Hi fellow hosts,

 

My wife and I are still relatively new hosts, just passing the 6-month mark about a week ago, but we have been following the hosting forums for much longer.

 

We have heard of various scams and scam attempts on Airbnb over the past few years, but this morning we were approached with what appears to be a new one--or at least, it was new to us. 

 

Basically, we got an email request for a long-term booking from this coming Tuesday, which seemed odd to us. Why, after all, would someone planning a long trip write on such short notice? The writer also claimed to be going on a business trip, which was another peculiarity. Our home is in the Algarve in southern Portugal, which is known for its climate, beaches and golfing--but not as a place people go on business trips. Even if they did, then we feel sure that they would have planned their trip more than three days in advance.

 

And then there was the language. Though the telephone number he secretly embedded in his mail was for an U.S. address in the state of New Jersey, his English (e.g. "Greetings. I am Alexander" and "But there is one moment that I would like to share with you") didn't sound like that of any American I've ever met.

 

Now here comes the really dodgy part: the writer claimed that he wasn't actually going to stay at our place, as he had a friend's house to stay at in Portugal but was getting paid by his company for accommodation costs. So, he said that if we were willing to accept his booking, then we could split the payment between us.

 

I'll post what he wrote at the end of this letter, but I'm sure that many of you are seeing "flags" already. Certainly we were.

 

So, I sent it on to a lawyer friend of mine who specialises in fraud, and she said that she has seen this recently and that it is a new variation on an old type of scam. Here's how it works. First, since it's low season and you don't have anyone booked, then you figure that it is a good deal for you and agree. Next, the person confirms the booking. After that, the guest asks you to transfer him half of the money for the booking. And then once the transfer to him is made--you guessed it--the guest cancels, and you are screwed. 

 

So that's it. And again, some of you hosts may have seen something like this before. But as I said, it was new to us, and so we thought that we should share it so that other hosts can be aware of it if it happens to them. 

 

The message he sent is pasted below. We would love to hear your thoughts. (Oh, and if anyone knows how we can report this to Airbnb, then please let us know.)

 

Rich & Yan

 

 

Greetings! I am Alexander. Soon I'm having a business trip to Portugal. I was looking through Airbnb to find some apartments there and would like to book your apartment. But there is one moment that I would like to share with you. I have a plan to stay at my friend's home once I'm there and not to check into your apartment at all. Here's my proporsal. Book your apartment, never move into it and just share the rental fee my employer is going to pay as a part of my business trip expenses. You can just have some money for doing nothing. If you are interested, please get back to me soon. Text me in whattsap. This is my numbra pluus oonnnee ssevven thrre ttwwwo thhrree ssiixx zzeroo siixx niinee ninne ffiifee. Waiting for an answer.

128 Replies

Re: Beware the "Let's split the payment" scam

in
Rome, Italy
Level 5

@Rich-and-Yan0 @Pilar1 In truth I tell you that I refused this businessman's request indicating as a reason that I did not feel comfortable with the message received, I wrote that it was definitely a scam and the day after the request both the message and the profile had disappeared from my administration page. Sometimes Airbnb does something, the bare minimum, but it does. 

Re: Beware the "Let's split the payment" scam

in
Hong Kong
Level 10

@Marco65 That's good to know. Maybe I should have followed up my attempt to flag the guest with an email to Airbnb. They get criticised for a lot of things, but in my experience, Airbnb generally do follow up with hosts' email requests for the most part. I've had one or two support staff who haven't been as good as others, but 80% of my experience writing to them has yielded responses from people who genuinely seemed like they wanted to help, and in most cases did. So I'll keep that in mind if I ever encounter anything like this again. Cheers.

Re: Beware the "Let's split the payment" scam

in
Eastbourne, United Kingdom
Level 1

Alex who was the first scam attempt at the beginning of this thread messaged me today with a similar message to his original and with a number in black circles. I have declined and reported to airbnb and suggested they should have been able to block this effort.

 

Re: Beware the "Let's split the payment" scam

in
London, United Kingdom
Level 10

@Rich-and-Yan0  I must admit I haven’t read the whole thread so didn’t see that particular one. You were lucky getting a response, I didn’t even get that, and as you mention at least these two reports happened well before their current work overload due to the pandemic. As a victim of fraud, although many years ago, I cannot understand that big corporations don’t take it seriously enough and get really annoyed with their complacency. Fraudsters will never stop trying, I just heard  today that Google are receiving 18 million reports per day, many of them Covid related, so keep alert and be safe.

Re: Beware the "Let's split the payment" scam

in
Hong Kong
Level 10

@Pilar1 , if you look at the first reply from @Susan17 below, the article she attached outlines specifically how the fraudsters are now trying to claim that they are "medical specialists" in order to scam hosts. It's really tragic, and shows just how low these characters will go to steal from innocent people during desperate times. 

Re: Beware the "Let's split the payment" scam

Level 7

I do think Airbnb should vet guests more than just an email and phone number.

