Airbnb Online Scam Traps and How to Recognize Them

Sales channels · 9 min read · Oct 24, 2023

In a time when online reservations and accommodation rentals are reaching record numbers, the number of online scams and frauds is also increasing. And Airbnb is no exception. Hosts have become targets of various fraudulent tactics. In this blog, we will focus on examples of scams that occur on the Airbnb platform and how you can protect yourself as an accommodation provider.

Typical Scams and Frauds on Airbnb

As an Airbnb host, you need to be aware of common scams that fraudulent guests use to exploit hosts. Below are some of the most common scams we have researched and gathered to help you stay vigilant and informed:

Unauthorized Additional Guests

When guests decide to make a reservation, they typically specify the number of people who will be using the accommodation. However, it sometimes happens that additional people arrive quietly after check-in or during the stay, who were not included in the original reservation. This action is taken without the knowledge or consent of the host, which can lead to overcrowding, unforeseen expenses, or even violations of local regulations or accommodation rules.

For a host, it is essential to have clearly defined conditions regarding the number of guests and to regularly communicate with their guests to avoid such unpleasant situations.

Communication Outside the Platform

There are cases where guests do not want to communicate through the official Airbnb platform but prefer other channels such as WhatsApp, SMS, or even email. Such actions can be suspicious because guests may try to bypass certain security mechanisms and platform policies in this way. The reasons for such communication can vary, from harmless desires for a more personal connection to attempts to conduct fraudulent activities such as arranging payments outside the Airbnb platform. A very typical example of fraud is when a guest sends an inquiry for a specific date but requests payment outside the Airbnb platform, often citing technical issues. By doing so, they leave no traces on Airbnb, and as a host, if you accept payment outside the Airbnb service, you have no protection or legal recourse if things go wrong.

Hosts must be especially cautious when receiving such requests and always stick to communication within the Airbnb platform, as this provides them with protection and support in case of problems.

‘Overpayment’ Scam

Some guests use a tactic where they intentionally overpay the reservation amount and then request a refund of the difference by making a direct transfer to a third-party account before Airbnb transfers the money for the reservation. When the host returns the excess, it often turns out that the guest’s original payment was invalid or even fraudulent. This means that the host not only loses the refund amount but also the basic payment for the reservation.

Hosts should be very cautious and never refund money until they are sure they have received the full and valid payment through Airbnb. Any money refunds should occur solely through the official platform, providing additional security and protection against potential fraud.

‘Fake Profile’ Scam

In the world of online reservations, where trust between guests and hosts is crucial, tactics have emerged where fraudsters create fake profiles or even use stolen identities to book accommodations. These profiles may seem legitimate at first glance, but upon closer inspection, they often lack basic information, such as reviews from other hosts, user photos, or detailed biographical data. Why would someone do this? The reasons can vary, but they often involve malicious intentions. For example, a guest with a fake profile may use the property for unlawful parties, cause damage, or even refuse to leave after the reserved period. In extreme cases, these guests may attempt to exploit the situation for their benefit by extorting the host for refunds, compensation, or other unjustified benefits.

To avoid such inconveniences, it is advisable for hosts to thoroughly check guest profiles before accepting reservations. If a profile has no reviews, photos, or other basic information, it is wise to be especially cautious. It is also a good practice to establish communication with the guest and gather more information about the purpose of their visit. With such precautions, many problems can be prevented before they occur.

‘Last-Minute Cancellation’ Scam

This type of scam is increasingly prevalent on the Airbnb platform as well as on other booking platforms. It involves guests making a reservation and then canceling it at the last minute, often citing various excuses, with health crises or sudden personal accidents being among the most common. The aim of such fraud is mostly an attempt to extort a full refund, even if the host’s cancellation policies may be strict and not allow full refunds within such a short timeframe.

Not only does this result in a financial loss for the host, but it also prevents genuine guests who actually want to stay from booking. To avoid such fraud, it is recommended that hosts establish clear cancellation policies and adhere to them consistently. Additionally, it is useful to request some form of proof or verification in the case of extreme circumstances cited by the guest as a reason for cancellation.

