What is a Scam?!
Airbnb is a great platform, and is changing the hotel industry because it makes renting a special place in a new city much easier. However, some bad guys scam Airbnb. Vice News wrote some articles about how they scam you. Sometimes it is by showing you photos of a nice apartment, but actually the apartment is terrible. Sometimes they try to get you to pay money outside the app. Other times hosts will say you damaged the apartment, and try to make you pay LOTS of extra money.
The Bait and Switch
This kind of scam is when somebody shows you a great product, gets you to give them the money, then give you a different product.
Bait and switch scams are super common. Airbnb users were promised one apartment, and arrived to find it was very different. Sometimes, the problem was bad photos that were nothing like the place the real place.
Other times, the host got them to change apartments or houses entirely, only to find that the new location was dirty, had no furniture, or in a totally different part of town.
1. The Plumbing Scam
People reserved an apartment or a house in cities both in the U.S. and abroad. Days or hours before the reservation was set to start, the host would tell them that the unit had developed a serious plumbing problem.
The plumbing scam works because if the Airbnb cannot be lived in, hosts don’t need to pay for cancelling reservations. That is said clearly in Airbnb’s rules for hosts.
2. Making the Guests Move Houses
The plumbing scam sometimes this kind of scam.. Vice received many emails from people who said they’d been asked at the last minute to move to a new house or apartment, often told that the new one was bigger and better in every way. Spoiler: this was never the case.
The apartment was supposed to be … in downtown. Upon arrival… the “homeowner” [stopped us to] change properties at the last minute. … The new one was a smelly little apartment on the other side of town… It was time for check out. We were charged DOUBLE per night plus two cleaning fees… – Austin, TX
3. Booking the Airbnb to Many People at the Same Time
If you book the house or apartment and choose which days you want to stay, Airbnb does not let other people book on the same days… Some people told Vice News they found other Airbnb
guests at the house, or, sometimes people who lived there.
This is not something Airbnb can control from the app. If
the place is also listed on VRBO or another app or site, it can get double booked. And it’s not always the
hosts being bad guys: maybe they simply forgot it was already booked/reserved.
that while double bookings are “usually the result of honest mistakes… it leads
to a bad guest experience and so we do everything we can so guests can enjoy
their vacation.” They add:
4. Paying Outside Airbnb
5. Fake Damages
One of the truly difficult things for Airbnb to police are fake damages, because it’s true that at times, Airbnb guests do damage the places they stay: clogging plumbing, digging a hole in the yard to build a fire (another real email VICE received) or damaging carpets or furniture.
Sometimes, a host will charge for “cleaning fees”:
Review Scams and Threats
The #1 goal for Airbnb hosts is to keep their five-star ratings and try to get Superhost status. To do this, they need at least a 4.8 overall rating and also have to do other stuff. Hosts—even really, really bad ones— often ask up-front for a five-star review no matter what the stay was really like.
6. Making Bad Reviews Go Away
Airbnb will hide or pull down reviews in certain very special situations— sometimes for good reason (if the guest never actually stayed there, for instance, or is clearly lying). But several people told us they felt that system had been used against them, used to keep their truthful complaints hidden.
7. Must Review Within 2 Weeks
Sometimes Airbnb doesn’t solve guest issues quickly. If a guest doesn’t write a review within two weeks, they cannot write it. Several guests told us that as they talked with hosts and Airbnb for a refund, the two weeks they had to review their stay expired, and they were unable to leave one.
8. Trying to Scare Guests
Intimidation, or scaring a person into doing something for you…. This last one is less a “scam” and more just illegal. A small number of people described getting scary text messages after leaving a bad review:
Hosts Have Bad/Scammy Experiences Too
The problems with Airbnb don’t just impact guests, however. We also heard from a large number of hosts. A common problem, one host told us, is around getting Airbnb to cover simple damages and repairs, or being penalized for necessary cancellations:
So everybody had a different experience with the scams talked about above. Some people said they got all of their money back from the company, and some none at all.
Airbnb tries hard to show it is responsible for what happens on its platform, with guarantees that if either a host or a guest has a bad experience, they’ll do what they can to make it right. But they’ve also said some room listings have had their share of serious safety issues.
One person from Airbnb said, “We are a platform built on a foundation of trust. We need to continue innovating on trust to make it harder for the bad actors. The trust of our community is our top priority.”
However, for a lot of people, this new verification process is coming too late. For many guests and hosts, the money is gone, the vacation ruined, the apartment destroyed, the low ratings already written.