6 Airbnb Scams To Watch Out For

  • By Steven
  • Published: Apr 22, 2024
  • Last Updated: Apr 30, 2024

Airbnb has brought a new paradigm to the hospitality industry. It has become the go-to platform for persons looking to make additional income with their properties and travelers looking for unique accommodation experiences away from home. However, this new model and its appeal have also attracted individuals looking to exploit the platform for fraud. Scams on Airbnb are becoming increasingly common, as both hosts and guests are not left out from becoming targets. This piece will teach you about popular Airbnb scams and how to protect yourself against potential fraud. Consequently, you can confidently navigate the Airbnb platform having understood scam red flags and scammer tactics.

Airbnb Scams

Can You Get Scammed On Airbnb

Airbnb scams are fraudulent actions or maneuvers targeted at Airbnb guests or hosts. These illegal actions include phishing attack, fake listings, bogus rental practices, and account takeovers fraud. Airbnb scammers typically aim to take the victim's money or data.

It is vital that you are aware of potential ways in which you may fall victim to Airbnb scams so that you can take steps to protect yourself. Falling victim to an Airbnb scam can result in substantial financial loss or identity theft. Airbnb scammers may steal your financial information or request payment outside the secure payment system on Airbnb's online platforms. Alternatively, scammers may ruin your Airbnb experience, causing frustration and disappointment for guests and hosts. Therefore, staying abreast of potential Airbnb scams can help protect yourself from disappointments.

Common Types of Airbnb Scams By Guests

While the use of Airbnb services continues to grow, so do the risks associated with the platform. The lure of earning additional income by offering accommodation to host travelers also attracts scammers looking to exploit unsuspecting users. Airbnb scams by guests range from fraudulent booking requests to payment scams and property damage.

 Airbnb Scams By Guests

Fake Damage Claims

In a fake damage claim, the guest damages the rented property or an amenity on the property during their stay but claims the damage occurred before their arrival. This scam aims to receive compensation or avoid payment for renting the property. In some cases where some damage exists pre-arrival, guests may exaggerate the extent of damage to increase the amount of money received as compensation.

Fake damage claims can have significant repercussions for hosts, ranging from financial losses associated with repairs or replacements to damage to their property's reputation and ratings on the platform.

Overstay Without Payment 

The overstay without payment scam is one of the most common scams pulled by guests using Airbnb services. Here, a guest books a stay that is supposed to last for a specific period but prolongs their stay beyond the checkout date without compensating the host for the extra time used. A guest may deliberately disregard the checkout date, hoping to avoid confrontation or detection, while others attempt to negotiate a lower fee for the extended period. Alternatively, some guests claim inability to leave the property due to an illness or unforeseen circumstances. This Airbnb guest scam may cost the hosts additional fees in utility costs and will reduce the potential income from bookings that may have occurred during the extended stay period.

Phishing Attempts

Phishing scams perpetrated by scams on Airbnb involve the manipulation of hosts via fraudulent communications to collect sensitive information or gain access to their Airbnb account. A phishing scam may start with an Airbnb guest contacting a host with a reservation request or other inquiry. They may devise tricks to obtain the host's login credentials or personal or financial information, including impersonating Airbnb representatives or creating fake booking confirmations. 

Bait and Switch

In a bait-and-switch scam, the guest books an Airbnb property identified with its amenities and features on Airbnb. However, on arrival, the guest expresses dissatisfaction with the property or features and pressures the host to provide additional amenities or services at no further cost, claiming that the original listing no longer meets their expectations.

Third-party Booking Scams

In a third-party booking scam, an individual acts as an intermediary or agent and books a property for rent on Airbnb for another person or group of individuals. This may occur for several reasons. One, the individual booking the property for rent may intend to conceal the identity of the actual occupant. Other times, it is done to facilitate illegal activities within the rented property. Scammers may also misrepresent the number of guests expected on the property in a third-party booking scam.

Some consequences of a third-party booking scam for a host include challenges in enforcing property rules, ensuring guest safety, and maintaining the integrity of their property or listing. It may also be challenging to seek recourse from Airbnb if reservations are made via third parties. 

Cancellation Scams

Cancellation scams happen when guests exploit Airbnb cancellation policies to benefit themselves. Here, a guest books a property but requests cancellation shortly prior to arrival, citing reasons such as health emergencies or other fabricated reasons. The goal is to secure a full refund or circumvent cancellation fees, resulting in financial loss for the host. Hosts not only lose out on potential income from the canceled reservations, but they may also face challenges in getting new reservations on short notice, especially during peak periods.

