Airbnb – What is it?
Airbnb, Inc. is an online marketplace for arranging or offering lodging, primarily home stays, or tourism experiences. The company does not own any of the real estate listings, nor does it host events; it acts as a broker, receiving commissions from each booking. The company is based in San Francisco, California, United States.
The company was conceived after its founders put an air mattress in their living room, effectively turning their apartment into a bed and breakfast, in order to offset the high cost of rent in San Francisco; Airbnb is a shortened version of its original name, AirBedandBreakfast.com.
How do I prevent scams?
On AirbnbHell.com—a website dedicated to travelers’ horror stories with the rental site—several users have shared their stories of knocking on the door of a rental only to be greeted by a confused homeowner. How can you avoid a similar fate?
Reverse image search the property’s photos and verify the host
If you find images of the property splashed across stock photo websites, it’s a good indication you’ve stumbled upon a scam.
Also, check your host’s profile. Look to see whether Airbnb has verified that they’ve uploaded a genuine government ID or given them a “Superhost” badge, which means they’ve maintained an overall high rating from guests. There’s a good chance you’re not being scammed if either of these appear on a profile.
Pay attention to details provided in the property photos, including any visible addresses or names of restaurants. Do a little research and find out if the listing’s location is everything that’s being promised. Otherwise, when the host provides the address, look at the unit online and check to verify both the host and the listing in photos.
Look at the quality of the reviews
The easiest way to make sure you have a legitimate listing is to examine the reviews. Sort for any critical reviews and those that mention a bad experience with the host. And be sure to check for cancellation notifications, too; when a host cancels for any reason, a notification will automatically appear in reviews of their property. A high number of cancellations isn’t necessarily a sign of a scam, but it is an indication your host may flake on you last-minute.
And if a host asks you to cancel, well, that could be a scam, too. If a host cancels, you’re usually provided a refund or an account credit; if you cancel, however, you’re lucky to get anything and subject to that listing’s cancellation policy. Instead, reach out to Airbnb’s customer support if you’re ever asked to cancel your stay.
And if the listing has few or no reviews, check to see if they have reviews for other properties. Look at the description of the listing and whether it’s detailed enough to seem legitimate. Otherwise, be up front and ask the host why the listing has no reviews. Maybe it’s just a new listing, which is entirely possible.
Don’t book via email or pay directly to the host
On another Reddit thread, one user detailed his friend’s experience with a last-minute cancellation by a host. “Two days before arriving to Amsterdam, he gets a message through Airbnb, stating that the host is not [able to rent out] anymore in the Netherlands due to some illness,” he said. “He offers to help by giving you another room/apartment, of course outside AirBnb and with different prices and paid only by cash.”
There are a lot of red flags here, aside from the last-minute cancellation. For one, you should never pay directly to a host or through third-party payment sites. If you pay through Airbnb, there’s a greater chance they’ll get you some kind of refund if you’re involved in a scam. (Pay through a third-party site and you might not reap the same benefits.) Scammers may even incentive you by offering an “advance payment”; in exchange for paying directly to them or through another payment site, they’ll offer you some kind of discount.
You should never really communicate with your host outside of Airbnb’s direct messaging system, particularly regarding payment. If there’s an issue with your Airbnb, their customer support will rely on messages sent between you and your host to help resolve it. When you interact via email, you don’t have the same protection. Of course, there are exceptions; sometimes a host might contact you via email to obtain a copy of your passport or just provide directions. In these instances, it might be fine to talk on email, but be cautious about clicking on any links, as phishing scams on Airbnb are pretty common.
Be careful of any links and book travel on a credit card
As Airbnb recommends on its website, be careful of any links that misspell or misuse Airbnb’s URL to closely resemble it. “A real link to Airbnb will begin with https://www.airbnb.com or a country-specific URL like https://es.airbnb.com or https://it.airbnb.com,”
Airbnb is a concept that is useful for you who are a tourist and who want experiences beyond ordinary hotel stays at a cheaper price. It is positive for tourism that this type of service exists. Does it make a threat to the hotel business in your area? What is your experience with Airbnb? Leave a comment below.