I have been hosting for two years now and have seen my share of shady and suspicious guests.  I am wondering what actual scams other hosts have seen committed by potential guests.

 

The most serious scam I ever saw was what I believed to be a key-copying scam.  A man in Boston booked my room, then on the first night of the reservation, an unknown woman came to the residence and was knocking on the door, apparently unaware that the door had a keycode entry. She did not have any of the check-in instructions and had only been sent on her phone a screenshot of the home’s address. Once in the residence, the woman began asking repeatedly to be given an actual key. After several minutes of explanations, she finally understood that there was no key but rather a keycode for the door which would expire at the end of the stay. This clearly upset her a bit and she became visible nervous. She then went outside and was on her cellphone for a minute before walking away towards the local bus stop. She did not return to the residence on the first night, but closed the door to the room and left the lights on as to give the appearance that someone was in the room. Upon checkout, the room was found to be undisturbed and it did not look like anyone had slept in the beds.

 

Another, more complicated scam, involved a guest who was trying to gather information about the property without actually booking.  Over the course of six months, I received  three pre-approval booking inquiries - they all said the same thing - mainly that a guest wanted to book the room for a large number of days, was "moving into an apartment" and needed the room right away. The first of these I agreed to, since I thought I had a good opportunity for a booking and there were no real warning signs. However, the pre-approvals would then expire, and then the guest began sending numerous messages through AirBNB asking for extensive details about the house. More messages followed, asking details about did I live alone in the house, who else would be there, and also they wanted the specific street address prior to booking so they could come and see the house before booking. When I explained this was against AirBNB policy, the messages suddenly stopped. Then, several weeks later - pre-approval request again, asking about the room, moving into an apartment, need it right away, etc, etc. An obvious script which was being repeated.

 

To a lesser degree, I have received numerous questionable messages about same day bookings.  Typically strange vague messages, speaking about emergencies and needing the room right away.  Of those I've approved,  20% of them never show up and of those that do about 30% don't stay the night.  Obviously something going on.

 

What scams have other hosts seen?

47 Replies

Re: What are some common Guest Scams?

in
Silver Spring, MD
Level 10

One thing about hosting in Maryland is that I have found most of the trouble comes from single day or same day bookings for relatively new profiles listing either DC as their address or one of the really bad areas bordering up to NE/SE, such as  Hyattsville.  Nearly every serious problem guest I have ever had fits that description.  I still try to be fair and won't discriminate since there are some legitimate people in those areas who do need rooms for real reasons.

Re: What are some common Guest Scams?

in
Frederick, MD
Level 10

@Anthony608 We don't do single or same-day bookings and never have. We aren't on-site and its too hectic to get over there or get the cleaners to turn over so quickly (especially now with the COVID protocols.) So we have probably dodged quite a few bullets. Plus no one has ever heard of Keymar, MD so its probably not on the radar as much as Silver Spring. 

Re: What are some common Guest Scams?

in
Silver Spring, MD
Level 10

@Laura2592- Since my original post a year ago, I stopped approving all same day bookings as well.  They were not worth it, causing problems, and I didn't really lose any money from bookings. 

 

Same day bookings still rarely happen, mostly due to a bug in AirBNB where if someone extends right at the end of their stay, their new checkout date will be missing the one day buffer "preparation time" which prevents a guest arriving on the same day as another guest leaving.  This has, once in a blue moon to be sure, resulted in someone being able to Instant Book on the same day without me having to manually approve the reservation.

Re: What are some common Guest Scams?

in
Anchorage, AK
Level 10

One scam that I was a victim of was, the guest stayed 5 days of a 7 day stay, then on the 5th day, claimed he found "drug paraphernalia" so he demanded a full refund from Airbnb (which he received). It was a total blatant lie.

 

I now take a video of the unit, after cleaning and before the next guest checks in-I open ALL of the drawer, cupboards, fridge, oven, behind the couch, absolutely EVERYWHERE! The video has a time and date stamp and I also posted signs notifying guests that I take a video of the unit before check-in for "customer satisfaction" purposes.

Re: What are some common Guest Scams?

in
London, United Kingdom
Level 10

I've been hosting for a few years and have never been scammed, although I have reported an enquiry that appeared (and turned out) to be a scam (the type @Laura2592 mentions under mail scam).

 

I only host long-term guests now and have never had problems with payments. The only time I didn't get paid for something was with short-term guests who were supposed to pay a late check in fee and went silent after the request was sent. Airbnb told me they couldn't get hold of the guests and could not collect payment without the guest's authorisation, which seems stupid to me.

