A recent scam involving a very realistic, but fake, Airbnb website has defrauded several very experienced users of the system of hundreds of pounds, serving as a reminder to other users never to pay for an Airbnb reservation outside its own payment system.

Airbnb, which now operates in 191 countries, is being targeted along with other home-share sites such as homeaway by people who will go to extraordinary lengths to mimic them and relieve victims of their holiday cash.

In a recent case, the fraudsters had stolen a legitimate Amsterdam Airbnb listing, changed its details, set up a fake home page complete with “live chat service”, and instructed users to email the owner directly to check availability as they weren’t as quick at responding to messages online, sending emails and website links that all looked exactly as if they had come from the real site. Even the Barclays bank account set up to receive payments was in Airbnb’s name.

The flat in Amsterdam was perfect … it just didn’t exist. When Airbnb finally came back to the customer in this case, she was told that Airbnb could do nothing to help her as she had made the booking ‘outside’ its website.

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