Beware the "Let's split the payment" scam

in
Hong Kong
Level 10
6,693 Views

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
England, United Kingdom
Level 10

@Rich-and-Yan0 sounds like a badly worded plan to defraud their employer.

You're well out of it.

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

in
Hong Kong
Level 10

@Mike-And-Helen0 You're right, but my guess--and that of most other hosts who have replied, it seems--is that there was no actual employer to begin with, and that this was just an attempt to defraud us into sending him half of the payment that would never arrive. 

 

Either way, it's all bad news. Cheers.

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

in
Bali, Indonesia
Level 4

Dear Rich, thank you for sharing this with the community - It certainly has flags all over it!!

We see them coming as well a mile away - check out below the one we received this morning (and receive regularly).

Perfect example of phishing and quite tricky if you are not alert - I have replaced the fraudulent link with happy faces but it basically takes you to a fake Airbnb place of your accommodation - looks exactly like Airbnb site - just the url not matching.

 

Hello,
I am Alexandra , nice to meet you , I got your email from my sister who was on holiday to your accomodation last year and she was very pleased about your place.
Can you confirm if this is yours 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂
I would be interested for a 2 weeks period.
Thanks in advance for fast response !

 

I have obviously reported this through the "real" Airbnb site.

 

Happy Hosting!!

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

in
Hong Kong
Level 10

@Donna519 Thank you as well for the heads up on this one. And so interesting that your, um, "person" was Alexandra and mine was Alexander. I think the phishers need to dig a little further into the dictionary, beyond the "As," for more names, lol.

 

I was wondering how you reported this attempt, as it has never happened to me and I can't seem to find much specific information on the internet or the Airbnb site. Please advise if you have a minute, as we need to make Airbnb aware that this is going on. 

 

Thanks again. 🙂

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

in
Greece
Level 1

This has already happened... they are now at "O". O like Oleg... 😄

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

in
London, United Kingdom
Level 10

Thank you for sharing... Bad people are always looking for a new way to screw you, so we need to be alert. 

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

in
Hong Kong
Level 10

@Elsa64 Yes, you're absolutely right, and they are always trying to come up with new ways. That's why we have to have each other's backs. 

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

in
London, United Kingdom
Level 10

I'd actually heard this one before, @Rich-and-Yan0. But I suppose if it wasn't a scam (which it clearly is), you're unlikely to trust somebody who's happy to screw his employer so brazenly.

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

in
Hong Kong
Level 10

@Gordon0 We said exactly the same thing--and in fact, that's what I said to the so-called guest, politely, when I wrote back (since, of course, we still have to respond or be penalised by the algorithm for not doing so). So I more or less said that we wouldn't feel comfortable booking in someone who was trying to defraud his employer, and that even without looking up the rules on codes and practices for Airbnb, I was quite certain that doing this would be in violation of them. 

 

Cheers.

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

in
Somerville, MA
Level 10

@Rich-and-Yan0  Well known scam. The payment will appear to enter your bank account, you send them half, and then the bank discovers that the "cashier's check" that you deposited is a fraud.

 

SCAM!

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

in
Hong Kong
Level 10

@Susan151 Ah, good to know. You've obviously been in the game longer than we have, and like with anything, experience generally proves to be the best teacher--even with scammers. Thanks for sharing. 

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

in
Somerville, MA
Level 10

@Rich-and-Yan0  I first witnessed this scam over 20 years ago on Craigslist, an online marketplace. Always worth asking about these types of things in a forum so you don't get taken.

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

in
Hong Kong
Level 10

@Susan151 You're so right. My first instinct, after concluding that this must be a scam, was that I would put out here on the hosts' forum, partially to make other hosts aware and partially to get feedback from people like you who might have seen something like this before. Thanks for reassuring me that doing so was the right course of action. 🙂

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

in
Chicago, IL
Level 10

@Rich-and-Yan0 there should be a report user link on the left-hand side of the screen. Once you click on that, you are able to report that message and also will no longer need to reply to keep up your response rate.

 

Thank you for posting this. Since none of us take payments directly, I thought we are immune from this scam as this seems to be variation of very well known “I’ll pay you and you give me some of the money back” scam “because I have a cashiers check for around amount from my employer to cover all of my expenses at the same time”. However, your thought that they would just cancel shortly after is putting a new spin on it.

Join the conversation