Since Airbnb’s launch in 2008, it has quickly become a preferred alternative for lodging over the traditional hotel room. In 2018, the company’s revenue reached over $2.6 billion -- making it a popular target for scammers. Consumers have reported their account being hacked with reservations they did not make for vacation homes that do not exist.
A local North Alabama resident contacted the Better Business Bureau alerting us that she had been a victim of this Airbnb scam within the last few weeks. The woman was contacted by her financial institution, Redstone Federal Credit Union (RFCU), alerting her of the suspicious charges placed on her debit card. The consumer was informed that there were two charges in the same week – one for $911 and another at $532. Once it had been confirmed that the charges were fraudulent, RFCU refunded the money back to the consumer’s account and canceled the card in question.
Airbnb offers the following tips to help combat account takeover:
- Never wire money outside of the Airbnb platform. The host might offer a special discount if you bypass making payment via the website. Airbnb has set up online payment to help protect both the renter and host. As soon as a renter wires money outside of Airbnb, the company is no longer liable.
- Watch out for lookalike URLs. A company’s website can easily be spoofed to mimic the official one, apart from an added character, letter, or symbol. Be sure to carefully check the web address before filling out your payment method. A secure URL should always begin with “https://”.
- Avoid unauthorized sites. Ensure that the address contains "https://" and doesn't contain any odd additional characters or words. The main body of the address should simply read "airbnb.com." For instance, "airbnb-bookings.com" or "Airbnb1.com" are all invalid web addresses. When in doubt, you can always type "https://www.airbnb.com" directly into your browser to get to the Airbnb website. As with all reputable online marketplace, stay on the website to complete the transaction. Don’t be tempted by discounted prices to pay outside the marketplace.
- Scrutinize emails. Be wary of those that ask you to click a link and enter personal information and emails with a sense of urgency, saying, for instance, "Unless you click this link your Airbnb account will be disabled" especially if they don't come from a recognized @airbnb.com email address.
- Report issues. Let the company know about suspicious listings, emails or websites by emailing Airbnb at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Source: BBB of North Alabama & Airbnb