Airbnb Booking Scam

An article regarding a British couple being scammed on a booking for a non-existent apartment through an Airbnb booking.

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For that kind of money, you can have a web site for a whole fake hotel … :slight_smile:

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Another fake accomodation booking scam.

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Very easy solution …Airbnb could easily change this by holding any payments until after check-in.

But it was not through Airbnb but directly with the scammer.

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The second article is if a ‘owner’ messages you through a booking site and suggests do a deal outside booking platforms, it is usually a scam. Not only is it a scam, but in breach of the agreement/contract with the booking site.

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Rule #1. Never pay anything up front apart from a reasonable deposit. Pay the balance once the service has been delivered.
Rule #2. If rule #1 is not possible, then pay with a credit or debit card with one of the major card networks who have mandated charge back provisions that card providers and merchants have to follow.
Rule #3. If following rule #2, then never pay more than one month in advance. That way the expiry on charge backs will not apply.

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The next question is how would such a property be accepted by AirBNB for listing? Even if one booked through AirBNB as should have been done, the travellers would have arrived at Airlie to find no ‘Inn’ as promised.

AirBNB might have then had the problem of replacement accommodation? Not necessarily available at peak holiday times. That would equally leave a sour taste.

AirBNB’s guest refund policy seems to not care that much about your circumstances. No consequential losses? Possibly just a full refund.
https://www.airbnb.com.au/help/article/2868/airbnb-guest-refund-policy

This kicks in only after you have attempted to resolve the problem directly with the accommodation provider? That was my take of one pass of their on line travel conditions. Hopefully AirBNB do better support those who actually book through them and there is a fraudulent business using AirBNB services.

It would be useful to know what numbers of listings AirBNB find are not properly made, and are taken off their site each month. Or would that be too brand damaging to admit? :rage:

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Accommodation booking sites are an advertising platform for properties and they have trust that those who list properties do the right thing. In some ways it is no different to Gumtree where caution should be employed when transacting privately with someone who is not known. AirBNB is higher risk that some others as one can ‘rent’ out a house/room privately. This provides an opportunity for scammers. If the industry was regulated, such as AirBNB hosts being licensed by local government, then this could restrict the opportunity to be scammed as AirBNB can check whether the listed property is genuine and approved and its owner details through council checks.

Some platforms don’t requirement to provide proof of ownership… others only require proof of change in ownership if it is listed and a new owner takes over the accommodation (such as a guesthouse or B&B) - this is so that payment details can be changed to the new owner. Those who breach the T&Cs or are fraudulent are removed/blocked. However, if a property is advertised in advance of when the first booking could be made, scammers have the opportunity to scam ‘prospective guests’ until such time it is reported.

If a ‘owner’ specifically messages through the platform and asks to take the booking outside the platform, one should report it to the accommodation booking site so that they can take necessary action.

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eBay used to strongly advise prospective buyers not to buy from sellers outside the eBay website.

Perhaps they were really trying to help prevent fraud and not just protecting their profits.

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Does that mean when you book through AirBNB, they are just an agent?

Under ACL is it also saying AirBNB are not liable?
Is it the accommodation provider who is liable under ACL if fraudulently offering services?

Are AirBNB off ‘Scott Free’, or are they holding all or most of the payment due? Hence a refund may be possible. As commented earlier small consolation if there are no suitable alternatives on the day!

One very good reason not to rely on AirBNB if they can’t assure a customer of a booking as promised. They appear to carry very little financial risk. Reputation is at risk only when customers complain outside the AirBNB ecosystem. The latter is fully in their control.

Unfortunately it only needs a few bad outcomes to ruin a whole business model that may be appropriate for the majority.

And instead of government legislation determining right from wrong the owner of this segment of the gig economy is being permitted to write the rules.

P.S.
We’ve moved on a little from how the Scam has been facilitated. There remains an ongoing question as to how AirBNB might have responded if the booking was properly made through their portal.

Effectively they are. They don’t own or operate any accommodation. They link a provider with a guest, and provide payment service. They make money from sales commissions.

Anyone can rent out a room or entire dwelling on their platform.

They are also not responsible for content (information on accommodation or its photos) and have no way of determining it’s authenticity.

They offer some user protections (both renter and owner), but as soon as one shifts away from the platform into the hands of a scammer, these protections no longer apply.

There are reasonable grounds to have all accommodation licenced as this could ensure they are

  • Safe (not only the dwelling, but from the creepy, dodgy or fraudulent owners)
  • Genuine/bonafide
  • Meet a minimum standard

This has been raised in the past but objected to by some AirBNB hosts as it may also disclose additional undeclared income, cost to the hosts or accommodation that can’t be licensed.

They do have financial risk, it is worth reading their user protections.

But, if one steps outside the platform, then the person dealing directly with an unknown individual takes on all the financial risks.

Perhaps the biggest reason - nothing to do with consumer protection - is that renting out a property on a short-term basis in a multi-dwelling unit has negative impacts on other owners, and long-term occupants.

This is a controversial area that governments are still grappling with. At one end of the spectrum, a company provides a marketplace, an online platform, that serves to link buyers and sellers (whether the service is accommodation, transport, music, gigs, jobs or the product is random goods). The provider of the marketplace takes no responsibility for the quality or nature of the goods or services, and is not an employer or a vendor or a tax collector. Governments have other ideas. How it all ends remains to be seen.

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