Frequent Airbnb Scams by Hosts

Airbnb scams are perpetrated by guests and hosts on the platform who fraudulently engage in certain illicit activities to obtain money from guests. From fake listings to fake reviews, Airbnb scams by hosts often leave guests feeling cheated.

Bait-and-Switch Scam

Some Airbnb hosts lure guests by listing a desirable property at a competitive price. After the guest makes the payment, the host notifies the guest that the listing is no longer available just before checking in. The host may claim that there was a double booking, maintenance issue, or other fabricated reasons to defraud the guest. The host offers the guest an alternate listing or property at a more expensive price. Usually, the new property is also less desirable than the original listing. If the guest agrees to a switch to the alternative listing, it becomes challenging to report the matter to Airbnb or obtain reimbursement.

Hidden Cameras

Although Airbnb allows hosts to place security cameras in public locations on their properties, such as at the foyer, front door, or driveway, it must be disclosed in advance to guests. Any hidden camera in private areas such as bedrooms or bathrooms violates guests' privacy and Airbnb rules. Despite clear regulations, some hosts still put cameras in private places without disclosing it to guests.

False Damage Claims

Some hosts take undue advantage of Airbnb property damage provisions to cheat guests out of their money. Per its regulations, Airbnb may charge guests for property damage that occurs during the guest's stay at a residence. However, dishonest hosts may insist guests pay property damage fees after leaving their properties even though no damage occurred. If the guest refuses, the host may take up the matter with Airbnb.

Fake Reviews

Reviews are a good way for Airbnb guests to verify if a host is honest and the property listing is genuine. However, some hosts manipulate reviews by creating fraudulent accounts to review their own properties. Some hosts also enlist the help of friends and families to submit good reviews of their listings. At other times, competitors may also leave negative reviews on rivals' listings, making it harder to find honest listings and authentic reviews.

Fake Listings

In a fake listing scam, the host lists a property they do not have or own and solicits guests to defraud them. Some hosts may sweeten the deal by offering their properties at a low price, hoping to catch guests looking for high-end properties at low prices. When guests attempt to book the listings, these fraudulent hosts may insist on receiving payment off the Airbnb platform, which is against Airbnb policies. Hosts may be able to collect multiple payments from unsuspecting guests using off-platform transactions.

How to Know If an Airbnb is Legit

Identifying whether an Airbnb listing is legitimate is crucial in ensuring a safe and enjoyable experience on Airbnb. Some red flags to watch out for to avoid falling victim to scams include avoiding:

  • Unrealistic Pricing: If a listing's price is too good to be true compared to similar properties, you should probably avoid it as it could be a scam
  • Unverified Host: If the host listing a property on Airbnb is unverified or has few reviews, there is a good chance the properties listed may be illegitimate
  • Incomplete listing: If an Airbnb listing has incomplete or sparse information, such as missing property photos or vague descriptions, chances are that the property may not be legit
  • Last-minute changes: If a host makes last-minute modifications to your reservations, such as changing the payment method or property location, you should proceed with caution as the Airbnb may not be legit

How to Avoid Airbnb Scams

There are a few ways to avoid Airbnb scams, here they are:

Check the Host's Profile

Although Airbnb has put stringent safety measures in place to reduce the possibility of fake advertisements and other kinds of fraud, you should still look closely at the host's profile before booking a property from that host. If you are looking for a property listed by a business rather than an individual, you should consider checking the number of listings on a particular profile. The higher the number of listings under one specific host, the more unlikely the host is an individual. Also, look out for Airbnb-verified hosts now that the company verifies guests and hosts.

Avoid Airbnb Scams

Read the Reviews

When looking for a rental property on Airbnb, you should carefully review the property's reviews before booking. While looking for listings with positive reviews is recommended, you should avoid overly positive reviews or those with poor spelling and grammar.

Examine the Photos and Descriptions

When looking for a property on Airbnb, you should examine the photos and listing descriptions for consistency and quality. If the pictures of the property do not accurately depict properties in that category or the images look overly edited, you should be wary. Also, a lack of photos or an insufficient number of images may indicate a fraudulent host. 

