How to Avoid AirBnB Scams

If there is a way to connect with strangers on the internet, you can be sure that scammers and other unsavory folk are using it to commit all kinds of fraud.

Isn’t travel wonderful? It lets you broaden your horizons, meet new kinds of people, and eat new kinds of hamburgers. But unless you’re riding the rails, it can also get pricey.

And one of the biggest expenses is figuring out where to stay. Unless you know someone who will let you crash on their couch for free or you’re into camping, you’re going to have to pay for that temporary roof over your head.

Airbnb can be an appealing option. It tends to be cheaper than a hotel of similar quality in a similar area, and you might have access to amenities like a kitchen that you wouldn’t have otherwise.

Of course, there are downsides. It might be a little awkward if you have to stay with someone else there. And you could even get scammed! But you won’t if you listen to this expert advice!


Review for you.

You wouldn’t go to a restaurant or take out an online loan without reading the reviews. And you shouldn’t book a hotel without reading the reviews either. Especially not a hotel that’s just someone’s apartment. And if there aren’t many reviews? That may not be a good sign.

“There’s a lot of information you can learn about the renter or the owner on the app,” advised Rishi Kapoor, Founder and CEO of Nanak Flights (@nanakflights). “Check to see if the account is verified as well as see what reviews they’ve received. Reviews will reveal a lot about the person you’ll be renting from or to.

“Keep an eye out for the number of reviews as well. If they only have one or two they might be fake, but someone with dozens of reviews will likely be mostly real.”

So zero reviews should definitely be a dealbreaker, right? Maybe. But not necessarily.

“If there are no reviews, find out more about the property and it’s owner to understand how long they have been around, if they transferred from another site, or if they could possibly take you through a video tour of the place,” suggested Jeffrey Walsh, CEO & Co-Founder, Nomo FOMO (@NomoFomo).

“You don’t want to disqualify a property because it is new but a lot of people know if they have bad reviews it is better to delete the listing then continue with it. Also, beware of new properties that are just being built and you are going to be the first tenant. Sometimes things like AC or Internet might not work and you won’t know until you arrive.”

But reviews aren’t the only thing your eyes should be looking at.

Worth a thousand words.

Obviously, you’ll want to take a good look at the pictures of the property. But you also want to give some extra consideration to pictures of the area surrounding the property and what percentage of the listing’s pictures they cover.

“If there are more pictures of the area then the house, usually the house is going to disappoint,” warned Walsh. “Look for places that give you a good idea of what the property looks like prior to committing to booking.”

And of course, there’s a chance that the photos aren’t actually of the property at all!

“I always read the reviews thoroughly and size up the price to see if it’s in line with the neighbourhood average,” explained Menghan Wang, co-founder of TheTravelBrief.com (@mytravelbrief). “If it’s too cheap or something seems fishy, I engage with the host and ask directly why the property is so much cheaper and ask for the exact address to check Google street views.

“Often times, the scammers use super nice property photos with low prices to lure customers in, in which case you can run a quick Google image search with screenshots of the provided photos to see if they are from elsewhere (Most likely a magazine or another much more expensive property).”

Watch out for fake websites

When you’re deep in the weeds trying to book a reservation, it can be easy to overlook some of the details. For instance, you might think that this version of the Airbnb site looks little … funny. And that’s because someone’s set up a fake (or “spoofed”) version of the site to try and scam you out of your personal information!

“Always make sure you are on the real Airbnb website,” warned Tava Hoag, editor at TravelPirates (@TravelPiratesUS). “A lot of these scams have been possible because sophisticated ccybercriminals have created completely fake Airbnb websites that appear very real.

“To avoid falling prey to this, always double check your URL. Airbnb’s real URL will always begin with ‘https.’ When a website has this it means any personal information you provide will be secure because the site’s data is encrypted. They will try to trick you with ‘www.’ Don’t fall for it. Some fake Airbnb websites also have a live chat option, which doesn’t exist on Airbnb’s real website.”

Avoid offline convos.

Similary, even if you initially connect through the real Airbnb website, be wary of anyone who wants to continue your conversation offline. Whether it’s a service like Airbnb or even a dating app, going off-site could mean that the person you’re connecting with is up to no good.

