Airbnb Scams (7 Examples + How To Avoid Them)

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When you’re trying to pick between staying at a hotel or an Airbnb, there are plenty of good reasons to go for the Airbnb option.

These trendy, one-of-a-kind home and apartment rentals offer more room and a cozier vibe while you’re away from home. They can help you save some cash on eating out because many Airbnb come with their own kitchen facilities.

Unfortunately, scammers and fraudsters are also actively looking for ways to take advantage of Airbnb’s popularity to steal from unsuspecting guests.

Through Airbnb scams, imposters might create fake listings or pretend to be real hosts to trick users into sharing personal and financial details. Some scammers aim to steal money or belongings, while others engage in identity theft or hacking.

Let’s explore some of the most common Airbnb scams and see how you can protect yourself from them during your next vacation rental.

1) Bait-and-Switch

Sometimes, when you’re booking a place to stay on Airbnb, there’s a trick some hosts use. They advertise a really nice place at a surprisingly bargain price to interest you. This nice place is the “bait.”

But when it’s almost time for you to check in, the host tells you the place you wanted isn’t available. They might say there’s a problem with the house that needs maintenance or someone else already booked it.

Instead, they offer a different place to stay, which might not be as good and might even cost more. This is the “switch.”

It’s hard to say no to the new place because you’ve already agreed to pay and might not have many other options. The hosts are hoping you’ll just go along with it since you’re already there and might be tired from traveling.

If the Airbnb host is honest, they’ll let you know about any issues before you get there and give you a chance to decide. But if they surprise you with this change when you arrive, it’s likely a scam. They expect you to be tired and just go along without complaining.

2) Fake Images & Fake Listing

Sometimes, on Airbnb, hosts try to trick guests by putting up fake or changed pictures of their place. They make the place look a LOT nicer in the photos than it actually is in real life. This is the “fake images” scam, and it’s been happening for a long time.

These tricky hosts might do it in a few ways. Some change the real pictures of the place a lot using editing programs. They might make the rooms look bigger or cleaner than they really are.

Others go even further by using pictures of a completely different place altogether. You’ll only figure this out when you show up and realize it’s not what you expected.

These days, the first way is more common. Savvy hosts who know their way around cameras and editing software can make their place seem much fancier than it is.

They might take photos from strange angles or edit them a lot to make things look better than they are. Sometimes, they use very old pictures that don’t show how the place really looks now.

3) False Charges After Checkout

Another sneaky trick you might encounter on Airbnb is the “false charges after checkout” scam. This one can really catch you off guard.

Here’s how it works: after you’ve checked out and thought everything was fine, the host might suddenly charge you extra money for things you didn’t do or damages you didn’t cause.

Sometimes, the host might claim you broke something or left a mess, even if you didn’t. They might use this as an excuse to take more money from your account. And because you’ve already left the place, it can be tough to prove that you didn’t do anything wrong.

This scam can be really frustrating because you might not notice the extra charges until later when you check your bank account or credit card statement.

By that time, it’s harder to dispute the charges because you’re not there anymore and can’t show that everything was okay when you left.

To protect yourself, it’s smart to take pictures of the place before you leave and keep any messages or receipts from your stay. This way, if the host tries to charge you for something you didn’t do, you’ll have proof to show Airbnb and sort things out.

Always double-check your bills and charges after you leave an Airbnb. And if you notice any unexpected fees or charges, reach out to Airbnb immediately to explain what’s going on.

It’s essential to keep records and be ready to explain your side of the story to avoid getting tricked into paying for something you didn’t do.

4) External Payment Request

Watch out for the external payment request scam when you’re using Airbnb. It’s another sneaky move that some fraudulent hosts might try.

Here’s how it goes down: everything seems great with your booking. Suddenly, the host asks you to pay them directly using a method outside of Airbnb’s platform. They might say it’s for extra services or to avoid fees. But here’s the thing – Airbnb has its own secure payment system for a reason.

If the host asks you to pay them through something like PayPal, Venmo, or another method not linked to Airbnb, it could be a scam.

Scammers might try to get you to pay them outside of Airbnb to avoid the platform’s protection features. Once you send money outside of Airbnb, it’s much harder to get it back if something goes wrong.

This scam can be tricky because the host might seem nice and give reasons that sound legit. But remember, Airbnb has rules against paying outside of their platform for a reason – to protect you. If you pay through Airbnb, they can help if anything goes wrong with your booking.

Always stick to making payments through Airbnb’s secure system. If a host asks for payment outside the platform, treat it as a scam and report it to Airbnb immediately to help keep other guests safe.

5) Phishing And Identity Theft

Phishing and identity theft scams are digital traps set by scammers aiming to steal your private information or even your hard-earned money.

Its deceptive nature almost always gets many people with their guards down.