Refusal to Pay for Damage

When dealing with property damage, many hosts encounter unresponsive or even fraudulent guests. After their stay, some guests may cause damage ranging from minor issues like furniture stains or broken items to more significant damage like malfunctioning appliances or structural damage. When the host requests responsibility and payment for repairs, these guests often evade payment, deny causing the damage, or claim that the damage was preexisting.

To protect against such incidents, Airbnb offers “AirCover” insurance for hosts. AirCover is free insurance that provides hosts with protection of up to a million dollars in the event of property damage or injury. This insurance is automatically included for all active listings on Airbnb, providing hosts with additional peace of mind.

To maximize protection against potential scams or inconveniences, it is crucial for hosts to thoroughly document the condition of their property with photos and descriptions before each reservation. In case of damage, it is essential for the host to notify Airbnb immediately, provide all necessary evidence of the damage, and rely on AirCover insurance for appropriate intervention and protection of their interests.

False Airbnb Inquiries

The scam with false inquiries begins when you receive a message from someone who appears to be a sincere guest. They inquire about your property, perhaps asking specific questions about the location or amenities. At first glance, everything seems fine, but the trap lies in an inconspicuous link included in the message.

This link is typically presented as a quick way to view additional guest photos or their Airbnb profile. However, clicking on this link can instead activate malicious software or redirect you to a fake page that attempts to obtain your Airbnb username and password.

Malicious software can damage your computer, steal personal information, or create other security problems. The fake login page is designed to mimic the real Airbnb page. When you enter your username and password, fraudsters record them and try to access your genuine account.

To protect against such scams, it is crucial to:

  • Never click on suspicious links, even if they seem to come from trusted sources.
  • Always log in to your Airbnb account directly through the official website or app.
  • Regularly change your password and use strong, unique passwords.
  • If you receive a suspicious message or notice unusual activity on your account, immediately notify Airbnb.

False Representation of Airbnb

Recently, there have been cases where scammers send emails or notifications that impersonate official Airbnb messages. These messages are designed to look like legitimate notifications or alerts from the platform and may even include the Airbnb logo to appear more convincing.

Often, these messages contain warnings about fictitious issues with your account. They may also include links that direct you to malicious websites where you may be asked for personal information or the installation of harmful software.

It is crucial to always verify the authenticity of such messages. If you are unsure about the message’s legitimacy, never click on the links within it, and always directly contact Airbnb through their official website or app to confirm its authenticity.

Threat of Negative Reviews

In this scam, guests manipulate hosts by exploiting their fear of receiving negative reviews. Even if there haven’t been any serious issues during the stay, these scammers demand refunds or other unfair concessions by threatening to leave a negative review.

This behavior constitutes extortion and is contrary to Airbnb’s policies. Hosts should not give in to such demands. In the event of such threats, it is advisable to inform Airbnb, as they have mechanisms for addressing such situations and can remove reviews obtained through coercion.

Ensuring Host Safety and Peace of Mind on Airbnb As an Airbnb host, you are likely to encounter various guests, and among them, there may be some who raise suspicion due to their behavior or communication style. While it is essential to be tolerant and open, it is crucial to prioritize the safety of your property and your peace of mind in any situation of concern.

You may find that a guest’s profile appears entirely harmless at first glance, but something in their communication or requests raises concerns. Always trust your instincts. You have the right to decline a reservation if you feel uncomfortable, even if you cannot pinpoint the exact cause of your unease.

All communications with guests should take place exclusively through the Airbnb platform. This allows you to have a complete record of all conversations, which is invaluable in case of misunderstandings or when reporting a situation to Airbnb. If you start to feel uncomfortable with a guest’s behavior after confirming a reservation, immediately contact Airbnb support. Their team is here to assist you, investigate any issues, and protect your interests.

Start Your Airbnb Journey

If you are not yet part of the global Airbnb host community, now is the right time to join! Airbnb offers not only excellent opportunities for additional income but also allows you to share your space with visitors from around the world.

You may find the process of opening an account and setting up your accommodation challenging, but we can help!

Our team can assist you in opening an Airbnb account and connecting it to the Bentral channel manager system. This will enable you to automate reservations and manage availability from one place, saving you time and energy. If you’re ready to get started or if you have any questions regarding Airbnb, please fill out the contact form below, and we will contact you shortly.

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