“Be sure to do everything through the Airbnb website,” says Kapoor. “There have been some accounts of people who get in touch with renters through other sites and get sent a link to what appears to be the Airbnb website to finalize the booking. But, the links were fake websites that the individuals created to get your credit card information.

“If this happens to you, try to find the listing on the Airbnb website to help avoid the possibility of this happening to you.”

Learn the refund policy.

Another advantage to keeping your interactions on the site is knowing how your money will be handled. Especially if you may be needing it back.

“Know Airbnb’s refund policy,” recommended Hoag. “It’s worth noting that if you ever contact a host outside of the Airbnb platform you are automatically not eligible for a refund. Understanding the parameters for a refund through Airbnb will be very helpful.

“After reading through the various conditions on the website please also be aware that you must try to come to a solution with your host directly before approaching Airbnb to ask for a refund. Although this is not an outside scam, it’s definitely a way for people to feel cheated through Airbnb.”

If you have a good stay and decide you want to stay with the same host again, you can consider reaching out to them separately and save money by cutting out the “middleman.” But for your first stay, it’s not worth the risk.

Check out the area.

Although this isn’t a scam, necessarily, your potential host may try and mislead you about the safety of the surrounding area. The experts at GeoSure (@GeoSureGlobal), offered a solution to this problem:

“While vacation rentals like Airbnb and VRBO are great options for travel, the single biggest limitation to these sites is that they don’t provide any information on how safe the surrounding neighborhood is. Spending $200 a night on a place in a safe neighborhood is a much different proposition than paying an equivalent amount in an apartment that’s just down the street from a double homicide.

“Fortunately, travelers can check on the most up-to-date neighborhood safety scores for more than 30,000 neighborhoods worldwide using GeoSure. GeoSure is a free app that helps travelers access the most reliable safety information available with easy-to-use ratings that range from 1-100 (the lower the score, the safer the neighborhood).

“For example, San Francisco’s Tenderloin District has a score of 54 (which is pretty rough), whereas the Pacific Heights neighborhood just a few miles away has a score of 17 (meaning that it’s incredibly safe).

“GeoSure’s safety scores are updated daily from hundreds of sources, including state and local police reports, real-time user reviews, the State Department, the WHO, the United Nations, and many others.”

Airbnb can be a great resource, but as with any app-based service in this new-fangled “shareconomy,” you’ll have to be careful. Follow this advice, and you should be able to sleep soundly wherever you stay.

Want to keep yourself safe from scammers? Check out these related posts and articles from OppLoans:

Have you or someone you know ever gotten scammed by an Airbnb “host”? We want to hear about it! You can find us on Facebook and Twitter.

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Contributors

GeoSure (@GeoSureGlobal) is the worldwide leader in scaled, location safety assessment. The company calculates location-specific safety ratings represented as GeoSafeScores, a simple, standardized rating that gauges the relative safety of traveling personnel or at-risk real assets anywhere in the world. GeoSure generates safety ratings for more than 30,000 locations worldwide, with locations and data growing daily.
Tava Hoag is an editor and deal hunter at the travel deal portal TravelPirates (@TravelPiratesUS). She enjoys hiking, camping, and discovering under-the-radar places. In the past year she has completed five different road trips across the U.S and visited 37 states and 20 national parks.
Rishi Kapoor is the Founder and CEO of Nanak Flights (@nanakflights).
Jeffrey Walsh is the co-founder of Nomo FOMO (@NomoFomo), a travel app that allows travelers to see where their networks will be and notify them when their paths will cross. Part of the first program of Remote Year and partially retired digital nomad after living in over 50 different Airbnbs, hotels or friend’s houses over a 3 1/2 year period.
Menghan Wang was born and raised in China, lived 6 years in Canada, 6 years in Italy; studying and working in Business & Fashion. She traveled extensively in Europe and other parts of the world. Now she’s back to Asia working on a new startup, TheTravelBrief.com (@mytravelbrief), which collects travel memories from those on the road, turning them into meaningful and practical mini-guides that help more travelers.

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