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Airbnb scam

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Jan 27th, 2013, 01:25 PM
  #1
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Airbnb scam

On December 10th, 2012, after several weeks of searching for an apartment to rent in Paris next spring, I found exactly what I was looking for on the AIRBNB website. It was a 2 bedroom, 2 baths beautifully decorated grand apartment in a quiet street in the trendy Le Marais neighborhood (AIRBNB listing No. 532723 though I suspect that has been changed). I used the “contact the owner” button on the AIRBNB page for the apartment and within minutes I received an email from the owner with a quote for the rental period. The rate was reasonable and it included transportation to and from the airport and offered a 20% discount for paying in full within a week. The email included information about the “owner” of the apartment and contact phone numbers and addresses. It all looked normal enough. They forwarded a contract and a bank account and we wire-transferred the money. That was the last time we heard from them.
First the mea-culpa. There were plenty of red flags we ignored in this transaction. The deal was too good to be true, the money transfer offered no security, the hurry up and pay was suspicious. All should have given me plenty of pause, but we forged ahead mostly because I trusted someone I had contacted through a reputable website.
After realizing our mistake I contacted AIRBNB directly. Their response only added insult to injury. I never expected AIRBNB to reimburse the money lost. But when I explained to them how I made the initial contact with the scammers, I expected some kind of “we’ll try to investigate how this happened so it won’t happen again” response. Instead AIRBNB denied they had any record of the initial contact and all but accused me of inventing the whole thing even though I had forwarded them all emails exchanged, the contract we received from the scammer and the official receipt from our bank transfer. They sent me a pre-written statement that warned against going outside their website to close a transaction and pretty much washed their hands off.
By blaming me and ignoring the deeper problem of how this fraud was committed, AIRBNB is shooting themselves on the foot. Yes, I am out of a substantial amount which I had no expectations of recovering once I realized our mistake, but they have a bigger problem than I do because the only way I could have been contacted by these people is if they hacked into the AIRBNB site or into the real owner’s email. As I explained to them, I made first contact through their website and sent no personal information about myself other than an interest in the apartment on that initial contact. Either way, I am absolutely sure I won’t be the first or last customer scammed this way. So beware, thread very carefully with these kind of online transactions and be warned that if anything goes wrong, at least when dealing with AIRBNB, most likely you’ll be on your own.
miamiajp is offline  
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Jan 27th, 2013, 01:31 PM
  #2
 
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Well, something certainly seems amiss here, because the way Airbnb is supposed to work is that you contact the owner (through Airbnb), but you PAY Airbnb, which in fact doesn't turn the money over to the owner until 24 hours after you've showed up and Airbnb has confirmed that with the owner, which is a safeguard for the renter.

I don't understand how, if you contacted the owner through the Airbnb site, there could not have been a record of that.
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Jan 27th, 2013, 01:40 PM
  #3
 
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I am not a fan of AirB&B -as any of my posts will tell you.

But - you didn;t do this through their system - so I don't see how you can expect them to take any action. In fact, you don;t really know who you were dealing with - so how could they?

This is like the fake listings on Craig's list. The just publish the info - and don;t make and claims that it is legitimate.
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Jan 27th, 2013, 01:40 PM
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Sorry - this is a scam by whoever you sent the money to. Not Air B&B.
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Jan 27th, 2013, 04:16 PM
  #5
 
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We are Airbnb hosts for our guest room in the States, and what you describe simply could not have happened! When a potential guest contacts us through Airbnb, I must reply back back to the person through Airbnb. If I would attempt to put a telephone number or email address in my response, the software on the Airbnb automatically blocks it out. I can supply my contact information, and the guest can respond directly, only after the booking is accepted by me, and the money paid to Airbnb.

Something is really fishy here!
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Jan 27th, 2013, 04:19 PM
  #6
 
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I agree with AirB&B, if you were going to use the website, you should have read all their terms. YOu then chose to ignore them and pay and make personal contact outside of AirB&B. Why would you even do such a thing, their website clearly indicates you pay through them and book through them.

Maybe they don't have any record of your contact with them, sometimes those things do get lost, you never know. It isn't even clear that you did use their website, I think I've heard of someone else who used some false website or something outside AirBnB (or VRBO, forget which).

Your post doesn't even explain what the scam supposedly was. YOu say you are out the money, but you never explained why you immediately assumed you were scammed or what happened for you to immediately conclude you had no rental.

Yes, I would think anyone should pretty much assume on that webstie or VRBO that you're on your own to begin with. .

I'm sorry you lost money, if you did, but I don't think you should complain about AirBnB when you chose to ignore their website's FAQs, terms, and methods of usage. You clearly are familiar with them, so must know how they work, or you wouldn't have used them in the first place nor refer to them as a reputable website if you knew nothing about them. You also know when you use websites like that which are just private individuals, not agencies, there is always a possibility of fraud.

I know you want sympathy, and I would be sympathetic if you just posted this as a warning not to do the things you did, and say you learned your lesson, rather than just trying to complain about AirBnB.
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Jan 27th, 2013, 04:40 PM
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This appears not to have been an Airbnb scam at all, but rather a "scam" by a criminal who hacked into their website and stole information. I doubt it's possible to completely protect against this sort of thing happening, since computer criminals are very resourceful.
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Jan 27th, 2013, 04:47 PM
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I think she made it very clear that she did NOT contact them outside Airbnb, that she contacted them THROUGH Airbnb, which is the only way you CAN contact them.
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Jan 27th, 2013, 09:06 PM
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Seems like the OP did the actual booking directly with the owner, instead of through Airbnb. There are instructions on the Airbnb site about how to book a rental. Following the Airbnb procedure is what protects from being scammed.
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Jan 28th, 2013, 03:17 AM
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That listing is still on AirBnB. It is $533 a night - is that what you saw and felt was reasonable??

