When you’re looking for an Airbnb, in most cases the built-in search works great. Sometimes; however, you have a few more provisions for your stay that aren’t covered by the standard search.
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Just last month, we wrote about a couple that was swindled out of nearly $17,000 on Airbnb because of a phony listing. But according to a report by senior staff writer Allie Conti for Vice—who fell victim to a scam played on Airbnb users in several major cities—scammers on the platform are becoming a hell of a lot more clever.
Last week, a couple spent over $17,500 on a two-week stay at an Airbnb in Ibiza, Spain — only to discover the listing was a fraud. Upon check-in, they learned that the property didn’t even exist and found themselves scrambling to find a hotel last-minute while struggling to communicate with Airbnb.
When you base your decision entirely on well-lit photos of furniture, booking an Airbnb is always a gamble. Over on Elliot Advocacy, executive director Michelle Couch-Friedman recounted the story of one traveller who clearly lost this bet when she booked a rental in Paris — only to discover that the listing wasn’t what was promised. “The place was filthy,” she told Elliot. “There were bloodstained sheets, mould, and old food in the kitchen. And every shelf and closet in the entire apartment was filled with junk.”
Last Christmas I decided to splurge on an Airbnb for a few days in my hometown rather than stay with friends and family for my entire trip. I loved the idea of being able to come and go as I wanted, as well as stay up as late as I wanted without bugging my hosts. This way I could watch Netflix, stay out late at the bar, or work late into the night without bothering anyone. At least, that was the plan.
On a recent Reddit thread, u/brunoflourenco shared their experience with an Airbnb listing in London — which turned out to be a fake. “We get there, knock on the door, the guy comes out and looks really confused,” they wrote. “We tell him that we are the Airbnb guests, he sighs and says, ‘Guys, the thing is you got scammed. You’re the third person that comes here looking for this Airbnb, but it doesn’t exist.’”
In January, the city of New York filed a $US21 million ($30 million) lawsuit against a ring of real estate brokers illegally renting out properties in the city to over 75,000 guests on Airbnb. In Barcelona, Spain, the government has shut down more than 2000 listings and warned tourists to check the legality of their rental properties before travelling.
And in many, many other major cities, the home-rental site is facing similarly strict regulations.
As much as I hate to admit it, I’m a stress shopper. More specifically, I’m an online stress shopper.
More and more, it seems like booking a rental through Airbnb is a risky proposition. There was the story of the “superhost” crashing through the bedroom window in the middle of the night, or the less dramatic (but also alarming) stories of rentals found to contain hidden cameras in everything from clocks to fake motion sensors (and one family who discovered a live-streaming camera filming their every move). Now, thanks to one traveller’s story, we know to look out for rental owners who claim that you’ve caused damage to their property—damage that could result in thousands of dollars of fees.
If you think too hard about the sharing economy, things get weird. We’re perfectly willing to get in a stranger’s car (Uber) or stay in a stranger’s home (Airbnb) — both of which we can arrange via smartphone app. These services offer certain trust markers, such as verification and user reviews, but that doesn’t guarantee a positive, or even a safe, experience, as two guests at a Los Angeles Airbnb discovered recently.