How to Avoid Airbnb Scams

As creatives we are always trying to go somewhere new, to find inspiration and to make great content. When you are on a budget, the cheapest way to do this is by staying with someone you know or renting an Airbnb with a large group of people to split the cost. Imagine, you book a perfect place on Airbnb for your next vacation. Let’s say it’s a trip to Italy to stay in a villa overlooking the Mediterranean. You book your place to stay, buy the flights, and travel all the way there, only to show up at this residence and be told by the owners that they never rented their place out through Airbnb in the first place. Now you are away from home, with no place to stay, and scammed out of a lot of money. What would you do? And how can you avoid it?

Unfortunately, consumers have been coming forward with their stories ranging from fake listings where they lose almost $3,000 to listings that look perfectly safe, but their hosts rob guests. It’s sad that this is happening, but it is also very important that we share some helpful tips so that you can always avoid being taken advantage of as a guest or a host.

  1. Search for the Superhost badge.

This badge is given to hosts on the site who have adopted high standards that are essential to getting a five-star listing. To receive this status, Superhosts must host at least ten times within a year, never cancel on a guest, earn at least 80 percent 5-star reviews from their guests, and have a response rate within 24 hours. You can search for Superhost listings by filtering for the option in “search settings.” This alone won’t guarantee a safe listing, but it’s a start.

  1. Read the reviews and your potential host’s profile.

While being labeled as a Superhost does help, it doesn’t mean a listing is entirely safe. Always do your research. Read all the reviews if possible, good and bad. Ask yourself who may be leaving these reviews. Become your own detective. If an Airbnb host does not have any reviews, a written biography, or verifications, proceed with caution.

  1. Always have conversations with your host.

Communication is key, but it must be done the right way to ensure safety. In-app messaging is available both on the app and website. This should be the only means of communication used between hosts and guests. These cyber interactions are all documented, which adds a layer of accountability to both parties.

  1. Research the Airbnb’s neighborhood.

You won’t know the exact address of an Airbnb until after you book it, but the map tool on the site makes it very easy to take a look at the surrounding area. I recommend looking at it first on Airbnb and then going online and searching for the neighborhood to see how safe or unsafe it may be.

  1. Pictures matter.

It seems common sense, but it is a vital resource for anyone booking with Airbnb. The more pictures there are, the better idea you’ll have of the property that you are thinking of booking. It’s not that lack of pictures means you shouldn’t book, it’s just that the amount and quality should be considered because the better they are, the more effort your host put into the listing, which tends to make things more authentic.  

  1. Always make sure you are on the real Airbnb website.

A lot of these scams have been possible because sophisticated cybercriminals have created completely fake Airbnb websites that appear very real. To avoid falling prey to this, always double check your URL. Airbnb’s real URL will always begin with “https.” When a website has this, it means any personal information you provide will be secure because the site’s data is encrypted. They will try to trick you with “www.” Don’t fall for it. Some fake Airbnb websites also have a live chat option, which doesn’t exist on Airbnb’s real site.

  1. Know Airbnb’s refund policy.

It’s worth noting that if you ever contact a host outside of the Airbnb platform, you are automatically not eligible for a refund. Understanding the parameters for a refund through Airbnb will be very helpful. After reading through the various conditions on the website please also be aware that you must try to come to a solution with your host directly before approaching Airbnb to ask for a refund. Although this is not an outside scam, it’s a way for people to feel cheated through Airbnb.

  1. Never wire money to a host.

This is a dead giveaway that a scam is in the works. If you are ever asked to wire money or pay in a way that doesn’t use Airbnb, stop communicating with the host immediately. The bottom line is to always stay on the Airbnb site or app no matter what.

  1. Trust your gut.

Trusting your intuition is the most important advice. If a rental listing seems too good to be true, then trust your instincts and find something else. To check this, you should make it a habit of searching similar listings in the area to compare the prices. It’s alright to be more of a skeptic; this is your trip after all, and you want it to run as smoothly as possible.