Airbnb is a deservedly popular service that connects homeowners wishing to rent a room or their entire house with vacationers and other travelers in 190 countries around the world.  Unfortunately, anything popular with the public is also popular with scammers and reports are increasing about scams involving people paying scammers for renting a non-existent room or a place that the scammer does not own.  Many of the victims of these scams do not find out that they have been scammed until they show up at the rental which may be far away only to learn that it is not for rent and their money is gone.

Generally, a telltale sign that the Airbnb listing is a scam occurs when the “homeowner” or “host” as they are referred to in Airbnb asks to communicate with the victim off of the Airbnb website.  They also ask for the money to be wired to the scammer’s account .  As I have told you many times before, once you have wired funds, they are gone forever.

Now, however, a new, more sophisticated Airbnb scam has arisen.  Computer savvy criminals have created a subscription service called Land Lordz which they are leasing to less sophisticated criminals to assist them in victimizing Airbnb customers.  Land Lordz helps criminals create and manage phony listings on phony websites that look like Airbnb. The phony listings are generally copied from legitimate Airbnb listings and will include fake reviews as well.  The phony Airbnb site emphasizes that all payments will go through Airbnb and will therefore be safe and secure.  If someone asks for further details, which is common, the scammers email a response with a link that appears to take you to the real Airbnb website, but instead takes you to a phony website that merely appears legitimate.  When the targeted victim of the scam logs into the phony Airbnb website, the scammers are notified and respond by demanding a deposit be wired to them.  Once the money is wired, the funds are lost forever.

The tech savvy criminals who created Land Lordz have created different versions of it with the basic package costing the criminals using the service $550 per month.  This computer program will enable a criminal to manage more than 500 phony offers.

TIPS

Only communicate with hosts through the Airbnb website and use the Airbnb payment system with a credit card.  Airbnb does not forward payment to the host sooner than 24 hours after the guest checks in. Never use wired funds, certified checks or any other method of payment other than a credit card through the Airbnb payment system to pay for accommodations.  Always check your browser’s address bar to make sure that you are indeed on the real Airbnb website and don’t click on links to go to a website, but rather always type in the website address independently.   Airbnb has also just recently instituted dual factor authentication which I urge you to use if you have an Airbnb account for greater for protection.

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