I have booked 2 different places using AirBnB and could not have direct contact with owner until they accepted my offer and paid.

How did you find the listing. - did you go to AirBnB.com and do a search or did you find it another way?

Something doesn't add up here.....

(First post, scammed = troll?)
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Jan 28th, 2013, 02:30 PM
  #11
 
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"StCirq on Jan 27, 13 at 1:31pm
Well, something certainly seems amiss here, because the way Airbnb is supposed to work is that you contact the owner (through Airbnb), but you PAY Airbnb, which in fact doesn't turn the money over to the owner until 24 hours after you've showed up and Airbnb has confirmed that with the owner, which is a safeguard for the renter.

I don't understand how, if you contacted the owner through the Airbnb site, there could not have been a record of that"

Exactly. I just finished dealing with Airbnb. I'm supposed to now be in one of two Thai apartments that I had rented, but had to cancel my trip due to a family emergency. After doing my cancelation online with Airbnb, I was e-mailed, within 30 minutes, that my refund had been issued to my credit card. The total refund, minus the booking fee, posted to my credit card within 2 days. And that was for 2 apartments, but 3 bookings.

From the start, I went online and chatted with the owners and asked various questions. Then when I had made my decision I paid online to the Airbnb site as that's the system. Then I waited until the apartment owners sent their approval. I then was sent the e-mail address of the owners and the address of the apartment. I googled the owners' names and did some research. Both seemed fine. They were also very understanding when I had to cancel. I was just on e-mail with one of them last night as he and his wife and I plan to keep in touch. I even recommended to him the apartment that I rent in Paris as he and his wife might go there in the future.

Happy Travels!
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Jan 28th, 2013, 02:36 PM
  #12
 
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"cynthia_booker on Jan 27, 13 at 9:06pm
Seems like the OP did the actual booking directly with the owner, instead of through Airbnb. There are instructions on the Airbnb site about how to book a rental. Following the Airbnb procedure is what protects from being scammed"

Exactly. And there's nowhere in all of the Airbnb info that says that a potential renter is to send money directly to the apartment owner. And how would one get that info anyway as Airbnb would block it? One doesn't even get the owner's e-mail address, telephone number, or apartment address of the rental until after one has paid on the Airbnb website.

Happy Travels!
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Jan 28th, 2013, 03:15 PM
  #13
 
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As others have said, when you rent a listing on AirBnB you get no direct contact information until payment has been made by credit card only through the site. It could not have happened as described.

Someone is very confused or worse and AirBnB does not deserve to be libelled in this way.
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Jan 30th, 2013, 12:15 AM
  #14
 
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( you can and SHOULD converse with the owner via AirBnB internal communication system - ask questions and even get exact address if the owner wants to give that out - before you pay. I even had someone local check out the 2 places we rented before we sent the payment. Both owners were very agreeable to that; we were lucky to have contacts in San Francisco and Hilo who did that for us. I tried to include my email address and phone # and both were blocked out, until I paid.)
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Jan 30th, 2013, 10:12 AM
  #15
 
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In defense of the OP because I have to take the posting on face value until proven wrong. I have never used airbnb and just tried to see what I would find in Paris. When opening the web site, there are no statements as to the rules of engagement. I chose one apartment, and I get a sidebar inviting me to contact the owner. If I get a reply from the owner asking for direct payment, I have no way of knowing that this is not the normal operating procedure, although there is a box to click on that presumably explains how airbnb protects the potential client.

The OP has suggested that airbnb might have been hacked, but clearly there was no interest in that information.
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Jan 30th, 2013, 10:41 AM
  #16
 
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There is no way for the owner to give you a way to pay directly. They would have to provide you with some means to do so, which would in all likelihood involve including an email address which AirBnB software blocks. I am guessing that if the owner gave a website to go to for direct contact, it would be blocked as well. The first time I dealt with a listing, I didn't realize that you couldn't give an email address or phone number, so I included it in my message. Blocked. AirBnB makes money from the booking (from the renter) so they are going to have pretty decent procedures to block people from contacting directly and thereby cutting AirBnB out of money.
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Jan 30th, 2013, 10:48 AM
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There is no way for the owner to give you a way to pay directly

Is this to suggest that the OP is lying? The posting was not a rant in the sense that the OP gives an outline of the steps taken subsequently and states that s/he has the e-mails to prove the point. Again, is it possible that airbnb was hacked, thereby by-passing the security measures that are in place?
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Jan 30th, 2013, 10:55 AM
  #18
 
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Hacked? Of course anything is possible. But it seems to me a long shot, not that much money involved and what would be the point otherwise. Political? Again, not likely. I wonder, giving the OP the benefit of the doubt, were they confused about which site they actually used for the booking. I'm not sure there's another explanation.
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Jan 30th, 2013, 10:56 AM
  #19
 
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There have been no other reports of similar hackings, if that is indeed what transpired. The OP hasn't even bothered to return to the thread . You do the math.
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Jan 30th, 2013, 11:05 AM
  #20
 
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Actually, there is a similar report about Airbnb over on TA that appeared to end up involving the police and a fraud investigation.
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