Seems as though the world needs a reminder in the importance of using a Travel Agent (or at least reading the fine print when booking online), and here it is: a woman lost $5,000 when she fell victim to a scammer on a peer-to-peer accommodation booking app.

The 22-year-old woman was researching New Year’s Eve accommodation for herself and eight friends when she came across a dream waterfront property on Airbnb.

She told New Zealand Herald that the ad seemed legitimate as it featured detailed descriptions and photographs of a luxurious home, although it did also have a link to pay via an outside platform.

RED FLAG!

Concerned about the payment method, she contacted the ‘home owner’ and received a response from a confused couple who claimed to have been Airbnb newbies. The pair asked her to transfer money into a Spanish bank account, but changed it to a Sydney account when the 22-year-old refused the international payment.

Feeling pressured to secure the booking, she made the transfer and after that, lost contact with the owners.

“I thought I had taken all the necessary precautions, but obviously it wasn’t enough… It was just done so well.”

When the Kiwi traveller and her group of friends arrived at the luxurious property to celebrate the New Year, they came face-to-face with the real home owners who said they’d never listed their property on Airbnb.

“My heart dropped, just dropped [when my friend called me], I couldn’t believe it,” she said.

airbnb1

As the payment was made through a third party, Airbnb was unable to return the money, however, the app has since removed the host and listing from the platform.

In an email to KarryOn, an Airbnb spokesperson said the most important thing about using the app is to ensure all communication and payment is made on the Airbnb.com platform.

The spokesperson continued, saying that there are over 260 million guest arrivals on Airbnb and “negative experiences are extremely rare”.

“Fake or misrepresented listings have no place in our community.”

Airbnb Spokesperson

The peer-to-peer accommodation platform recently introduced new security tools to further tackle fake listings as well as educate users on the importance of staying safe online, this includes “more education to users on how to book safely”, the spokesperson added.

While Airbnb wasn’t at fault, travellers are reminded that they can reduce their chances of falling victim to scammers by using a qualified travel professional who would advise against direct bank account payment transfers.

READ: Flight Centre Limited partners with the unexpected, Airbnb

READ: Roam Sweden free as the whole country is listed on Airbnb

Have you ever fallen victim to a travel scam?