Airbnb, the worldwide holiday rental website, has grown increasingly popular the past year as more and more hosts and holiday goers sign up to the site. What started back in 2008, the small startup now boasts more than 1.5million listings in over 34000 cities in 190 countries. But with great popularity and growth usually comes with a growth in problems. It has been reported that elaborate Airbnb scams on the rise as more and more fraudsters target the site and its growing customer base.
In the past year nine months alone, more than 687 British users have reported fraud on the website, which is more than double that of the entire year of 2014. Even more staggering is that this figure is more than five times higher than just two years ago. The scope and range of scams have become more and more elaborate, ranging from simple fake listings, to more complicated methods such as ‘phishing’, which use bogus emails to gain personal information from the customer. But just as alarming, is that the most common scam is listing real properties but without the actual owner’s permission. Money is then transferred to the scammer’s bank account directly.
The number of complaints have also risen against Airbnb for their apparent lack of understanding and sympathy for the victims. This has come after several reports of customer’s being asked to pay fully upfront, and even with the reassurance of Airbnb, the transactions have proven to be bogus. Unfortunately this is a glaring security concern that isn’t easily fixed. There have been calls for stronger security measures from Airbnb, such as a screening process to determine the true owner of the property being rented out, but of course these kinds of checks will no doubt slow the hosting process and potentially over complicate the situation.
If you are concerned about bogus Airbnb listings, then checking their previous feedback is always advised. A newly listed property will of course not have any previous feedback, but steps should be taken that no full amount should be transferred until the property is viewed. Also, no transactions should take place outside of Airbnb, so if a host is requesting to deal from outside the website, precautions should definitely be taken. Ultimately, Airbnb should improve its standing when it comes to the host and guest, rather than merely facilitating the meeting. Airbnb have announced that they will continue to fight fraudulent activity on their website and always encourages users to only message and pay through the secure website.
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