Beware: Airbnb Listing Fake Properties

Airbnb seems to be everywhere right now; exciting adverts on TV even the logo was plastered on the cars at last weekend's British Grand Prix. However, this up and coming brand supposedly 'changing the wheel' of how we book our holidays is nowhere near perfect and has many flaws... 

Monday 6th July, 2015

Severe Impact - Airbnb Customer Fraud 

Dear Airbnb

     On Thursday 2nd July I was defrauded of £670 due to Airbnb’s failure to protect me from a sophisticated holiday scam. I contacted the UK police via the Action Fraud Team to report the crime and have given them my permission to share my information to support their investigations. 

I am asking Airbnb to make good my full loss. I would also like it made clear by you that fault lies with your company’s operating processes and IT systems that have subjected me to international fraud.

In the following paragraphs I have documented how the failure of Airbnb’s data security and customer protection processes have exposed me to this crime. My record clearly illustrates how Airbnb have not implemented the due diligence to service processes essential to protect consumers from a fraud that enables criminals to place fake property listings on the Airbnb website.

     Last Thursday after spending a few days searching through the Airbnb app, for an apartment in Amsterdam suitable for a group of 6, I was delighted to find a new listing that met all my holiday and travel needs. The listing was available on your platform so appeared completely genuine. As a verified customer myself I trusted Airbnb to have the same vetting and robust processes in place to provide trustworthy properties:

This listing is now removed from your public systems but will be available within your secure database records. I cannot say exactly when, how and by who this record was removed.

This listing was from a verified Airbnb host with verified details. The property was showing up on the map of central Amsterdam with all other accommodation that fit my filters. This demonstrates that Airbnb recognised what I saw as a genuine property and it was showing up through the website.

After discussing the property and confirming details such as parking spaces, dates, contact details etc.  “Erika B” explained that Airbnb would be in touch and I later received an email to my private Gmail account from Airbnb ( including booking and payment instructions. 

I followed the instructions via the email and made my payment of £670.00.

I became suspicious of the payment when no instant confirmation came through via my Airbnb profile. I immediately contacted the Airbnb community forum who advised it was a likely scam and also rang my bank to cancel the payment but it had already gone through.

The listing had been quickly removed by “Erika B” and no longer appears for any other dates. “Erika B” has also disappeared from Airbnb. However, she has continued to email me with false reassurance about the confirmation of my trip. I have not messaged back or continued any contact. The latest email was to say my booking could be found via this link, again on the Airbnb website:

Another misleading link that I understand was sent to confuse me further maybe to gauge whether I was still under the illusion that this was a true booking and not a scam.

There are some major issues that I have with Airbnb and these concerns I will now share with potential Airbnb users:
  • The listing was on the Airbnb app and website therefore the host and the property were being endorsed by Airbnb. The host and their details were verified by Airbnb. This was a sophisticated fraud in which I followed all reasonable Airbnb guidelines indicating Airbnb’s failure to protect the interests of their customers.
  • Airbnb guidelines are that you pay through them to make a booking. I understood this and trusted that I was being contacted by Airbnb to make the booking. The exact platform needs to be communicated with Airbnb users. The consumer processes are not clear enough; I believed I was following the correct process to make a payment prompted by the emails received.
  • I have since run a reverse image search on the photos of the apartment and they appear on a number of holiday websites for a luxury villa in Barcelona. Airbnb need to have more rigorous systems in place to ensure verification of genuine properties.
  • As a first time user I am staggered over how little Airbnb care about the satisfaction and safety of their customers in allowing such crimes as this to take place through their service. The value of brand for a company like Airbnb is high and therefore I am surprised at the apparent lack of activity in responding to this fraud.

      I have begun the process of sharing my experience with consumer rights champions and the media. I therefore will be putting Airbnb’s role in this fraud in the public domain and available for the police investigation.

The response I have had from Airbnb has been unsupportive and dismissive of any accountability for the integrity of Airbnb site postings. As an emerging national brand with international services I am now bewildered by your apparent lack of customer support and weak service protection for your business.  

This failing is not only potentially catastrophic to your brand, but on a personal level for me, deeply distressing.    

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