Going on vacation should mean truly experiencing a new location. That’s part of the appeal behind room-sharing sites like Airbnb, where anyone with a spare room can become a host. As a guest of a local, you’ll get a real sense of a location – and you’ll save money, too!
However, the system is based on trust, which means crooks will try to exploit it. Before you book at Airbnb, be aware of these scams.
- Fake websites
An Airbnb host sends you a link to properties they have for rent. The website shows with reviews, logos and other hallmarks of authenticity. So, you think nothing of wiring a fee to reserve your room.
But when you try to confirm your reservation with Airbnb, they have no record of your transaction or have the properties listed. What happened?
A scammer capitalized on your trust and directed you to a fake website that’s not hosted by Airbnb. These groups go great lengths to create believable reproductions of the official site.
There are two ways to avoid this scam. First, check the URL: make sure the word “Airbnb” occurs right next to the .com. This tells you it’s not a phony site. Second, pay only through Airbnb’s official checkout platform, which uses modern encryption technology.
- Phony excursions
A new feature of Airbnb is to book “experiences,” or days out on the town with locals.
This creates an opportunity for scammers to offer phony tours. While Airbnb vets potential tours carefully, it’s difficult for them to monitor a distributed network of service providers.
Local experiences appeal to many visitors. However, proceed with caution. Always check reviews (on a legitimate Airbnb site) before paying for anything!
- External payment
Airbnb charges a 3% commission on bookings done through their website. To avoid the fee, some landlords offer a discount in exchange for direct payment through a third-party processing site. Anyone might be tempted to save a few bucks this way.
Resist the temptation. Payments outside the website don’t have the conflict resolution procedures usually covered by Airbnb, so there’s no guarantee you’ll have a room at all if you use one.
Also, no legitimate business will have you wire funds directly to their account. With services like PayPal, even small businesses can now accept credit cards. When you use a card, you can always stop or dispute a charge. When you wire money, it’s gone. It’s always a good idea to use only secured forms of payment.
Have you ever used Airbnb or a similar service? What was your experience like? Share safety and savings tips with us via Facebook or Twitter!