 

The late check in fee due was clear from both the listing and the correspondence with the guest, so there was no debate as to whether they owed it or not. If Airbnb can't then collect this, how are they supposed to collect from the guest's 'deposit' if there were damages and the guest doesn't respond??

Re: What are some common Guest Scams?

in
Orono, ME
Level 10

"If Airbnb can't then collect this, how are they supposed to collect from the guest's 'deposit' if there were damages and the guest doesn't respond??"

 

They can't. That's why no actual deposit exists. Hosts have to turn to Airbnb in hopes that the 1 Millon Dollar Host Guarantee will supply the funds. And we all know that is a huge gamble as well.

 

@Huma0 

Re: What are some common Guest Scams?

in
London, United Kingdom
Level 10

@Emilia42 

 

So, basically the guest has to agree in order for damages to be collected from the mythical deposit? That makes it even more pointless then.

 

I guess the only use it has is to act like some sort of deterrent for the guests who actually believe that the host/Airbnb has the power to take it. However, I think that most guests, once they realise no physical deposit is collected on booking, don't take it too seriously anymore.

Re: What are some common Guest Scams?

in
Orono, ME
Level 10

@Huma0 

Yes, if the guest denies the claim or is unresponsive that is when it goes to Airbnb, and then Airbnb decides whether or not to pay you. Airbnb doesn't take money out of the guest's bank accounts unless the guest authorizes it. Can you imagine the uproar that would create among guests?

Re: What are some common Guest Scams?

in
Grand Rapids, MI
Level 2

This information about the deposits shocked me. It's worth verifying it with AirBnb. On the other hand, AirBnB promises that the damages will be covered by the deposits. If it's a lie, it's a potential huge liability for the company. 

Re: What are some common Guest Scams?

in
Sayulita, Mexico
Level 10

@Lara1270  It's worth verifying what with Airbnb? It's a fact that Airbnb doesn't charge the deposit at the time of booking, nor put a hold on the credit card. It's also a fact that hosts have to first ask the guest to pay up, and that there is no way to force them to.

 

Why do you think it's a liability for the company? Their host guarantee is bogus, too. Never mind their promises. It's like pulling teeth to get Airbnb to cover damage costs and hosts can't force them to do that either.

 

I'm afraid you have fallen for Airbnb's  rhetoric, which doesn't match their practices. Easy to do unless you are aware of what really goes on. You need your own str insurance. 

 

 

Re: What are some common Guest Scams?

in
Grand Rapids, MI
Level 2

@Sarah977 I think you misunderstood my post. I want to call Airbnb to verify that they do not guarantee deposits as you said. I did not know that before reading your post, and I want to verify that with them.

 

It is a huge liability for the company because they advertise that they will pay deposits that cover damages.  If it's not true they have to change the wording for everybody to understand that they do not guarantee the deposits. They may be taken to court if they lie. It's a public company now and they are responsible fore each word they say. That's all I wanted to say.

Re: What are some common Guest Scams?

in
Sayulita, Mexico
Level 10

@Lara1270  No, I didn't misunderstand- I am saying that experienced hosts are well aware of the bogus security deposit and the bogus "guarantee." It's a fact, so there is nothing to verify. 

 

That they are a publicly traded company doesn't mean they can be taken to court for it. They are only beholden to their shareholders, who care about profits, not lies to hosts.

Re: What are some common Guest Scams?

in
Grand Rapids, MI
Level 2

I'm not an experienced host and prefer to verify it through Airbnb.  Do you have a problem with it?

Re: What are some common Guest Scams?

in
Sayulita, Mexico
Level 10

@Lara1270  Of course not. I'm not sure why you doubt other host's knowledge and experience, though. What you will soon find out is that Airbnb's customer service reps know next to nothing, give out completely erroneous information and bad advice, and don't even know Airbnb policy.

 

Fot that reason, most of us appreciate learning from our fellow host's experiences and knowledge. 

Re: What are some common Guest Scams?

in
Charleston, SC
Level 10

@Lara1270 

"It is a huge liability for the company because they advertise that they will pay deposits that cover damages.  If it's not true they have to change the wording for everybody to understand that they do not guarantee the deposits. They may be taken to court if they lie. It's a public company now and they are responsible fore each word they say. That's all I wanted to say."

I think this is a valid assessment to consider. I'm not a lawyer however Western Union settled a DOJ investigation for its roll in facilitating scammers. 

https://www.justice.gov/usao-ndia/pr/settlement-between-department-justice-and-western-union-will-pr...

There are many other topics about this issue. The Host Guarantee is no replacement for STR insurance. You have just as much a right to post here as anyone else. I appreciate you comments and think more host, especially new host, should feel free to express their concerns. 

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