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Saturday, May 25, 2024

Tips on how to avoid an Airbnb scam

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Knowing how to spot the warning signs of a scam is crucial in protecting your money and personal information.

As the summer season winds down, many South Africans are looking for cheap deals on last-minute holidays.

Airbnb is a popular option for people trying to find suitable and affordable accommodation for a trip away.

However, the growing popularity of online booking sites is often accompanied by growing risks, therefore, knowing how to spot the warning signs of a scam is crucial in protecting your money and personal information.

Between 2015 and 2020, there were more than 28,000 complaints on Twitter about scams on Airbnb, according to a 2021 report from John Jay College of Criminal Justice and the University of Colorado School of Public Affairs in Colorado Springs. Of those complaints, 41% related to multiple listings, 26% claimed rentals weren’t as described, and 20% related to an account being hacked.

With this in mind, we reveal 5 ways to spot an Airbnb scam, so you’re prepared for your next trip.

Hosts pushing for external communication

Hosts including their personal email or phone number in the property description can be a sign of a scam. Most booking sites ban external exchanges, instead encouraging all communication and interactions to take place through the site.

If the host is pushing you to pay externally to the booking site, this can be a sign of a scam as they are moving away from the secure, tracked method of the site.

Email links

Fraudsters may send fake Airbnb links via email requesting you to input your data in order to receive the best deals or secure a booking. If you do receive an email like this, try to avoid clicking the link ,instead, go straight to the official website and log in via the secure system. If you do choose to follow the link, double-check the URL to ensure it’s leading to the official site.

The deal is too good to be true

If the deal appears too good to be true, chances are, it is. Try reverse image searching the images used in the listing, as well as searching for reviews and evidence that the property is legitimate.

However, if you are unsure, it’s best to avoid the listing as it’s better to pay a little bit more than to lose money and personal information to a scam.

The host’s profile

The host’s profile can be a strong tell as to whether or not they are legitimate listings. Airbnb has begun verifying both hosts and guests on its site to ensure the properties are valid and reliable.

It’s unlikely that an individual host will have a large number of properties for rent so be sure to look into the reviews, properties and details of the host before booking.


The most valuable asset when booking a rental property is the reviews. These can apply to both the property itself and the host. If a property has no reviews it is best to steer clear, however, it could be that this is a new listing, in which case, look at the reviews for the host and make an informed decision from there.

Most legitimate rental booking sites have internal protocols to ensure their users are safe and that all transactions are secure.

An important thing to consider when booking through these sites is whether you are being encouraged to complete transactions via the booking site or whether the host is trying to have you pay them externally.

This is a big warning sign as they are trying to lead you away from the secure booking system, likely so they can proceed with fraudulent activity. If you experience this type of communication when booking a rental property, do not share any personal information or bank details and report the host to the rental site.

You will also want to check the legitimacy of the property host. Check reviews of the properties and hosts to see how other people have found booking a stay with them, if you are still unsure, do a reverse image search of the images in the listing, you can do this by right-clicking on the images and selecting “search for image with google lens”.

It is also unlikely that one host will have multiple listings on offer, so if this is the case experts recommend you steer clear from booking with them.

Trust your gut – if an offer appears too good to be true, it likely is. If something doesn’t feel right, it’s better to spend a little bit more time searching for another property than to risk losing money and personal details to scammers.


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