A nationwide scam on Airbnb?

I’ve never used Airbnb myself, but I have several friends who’ve done so.  I was therefore rather worried to read that there seems to be a widespread scam going on involving properties listed on Airbnb.

I had unknowingly stumbled into a nationwide web of deception that appeared to span eight cities and nearly 100 property listings—an undetected scam created by some person or organization that had figured out just how easy it is to exploit Airbnb’s poorly written rules in order to collect thousands of dollars through phony listings, fake reviews, and, when necessary, intimidation. Considering Airbnb’s lax enforcement of its own policies, who could blame the scammers for taking advantage of the new world of short-term rental platforms? They had every reason to believe they could do so with impunity.

. . .

Airbnb only refunded me $399 of my $1,221.20, and only did so after I badgered a number of case managers over the course of several days. The $399 didn’t even include the service fees Airbnb charged me for the pleasure of being thrown out on the street.

. . .

It seemed as if one person or group might have created numerous phony accounts to run a much larger Airbnb operation. If that proved true, it meant whoever ran the five accounts I’d located was controlling at least 94 properties in eight different cities. How many other people who had been scammed out of money like me?

. . .

No one at the company ever agreed to speak on the record about the specifics of what I uncovered. Nor would anyone answer any of my questions about Airbnb’s verification process. As far as what obligation it has to people who have fallen victim to a scam on Airbnb’s platform, the company only said in an email that it is “here 24/7 to support with rebooking assistance, full refunds and reimbursements” in cases of fraud or misrepresentation by hosts. Maybe Airbnb couldn’t get more detailed about its verification process because it doesn’t have much of one at all.

There’s more at the link.

I’m not in a position to comment from personal experience, but the investigative work done by the author of that article appears to be credible and convincing, on the face of it.  If you use Airbnb, or are thinking of doing so, I urge you to read the article in full, and learn the warning signs that your rental may be part of such a scam.  It might save you a lot of money.

Peter

4 comments

  1. We use Homeaway and VRBO. We look at ratings before we select a place. We have been using Homeaway/VRBO for 10 years and have never had a problem.

  2. The problem with internet ratings for anything is that businesses (legal or otherwise) have found that the ratings system can be easily manipulated.

    Any indie author can tell you this. One bad reviewer can log in on multiple accounts and trash a person’s ratings.

    Just as one person can log in on multiple accounts and elevate a rating.

    And there are now businesses that exist only to manipulate ratings on the internet.

    Trust no one or nothing that you can’t see, touch, feel before buying.

    As to renting out my dwellings, or using my personal vehicle for business purposes, well, that’s all fine and dandy until the inevitable happens and an accident, real or staged, occurs and suddenly my non-business insurance is found to be wanting in coverage. Seriously. All these gig-economy people running pseudo-bnbs and pseudo-taxi services and pseudo-package delivery services are playing with insurance fire. I just can’t wait for the personal liability scammers to really start hitting Uber or Lyft or AirBNB.

  3. Here is an idea that I use regularly when doing any sort of business over the internet in which the picture of an item matters or will be a deciding factor (this works for airBnB, dating websites, craigslist or anything else): tell the vendor you want them to take a selfie of themselves, in front of the item, while holding a spoon over their left eye. Feel free to explain to them you want to make sure the picture is real. Itll take them 15 seconds, and if they refuse, you can move on with your life.

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