Re: Beware the "Let's split the payment" scam

in
Hong Kong
Level 10

@Yiwei3 Yes, I agree. Although we hosts do have the option ourselves to ask for more credentials than that if they want to book with us. But yes, weak requirements to sign up does ultimately open the doors for the scammers to come in. I just wish they would do a better job of kicking them out once we have flagged them.

Re: Beware the "Let's split the payment" scam

in
Roxas City, Philippines
Level 2

Hello, I tried to read most of your comments since I received the message today inquiring to stay at my place in two days, from April 28-May 18, for 20 days, with a "never check-in and share-a-rental-fee" proposition, in the midst of covid 19 quarantine. I just responded that I don't seem to understand what the "never check-in and share-a-rental-fee" proposition is and I am not comfortable accepting guests or reservations at this time until the enhanced community quarantine is over. Then I searched the vvaz zap that was given to me to send her a text message, the number was posted in words like one for 1, etc. about the proposition and found articles in reddit about this scam. Thank you for sharing your experiences here. I will definitely report this to airbnb.

Re: Beware the "Let's split the payment" scam

in
Hong Kong
Level 10

@Celi0 Yes, please do so. If you saw the latest post from @Marco65 in this thread above, he said that he emailed Airbnb about it, which is something I now wish I had done. You can try flagging the guest by clicking next to their name, but I did that and they didn't remove the person. So, it might be better just to pop off a short email.

 

Anyway, I'm glad to hear that you were wise enough not to fall for this. Thanks for sharing. 

Re: Beware the "Let's split the payment" scam

in
Dublin, Ireland
Level 10

Re: Beware the "Let's split the payment" scam

in
Hong Kong
Level 10

@Susan17 Thanks for sharing. And wow, I had heard that scamming attempts in general have gone up since the pandemic started, including on Airbnb, but this is the first time I'd heard about someone claiming to be a "disease specialist" coming to bring assistance.

 

I think the most worrisome part of that article, though, was this point:

 

And that’s it. I haven’t heard back since. My inbox is still flooded with spam. They keep coming in. It’s irritating for me, but again, the real problem is that spammers and scammers are running rampant on Airbnb and the company cannot keep up with the influx of incoming messages.

 

Clearly, this is not a problem that is going away any time soon, and so I really hope that Airbnb comes up with a solution for it. Meanwhile, we hosts have to continue being vigilant and watching each other's backs.

 

Thanks a lot for sharing.

Re: Beware the "Let's split the payment" scam

in
Dublin, Ireland
Level 10

@Rich-and-Yan0 

I had a top US Computer Security expert, whose company has many high-level contracts, including with the US Govt, as a guest early last year. At the time, there was a high volume of scam reports on the site, so I asked him what he knew about Airbnb's security systems, and he literally laughed out loud. What he told me about them, would make your hair stand on end, and when I asked why a multi-billion dollar global corporation wouldn't have top-of-the-range systems in place to prevent potential breaches, he said simply, "They don't want to spend the money"

 

The reality is, there's very little (or nothing, actually) that we as hosts can do to prevent these kinds of scams, but as you say, the best we can do to look out for each other, is just to let other hosts know that they're going on, and warn them to be on the lookout.

 

Below is another interesting 2019 article by former Washington Post investigative reporter turned computer and internet security guru, Brian Krebs, on a relatively new software being peddled by criminals, that facilitates a different kind of scam to the ubuquitous money-laundering ruse, that has also been rampant on the platform for many years.

 

Landlordz Service Powers Airbnb Scams

https://krebsonsecurity.com/2019/04/land-lordz-service-powers-airbnb-scams/

 

Re: Beware the "Let's split the payment" scam

in
Hong Kong
Level 10

@Susan17 Geez, that's another bad one. My guess is that scammers and fraudsters have around since humanity has been around, though, and so we all have to be on our guard at all times--because as this shows, their attempts at scamming people out of money are only getting more and more sophisticated.

 

Thanks again for sharing. Stay safe.

Re: Beware the "Let's split the payment" scam

in
London, United Kingdom
Level 2

Hello!!

 

this just happened to me. A guy called Martin sent me a request for tomorrow to stay for a month, for business. He said we would not stay at my place but at his friend. However, planned to get the money from the employer. All without much structure and grammar, even if I’m not native english speaker could spot this miles away. Left his encrypted number at the end with Czech Republic country code. I Reported it to Airbnb and blocked it. Then in few minutes received the notification from Airbnb that the account has been taken down. Beware!! 

Tags (1)

Re: Beware the "Let's split the payment" scam

in
Hong Kong
Level 10

@Nicole2008 Glad to hear that you were wise enough to recognise this as a scam, even when it's in a second language. And good that you reported it to Airbnb and they closed the account. More accounts will open, of course, but if we cause these scammers just a little inconvenience (and possibly save someone else from being scammed), then it's worth it.

 

Thanks for sharing. 

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