We have previously written about avoiding vacation rental scams, and it looks like it is time to bring up the topic once again. Airbnb is currently the hottest thing since sliced bread and their seemingly meteoric rise to the top of the game has included a fair share of hiccups. While the large majority of guests enjoy their stays, there are still a few horror stories out there. Scams can hit hosts as well as guests, and the sophisticated criminals are looking to do a lot worse than just trash your apartment.
Phishing scams are one of the oldest in the book. The premise is simple: you receive an email urgently prompting you to log into your account or provide some other sensitive information. On the surface the message appears to be from a legitimate organization, but if you click on the links you are sent to a website that will actually steal your login information. Once your login has been stolen, the scammers have access to a whole treasure trove of profitable material. They can lock you out of your account, divert payments to their own accounts, and even sent up fraudulent listings to ensnare unsuspecting guests. This is a nightmare situation for any vacation rental owner.
Fortunately, while prevalent, these types of scams are fairly easy to avoid. Let’s look at some examples. First we have what looks like a promising reservation, just waiting to be confirmed:
However, closer examination will reveal significant problems. The first and most obvious is the originating email address. Anything that is legitimately from Airbnb will be from @airbnb.com. This email is not:
Close, but no cigar. The second tip off is that the rates being offered are not correct. This request is showing $99 per night which is the base rate of the listing, not the accurate rate for the specific dates shown. If this was actually a request from Airbnb, it would have had the correct rates. It’s obvious what has happened is that a scammer has simply lifted the rates and the picture from the listing page and build a fake notification using our information.
Along with these phishing emails, another scam we’ve started to see from people using Airbnb is the oldie-but-goodie “I’m in trouble, please send me money” scam. Let’s take a look at another message we recently received:
Jodi was an actual guest of ours and it appears someone was able to gain access to her account (possibly using the methods previously described) and send us this message. There are multiple things about this email that should set off warning signs, not the least of which being the actual warning sign from Google. The next would be the grammar mistakes throughout. Having corresponded with Jodi in the past, we immediately realized that there was something wrong here, but common sense dictates that the obvious falsity of this email should be apparent to anyone.
The unfortunate truth is that scams like these are becoming increasingly common as our society moves more and more of its interactions online. The good news is that scammers are, by their very nature, lazy. They don’t put a lot of effort into creating the perfect rouse. To them it’s a numbers game. If they target as many people as possible, they’re hoping that an unlucky few will not be paying attention enough to spot the obvious. As long as your exercise an appropriate amount of caution and diligence, you can avoid being that person.
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