booking directly. Click on the link and your bank details or computer could be compromised. It’s another reason why you should only ever book through the secure app.
6. Fake Reviews
Once you’ve completed your stay in an Airbnb apartment, you have 14 days to leave a review. It may not be a big deal for you, but bear in mind that hosts require a minimum 4.8 average rating to maintain Superhost status. Even if they’re not a Superhost, one bad review can really skew their ranking. Not surprisingly, some hosts attempt to game the system, either asking for a five-star review up front as a condition of accepting the booking or asking for a bad review to be removed. Particularly if a host becomes threatening, contact the Resolution Center to nip the scam in the bud.
How Spokeo Can Secure Your Stay
With Spokeo’s suite of tools at your disposal, you can easily expose the scammers and reassure yourself that the AirBnB you’ve just booked is legitimate. Start with Reverse Address Lookup to search for the registered owner of the property and their contact details. With their identity confirmed, you can then progress to a Name search to browse their public records and social media profiles. This is where you’ll have the option to discover if there are any complaints or criminal cases you need to know about, as well as statistics on the safety of the neighborhood and possible sex offenders that might live in it (additional fees may apply for criminal record search). Overall you don’t have to simply put your trust in your AirBnB host. You can research them yourself and enjoy your booking with confidence.
- The Guardian – How Airbnb took over the world | Airbnb
- New York Times – The Future of Airbnb
- Vice – Here Are the Most Common Airbnb Scams Worldwide
- Komando – Top 6 worst Airbnb scams for renters and how to spot them
- Which – How To Spot Scams On Airbnb And Other Letting Sites
- Washington Post – Airbnb scams: How to spot and avoid them