You might receive what seems like a legitimate email or message, appearing to be from Airbnb. They’ll claim there’s an issue with your account or a reservation, asking you to click on a link and provide personal details like your password, credit card info, or other sensitive data.

But here’s the critical part — these messages aren’t from Airbnb at all. They’re cleverly crafted traps to deceive you into revealing your private information.

Once these scammers get hold of your information, they can impersonate you or access your financial accounts, leading to potential identity theft or unauthorized transactions.

Legitimate brands and companies like Airbnb won’t request sensitive information through unsolicited messages or emails. They have secure channels within their platform for managing your account and payments.

6) Overpayment

The overpayment scam on Airbnb is another scheme to be cautious of. Scammers posing as guests might book a stay and then send a payment that exceeds the booking amount.

They’ll claim it was a mistake and ask you to refund the extra amount outside of Airbnb’s system.

Here’s how they trick you: after receiving the overpayment, they’ll ask for a refund via wire transfer, check, or another method not linked to Airbnb. The initial payment they sent you might be fake, and once you refund the excess, you’ll lose your money, and the scammer vanishes.

Always be wary of guests asking for refunds or payments outside of Airbnb’s platform. Stick to Airbnb’s payment methods and policies.

If a guest overpays and asks for a refund outside the platform, it’s a red flag for a potential scam. Report any suspicious behavior to Airbnb immediately to protect yourself and other hosts from falling victim to such scams.

7) Fake Reviews

The fake review scam is a deceptive tactic used by some hosts or guests on Airbnb to manipulate reviews for their own benefit.

Scammers might create fake accounts or use friends/family to leave false positive reviews to boost their property’s reputation or sabotage competitors by leaving negative reviews.

This one is pretty straightforward. Dishonest hosts or guests may try to inflate their ratings by leaving themselves glowing reviews or offering incentives to guests in exchange for positive feedback.

On the other hand, they might leave unjustifiably negative reviews for others to harm their reputation.

Spotting this scam can be tricky. To protect yourself, look for consistent review patterns, such as similar wording or multiple overly positive/negative reviews within a short period. Be wary if the reviews don’t match the actual experience described in the listing.

Airbnb takes review authenticity seriously and has measures in place to detect and remove fake reviews. However, it’s important to be critical of both positive and negative feedback to make informed decisions about booking an Airbnb property.

If you suspect fake reviews or encounter suspicious patterns, report them to Airbnb to maintain the integrity of the platform’s review system.

How To Avoid Being Scammed

Here are several specific ways to avoid being scammed on Airbnb:

  • Check host profiles thoroughly: Look for detailed host profiles with complete information, including verified photos, multiple positive reviews from different guests, and Superhost status. Superhosts have a proven track record of reliability.
  • Communicate only on Airbnb’s platform: Avoid communicating or making payments outside of Airbnb’s secure messaging system. This helps maintain transaction records and protects against potential scams.
  • Verify listings and photos: Scrutinize property listings and photos for consistency. If something seems off, request more photos or details from the host to ensure the listing matches your expectations. You can also uses Google lenses to reverse search the photos listed as see if they appear anywhere else.
  • Be cautious with links and payments: Never click on suspicious links or provide personal information outside of Airbnb’s platform. Scammers might use fake links or request direct payments to sidestep Airbnb’s security measures.
  • Read reviews carefully: Pay close attention to guest reviews, especially recent ones. Look for consistent positive or negative feedback regarding cleanliness, accuracy of the listing, host responsiveness, and overall experience.
  • Use secure payment methods: Always make payments through Airbnb’s secure payment system. Avoid wire transfers, cryptocurrency, or other unconventional payment methods requested by hosts.

What if You’ve Been Scammed?

If you believe you’ve been scammed on Airbnb, contact Airbnb’s customer support immediately. Report the incident, providing details of the scam, including any messages, transactions, or suspicious activities.

Gather evidence, such as screenshots, emails, or receipts, that support your claim. Airbnb has a resolution center where you can file a complaint or dispute.

Also, if you made payments through a credit card, contact your company to inquire about potential chargebacks or dispute procedures.

Keep all communication with the host and Airbnb documented for reference. Acting swiftly and documenting the incident will assist Airbnb in investigating and potentially resolving the issue in your favor.

Airbnb provides many benefits, offering travelers unique accommodations and experiences while allowing hosts to share their spaces and earn income. However, amidst these advantages, staying vigilant and informed about potential scams is important to keep you safe.

Despite occasional risks, the platform implements multiple security measures and support systems to protect users. Through careful vetting of hosts, transparent reviews, and a resolution center, Airbnb strives to ensure safety and satisfaction for both guests and hosts.

Ultimately, by fostering trust and encouraging responsible practices, Airbnb continues to be a valuable platform for travelers seeking authentic and memorable stays around the globe.

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