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Beware AirB&B scams

from the LA Times:

The so-called sharing economy, dominated by the likes of Airbnb, Uber and Lyft, has attracted millions of consumers. So it shouldn't surprise anyone that scammers also have turned out in force to grab a piece of the action.

"We hear often about scam attempts," acknowledged Nick Shapiro, a spokesman for San Francisco-based Airbnb. "We tell people until we're blue in the face to never go off our site and never wire people money."

The common denominators to each racket are that, at some point, the scammer will insist on communicating directly by phone or email, or will steer people to another site to complete the booking process. Then a request will be made for money to be wired to a specific address.

The services basically serve as middlemen, ensuring that everything's on the up and up. The goal of scammers, therefore, is to get the sites out of the picture and deal one-on-one with potential victims.

Shapiro said Airbnb scans images in search of tip-offs that a scam may be in the works, such as a host including his personal email address. He said all communication between a renter and host should remain on the website until a deal is struck. Contact information should only be exchanged after a booking has been made. Airbnb only makes payments available to hosts 24 hours after a guest has checked in

The site has a security section that runs down what you need to know to protect yourself.

Posted by
8393 posts

Interesting phred. But what about all the agencies that advertise through Air B&B? They are going to try to get the renter off the Air B&B site asap to avoid paying the commission--though they are legitimate rental agencies. Air B&B is not just warning consumers of possible scams but also trying to protect its commission fee.

Posted by
638 posts

Bets. though they may be legitimate agencies isn't AirBNB entitled to the commission fees since they are providing a service to the agency by allowing them to advertise their property on the AirBNB website in the first place? I'm sure there are some good legitimate agencies out there but they lose their integrity when they attempt to circumvent the policies and procedures in place on a website that provides both the agency and the consumer protections against any scams or damages.

Posted by
6868 posts

There was a rather lengthy posting here about some owner telling the guest that he put the wrong (lower) lodging price in the Airbnb listing by mistake and wanted her to pay the difference - of course this was communicated offline. That's definitely shady. Everything should be done through the website - nothing prevents an owner from changing prices, but prices that were already locked in by prior reservations should be kept (else, what's the point of the contract?).

I agree, Airbnb has a right to protect its commission fee - an owner signed a contract with them to maximize exposure to their listing (and provide a secure payment platform and insurance); so an owner trying to duck out by steering someone to an offline channel is unethical and breach of contract. If owner doesn't like Airbnb, then don't do business with them - it's voluntary.

Posted by
13530 posts

If they are willing to cheat Airbnb, then they are willing to cheat you. Don't ever deal with cheats. Of course, just because you rented through Airbnb don't expect that to be the save-all. Still plenty of cheats working through Airbnb too. They just have to be more creative.

Personally I prefer a place that is run by a professional agency. That way I know it's a business with a broad reputation to protect and not dead aunt Gertrude's apartment rented as a hobby. Doesn't mean you can't still book through Airbnb or one of the others to maintain their safeguards.

Posted by
1437 posts

"If they are willing to cheat Airbnb, then they are willing to cheat you."
Amen, James!

Sometimes I find an interesting property through Airbnb and I rather not pay ahead of time, especially when I'm early trying to nail bookings or if it's for a long stay. Then I look to see if it's not already listed on some other site, like Booking, Venere, or several others I use to find rentals.

If a property is cross-listed, it also stands a better chance of being reviewed.

Posted by
332 posts

I have yet to use airbnb or VRBO etc but in my searches i have tried to only look at ones with lots of great reviews.

That really makes it tougher on new/newer hosts getting into the market I suppose but I don't want to be a guinea pig.