Payment Safety

Except for a few exceptions, the costs of an Airbnb reservation are collected and completed on the system, ensuring a safe payment method. Do not pay for services or bookings outside Airbnb, as it may be fraudulent. If a host is allowed to collect payment outside Airbnb, the fees will be detailed in the listing description and in the price breakdown before booking. These fees are typically charged before the stay, at check-in, or within 48 hours of checkout. Fees that a host may collect directly include local occupancy tax, incidentals, resort fees, and security deposits. Consider payments such as bank transfer requests and paper invoices a red flag. You should also be mindful of terms like money order, cashier's check, MoneyGram, Liberty Reserve, and Western Union.

Look for Superhosts

One way to find good listings with little to no hassles on Airbnb is by booking rental properties listed by superhosts. Superhosts typically have the superhost badge on their Airbnb profiles. The badge symbolizes their top ratings in hospitality and is displayed on all the hosts' listings. Airbnb evaluates superhosts every three months to ensure they maintain the required criteria for the superhost badge. Superhosts must have a 4.8+ overall rating, 10+ stays, less than 1% cancellation rate, and 90%+ response rate. You can find superhosts on Airbnb by filtering your search to browse only listings with a superhost.

Use Google Maps

Google Maps can be a valuable tool in helping you determine the legitimacy of Airbnb property. Before making a reservation, you may use Google Maps to check the property location to verify that the listing is in the same location stated by the host. You can perform this check by entering the address information in the listing details in Google Maps. The street view feature of Google Maps can also help you experience a virtual tour of the neighborhood of the Airbnb property. With Google Maps' street view feature, you can explore the surrounding area for other amenities or proximities stated in the property listing.

Report Suspicions

Reporting suspicions of Airbnb scams can be pivotal in safeguarding platform users from financial losses and other frauds. If you suspect a host or guest violating Airbnb policies, you should report such suspicions to Airbnb for further investigation. Airbnb has a specialized team to handle such cases and can maintain confidentiality so you do not have to worry about your identity becoming known to the reported host or guest.

In reporting policy violations or potential scams to Airbnb, you also help create a safer, more accountable, and trustworthy environment for hosts and guests.

Too-good-to-be-true Listings

If a listing's pricing or amenities look too good-to-be-true on Airbnb, it probably is. Suspicion should be raised if listings offer meagre prices or too-good-to-true discounts compared to other properties with similar features or in the same location. While competitive pricing is encouraged by Airbnb, exceptionally low prices may indicate a potential bait-and-switch scam.

Furthermore, Airbnb listings claiming to offer limited availability to lure guests into quickly booking reservations may be employing pressure tactics to trick guests into making impulsive decisions.

Urgent Requests for Payment Outside the Platform

Any urgent request for payment outside of the Airbnb system should raise suspicion, as it should be approached with extreme caution. Except in limited circumstances, Airbnb prohibits hosts from soliciting payments outside its platform. Urgent payment requests are pressure tactics from scammers to lure guests into making rash decisions. Scammers may use false claims of emergencies, reservation deadlines, or special offers to trick unsuspecting guests into making impulsive payments outside of Airbnb's system. Note that Airbnb protection policies do not cover payments made off its platform; hence, to protect yourself against financial losses, you should refrain from making any payments for reservations outside of Airbnb. 

Lack of Communication or Too Much Pressure

Lack of communication or excessive pressure indicates that a host may be looking for ways to scam you. Hosts who do not communicate appropriately or use evasive or vague responses to guests may indicate a lack of transparency. Some hosts fail to communicate well to ensure guests cannot adequately address concerns about their listings prior to reservations.

Also, if a host exerts undue pressure on guests to rush them through the reservation process, they may be attempting to trick guests into making impulsive bookings. This pressure tactic is common among Airbnb scammers seeking to fleece guests. Consequently, you should prioritize clear communication and beware of hosts who are unable to demonstrate clear and consistent communication throughout the booking process. You should resist any coercive tactics by taking the time to evaluate the host listing details. Ask relevant questions and review essential information before making your decision.

Conclusion

Although most guests have enjoyable experiences with Airbnb, it is still important to be aware of scams that may yet occur in limited cases. Despite the potential for scams, you can avoid scams by arming yourself with the proper knowledge and taking precautions that would otherwise make you vulnerable to scammers. To make Airbnb safer for guests and hosts, you should share your experiences by submitting honest reviews and reporting suspicions on the Airbnb platform.

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