People in Avon and Somerset were caught up in almost 50 crimes of fraud related to fake Airbnbs last year, new research has revealed.
Statistics from Action Fraud show there were 48 crime reports mentioning the online holiday rental marketplace in 2019, with many cases involving people being scammed into booking fake properties using fake Airbnb sites and off-site transactions.
Action Fraud – which released the data under freedom of information laws – didn’t provide details of the 1,272 total cases across the UK in 2019.
However it did provide a sample of case details across the country, which paint a picture of people being caught out by scammers into paying for fake rentals via bank transfer.
In one case, Action Fraud was called after someone booked a villa on Airbnb and received an email through for the confirmation of the booking – however it appeared to be a false booking.
The caller looked up the villa and it had disappeared from the website, and then contacted Airbnb who said there was no booking to begin with.
The caller has also stated there was no proof of the booking on the caller’s Airbnb account – and crucially, the caller was asked to send the money through a bank transfer.
Another case involved cancellation fraud.
The caller received a cancelled reservation on Airbnb, and the owner emailed referring them to another owner and asked them to rent another apartment.
They then cancelled the booking days before arrival and refused to send back the money.
Several of the reported incidents involved fake pages designed to look like Airbnb.
In one case the Action Fraud notes said: “Caller made a transaction to an unknown person when looking for a flat to rent.
“Contacted immediately because of really good deal and absolutely trustworthy.
“Emailing and chatting by mail and WhatsApp.
“Made fabulous fake link of Airbnb but cannot open it now – after the transaction, fake page is deleted.”
In another case involving a fake Airbnb site, the scammer also sent emails posing as Airbnb, which were later found not to be from an official Airbnb email address.
Airbnb investing ‘heavily in measures’ to continue building trust
A spokesperson from Airbnb said that users should never be asked to pay via bank transfer, and that as long as users stay on Airbnb and only pay and communicate through Airbnb, they will always be protected.
They said: “There is no evidence this data relates to bookings made through Airbnb.
“Airbnb protects hosts and guests by handling all payment and communications through our secure platform.
“We work with external partners to report suspicious websites brought to our attention, and partner with experts to provide online safety information for our community.
“We are investing heavily in measures to continue building trust on Airbnb, and in the rare event of an issue our global community support teams are on hand 24/7 to help.”
Tips for staying safe on Airbnb
- If you arrive at a site that looks like Airbnb through an email link or other kind of redirection, ensure that the address contains “https://” and doesn’t contain any odd additional characters or words. The main body of the address should simply read “airbnb.com.” For instance, “airbnb-bookings.com” or “Airbnb1.com” are all invalid web addresses. When in doubt, you can always type “https://www.airbnb.com” directly into your browser to get to the Airbnb website.
- Be wary of emails that ask you to click a link and enter personal, sensitive information. Email filters are becoming increasingly effective at screening malicious content, but they’ll never be perfect. Staying aware and keeping a watchful eye for these fake emails or malicious sites will always be your best defense.
- Look out for emails that have a false sense of urgency. For example, “Unless you click this link your Airbnb account will be disabled,” or “Your account has been compromised, click here to view details.” Sentences like these should be a tip-off—especially if they don’t come from a recognised @airbnb.com email address. We provide information on our website on how to identify if an email is from Airbnb.
- Keep yourself, your payment, and your personal information protected by staying on our secure platform throughout the entire process—from communication, to booking and payment. You should never be asked to wire money, provide credit card information or otherwise pay a host directly. If a user receives a personal email from anyone (including an email@example.com or any other firstname.lastname@example.org email address) asking them to pay or accept payment off-site, immediately report it to us and end communication with the sender.