Airbnb fraud: how to avoid scam listings

By Dana McCauley

This Airbnb listing has been removed after its host fleeced a woman of $80. And it gets worse.
This Airbnb listing has been removed after its host fleeced a woman of $80. And it gets worse.

It's the sharing economy giant that revolutionised travel, letting people rent out their spare rooms for a fraction of the cost of a hotel stay.

But Airbnb can be a minefield for the uninitiated, as a newcomer to the site discovered when she forked out A$76 ($80) for two nights in a private room in Melbourne - only to discover that she would have to share a bed with her host.

The Sydney woman, who did not wish to be named, used Airbnb's "book now" option to reserve her two-day stay next month.

After the host, whose profile says he is an RMIT student named Ali from Port Melbourne, accepted the booking, she proceeded to the payment stage.

It was only when she contacted Ali by direct message that the true picture of the booking emerged - and things got creepy.

"I would to meet when are you arriving melbourne to have dinner and on me," Ali wrote. "Becouse i just intrest to learn english not share a room [sic]."

The woman reported the profile to Airbnb.

An Airbnb spokesman said there was "absolutely no place for fake listings".

"We have removed this listing, banned the account holder, and provided a full refund to the guest," he said.

"More than 140 million guests have had safe, positive experiences on Airbnb and while incidents are incredibly rare, we take them very seriously and move fast to deal with them.

The host revealed his creepy motives.
The host revealed his creepy motives.

"Our community is growing quickly because trust is the foundation of our business. We proactively encourage hosts to think carefully about their responsibilities, and our global Trust and Safety team works 24/7 to protect our community."

The incident highlights the pitfalls of trusting online listings, and the ease with which unscrupulous users can fleece travellers.

In a more extreme case, a Melbourne IT specialise was scammed out of A$9000 ($9500) when he clicked on what looked like a legitimate listing of a Hawaiian villa in 2015.

The seven-bedroom Honolulu villa, the Banyan House, was listed on Airbnb as available to rent for A$1200 ($1267) a night, with potential customers advised to contact "Emma".

Airbnb removed "Ali's" account after being contacted by news.com.au.

HOW TO AVOID AIRBNB SCAMS

• Don't be fooled by photography. Flashy, photoshopped images can fool even the most savvy of travellers. Ask for additional photos to check if the property really exists and use Google Earth and Street View to verify the address.

• Steer clear of listings that look too good to be true, such as being way below the normal price for a room or property in that area.

• Never pay with cash or communicate with the host off the platform, even if they ask to.

• Check the comments and feedback from previous travellers who stayed at the property and treat new listings with caution.

- news.com.au

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