Summer 2021, how to book a holiday home avoiding the risk of scammers looking for a deposit: from the brain on the run to the IT technician. Profiles from knowing
L’summer 2021 will be under the banner of holiday. Airbnb data shows an increase in bookings from 33% in summer 2019 to 53% for 2021, and a parallel growth in rural tourism, which went from 21% in 2019 to 37%. But to grow with the popularity of the holiday House it is also the online risk of running into scam attempts that target users who are trying their hand at do-it-yourself booking for the first time. Hence the collaboration of the Postal and Communications Police with Airbnb who have devised a campaign to help the less experienced to recognize and stay away from the most common fraud attempts, identifying the profiles of the most common scammers and tips to unmask them.
According to the Multichannel Observatory of the Politecnico di Milano and Nielsen, last year 30 million Italians made at least one online purchase. The travel sector, according to the research, is the one in which digital is used the most: almost 7 out of 10 users, 65%, buy a holiday exclusively online or alternating online and offline. In 2020 with the outbreak of the pandemic, the reports for computer crimes al Commissariatodips.it of the Postal and Communications Police grew by 142% compared to the previous year.
“Despite more than 5.6 million ads available, scam attempts are extremely rare and a support team is available 24/7 to support guests. The proof is that the most common fraud occurs on other sites and the name of Airbnb is used to lure the potential victim because it is a reassuring brand “, explains Giacomo Trova, Country Manager of Airbnb Italy.” It is important that both the contacts between hosts and guests and the payments always take place within our site or of the application, as indicated in our terms of service. Airbnb in fact retains the sum at the time of booking, transferring it to the landlord only 24 hours after check-in “.
Profiles of scammers
1. The brain on the run. This fake owner has just moved overseas, and he can’t show the house or welcome you in person, even though he really cares about renting it out to you. To dispel any doubts, he will explain that it is work. Remote negotiation is the prelude to an international bank transfer request. He will immediately start asking you for documents (useful for building his next false identity), sharing no less than 2-3 draft contracts À la carte, in a suspicious crescendo of zeal that will culminate in the need to close the deal within 24 hours. All followed by a fake Airbnb booking page, a fake Airbnb invoice and a real disappearance after receiving a large deposit.
2. The computer technician. The host has really created an announcement on Airbnb, but as soon as you ask for information through the app, he offers you for convenience to continue the conversation by e-mail. Time to ask you a couple of things about your arrival and he will send you another email informing you that due to a problem with the calendar update the ad is currently not visible in the search (it actually removed it), and gives you for convenience the direct link, obviously to a clone site, very similar to Airbnb to an inexperienced eye.
3. The appears. Also in this case the host has created (recently, too little) an ad on Airbnb, without reviews. The page convinces you and you book. The scammer is friendly, very kind and happy that you have chosen his house and will even offer you a nice discount. How can he afford it? Winking at you, he suggests canceling the booking with Airbnb and negotiating privately, so as to save both the portal commission. Once the bank transfer has been collected, the friendly complicity will give way to a deafening silence: the friend is gone and already on the hunt for another victim.
Tips for not getting lured
1. Never pay directly by bank transfer. If you are asked to send a deposit, don’t trust it: it is contrary to Airbnb’s terms of service. Pay exclusively through the site, which in no case provides for a bank transfer as a means of payment. Airbnb generally takes the entire amount from your credit card and forwards it to the host only 24 hours after check-in, giving you time to walk into the house and verify that everything is as advertised.
2. Do not communicate off the site. Be wary of those who propose to leave Airbnb to agree privately with the promise of a discount: it is the prelude to a request for a bank transfer. Furthermore, you will no longer be protected by the platform’s guarantees. By remaining in the chat of the application, you can report suspicious behavior to customer service at any time.
3. Watch out for links shared via email or from other sites. Be wary of anyone who contacts you through a second-hand listing site or a generic real estate portal saying they rely on Airbnb. There is a risk that they will share a link to a fake site.
4. How to recognize Airbnb from clones. All Airbnb pages have the address starting with www.airbnb.it or .com, and a number after the word ‘rooms’, as in the example: www.airbnb.it/rooms / 30728582. More complicated addresses or addresses with a different structure should make you suspicious. If you are not sure, you can search on a search engine for the name of the ad (eg “Luminoso terrazzo Milano”) and “Airbnb” as keywords; only legitimate pages should appear.
5. Read the announcement carefully. A well-curated listing is usually an indication of a host and an equally tidy home. Instead, they should alarm you: a too competitive price for the week of August 15th, particularly vague descriptions, the total lack of reviews or a user profile created a few days ago.
6. Airbnb is not a real estate agency. Be wary of those who tell you that they “have given an assignment to Airbnb” to show you the house. In fact, the site is only a brokerage portal, equidistant from host and guest. There is no “Airbnb staff with keys”, as if they were real estate agents.
7. Beware of ‘bait’ accommodations. If once you arrive at your destination you are asked for a change of accommodation, obviously not up to the one booked, using as an excuse a sudden problem that arose in the original apartment that made it temporarily unusable, the best thing is to document everything and contact immediately the platform for a full refund.