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shutterstock_622037561As scammers continue to progressively become more tech-savvy with the execution of their scams, consumers have to be on-guard more than ever in order to spot their sophisticated tricks. One popular scheme to be on the lookout for is the fake Airbnb website, set-up to siphon money from consumers that intended on using the site for the sole purpose of going on a trip.

Approximately 80 million users in 191 countries around the world use the website to rent a stranger’s home. To take advantage of the concept, scammers are creating fake websites identical to their legitimate counterparts.  One such victim of this scam lost almost a thousand dollars; Another case involved a couple trying to use the website to book a rental home in Hawaii for a birthday getaway. They wired and lost $3,300 to a scammer.

Possible warning signs that your rental may be a fake include:

  • You’re asked to wire money outside of the secure Airbnb platform: Transactions for Airbnb should be made only through the secure website.
  • Communication with Airbnb “employees” outside of the Airbnb website: Airbnb’s website allows consumers to communicate with Airbnb employees via email to ask questions about listings. Don’t email or provide your email to persons outside of the system. If you question whether an email is legitimate, contact Airbnb.
  • Features on the fake website that are not included on the real one, for example, the LiveChat Support Agent feature: Though it may be difficult to decipher whether or not a feature on the website is legitimate, if you often use the website and a feature seems out of place, it very well may be.
  • Lookout for inconsistencies in emails and on the website. Does the listing look familiar? Do the reviews seem genuine? Does all communication seem to be outside of Airbnb? The inconsistencies might be small, but if you notice them, check with the company. If you are provided with the exact address of the listing before you pay, you are using a fake website. Airbnb provides an area where the listing is located but will not give the street address until the transaction is complete.

If you book a listing through Airbnb but there is an issue, you may use the site’s Resolution Center to request a partial refund from the host. You have up to 60 days to submit a request and Airbnb may offer to help mediate the dispute. Airbnb’s Help Center can help answer more questions about the reservation and refund processes.

If you have additional questions, contact the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation by calling our Consumer Hotline at (617) 973-8787, or toll-free in MA at (888) 283-3757, Monday through Friday, from 9 am-4:30 pm. Follow the Office on Facebook and Twitter, @Mass_Consumer. The Baker-Polito Administration’s Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation along with its five agencies work together to achieve two goals: to protect and empower consumers through advocacy and education, and to ensure a fair playing field for all Massachusetts businesses. The Office also oversees the state’s Lemon Laws, data breach reporting, Home Improvement Contractor Program and the state’s Do Not Call Registry.

 

 

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