Avoid being scammed on Airbnb
Twas the week before New Year’s and the consensus was out “we’re not doing the bar crawl madness lets rent us a house!” no pushing, no shoving, no potential bar fights. No cramped crowded spaces just some close friends and I.
What better way to ring in the New Year than a prime view of the ball drop from a penthouse overlooking the NYC skyline. Imagine with me if you will; champagne, confetti, Ciroc and sexy people just being sexy people, the kinda party you see in commercials and think man I want to fly out on my private jet and sip a tasty beverage underneath a palm tree having irreverent fun …but since I’m not P.Diddy and I don’t have that bank roll, I settled for an upscale yet affordable apartment I found on Airbnb.com.
About a month ago I discovered Airbnb.com though an associate of mine, who raved about the great alternative to hotels. Well this week I decided to explore the site and I was pleasantly surprised and intrigued to see the great options and affordable prices. After conferring with my friends and some debate we all settled on a, for lack of a better term, perfect unit entitled “COMFORT OF HIGH END AWAIT YOU HERE”. We looked over the pictures read the landlord policy we decided that this was a great fit, close to Times Square and other fun attractions we decide to contact the host and book this steal! Well this is where things got a little bit sticky. After emailing the host through the Airbnb site she requested that we exchange personal emails, which I did since this was my first time on this site and I figured maybe this is how it works. She then proceeded to tell me the rates and etc. The deal was almost sealed but a red flag was flown when she wanted me to use Money Gram or Western Union as opposed to a credit card or PayPal service to pay the fees. After closer review a few more red flags popped up.
The warning signs on Airbnb
- The place was being rented out for $200 a night, which was not too bad
- They didn’t care about extra guest, like no limit if this was my house I would care
- The pictures on the site did not look like a typical New York City skyline try to have an idea of what the area looks like…Google the address just to be safe
- The pictures looked like a computerized 3D model or something from an architectural design used to sell to potential clients
- The pixels on the images looked fake (even cheap point and shoot cameras take better pictures
- The host had no reviews or friends
- The host wanted us to send money via Money gram or Western Union
- The host wanted to do business outside of the Airbnb site which is against Airbnb policy
Let’s just say we are a bit more trusting because it’s the holiday season and couldn’t fathom someone trying to rip us off, so we went against our better judgment and put a hold on the apartment. That’s when the host wanted our contact information and a $600 deposit to be sent via Money Gram or Western Union. For those of you who’ve done business online, most places use PayPal, credit card, debit card, and other certified online payments. Never send cash! You want to use certified payments because those can be easily tracked by your bank or Credit Card Company and if a transaction goes south getting a refund is much easier. In case you need to file a police report; you can show evidence that you actually made payments to that person or organization. When doing business online, it’s best to use a credit card.
Below is the message we received from the host on Airbnb:
Hi Jane Doe,
Okay here is the basic information about the apartment that you should
The Address of the Apartment is xxx West 4xrd Street, New York, NY, the
apartment is on the 5th floor of elevator building with 24/7 concierge
and doorman service. The apartment is available for your desire dates
Dec 30 – Jan 01? The rental fee for 2nights is $400 (@200 a night)
Wi-Fi with free internet wireless is provided. The unit also have
laundry facilities, washer and dryer ready for use, all other utilities
such electricity, water and others has been included in the rental fee.
1) Living room couch which includes a pull out sofa for sleep.
2) 2 bedrooms, sleeps maximum of seven people
Bedroom 1 – 1 queen,
Bedroom 2 – queen . Bed sheets are provided.
Bedroom 3 has two twin beds which can be made into a queen
size upon your request.
3) 2 bathroom(s) ,
Bathroom 1 – Toilet, Combination Tub/Shower,
Bathroom 2 – Toilet, Shower. Towels and linens provided
4) New kitchen includes microwave, full size oven,
toaster, coffee maker and cooking utensils to satisfy the most
discriminating gourmet chef. Elegant living and dining area appointed
with large flat-screen TV and excellent music system, including dining
area, seating for 6 people.
If you are contented with the amenities of the apartment you can
contact us to book the apartment now. Below is the requirement for
securing the apartment,
The rental fee = $400
Damage security deposit = $200 (Fully Refundable on your
You are to Pay = $600 To affirmed your booking reservation dates in
Payment Method Via: Secure Money Gram OR Western Union Transfer..
Kindly get back to us for the booking rental agreement form if you are
able to meet the requirement of reserving this awesome home away from
The apartment is centrally located. Nearby you’ll find the Hudson
Theater, Foxwoods Theater, Times square, Bryant park, Central park,
Empire Building, , world class Restaurants and the best bookstores and
coffee shops in all of New York . The wonderful thing about Manhattan
its history and the world class amenities in it for pleasuring
travelers. You can walk to many attractions as you wishes.
Sandra and Stephen.
After we decided to channel Sherlock Holmes and not inspector gadget; we contacted Airbnb and they sent us this beautiful reply:
Marie E, Dec 21 08:21 (PST):
Hello Jane Doe,
For your convenience, you can take advantage of our Voice Connect feature, which enables a host to call potential guests directly through the website without revealing personal contact information to either party. Look for it in our FAQs! If you have any more questions, let us know.
So in closing If at any time, you do not feel comfortable booking online, please contact the company who’s offering the services to make sure their postings are legitimate. Do not get caught up in the moment of having a beautiful place to hang out with a few friends just to end up being a victim of a scam or potential scam. Take everything you see online with a grain of salt. Protect yourself and remember all that glitters is not always for rent.
I would like to thank Airbnb for their quick response and making sure that their customers are satisfied. Airbnb has specific guidelines to help its hosts and customers protect themselves. Please familiarize yourself with them. This incident did not deter us from using Airbnb. Fraudulent people are everywhere, the purpose of this article is to teach you some warning signs, for you to learn to trust your instincts and always ask questions.