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?
AirBnB did not pay us for a guests' extension as they themselves did not get paid! The scammers know to book with just enough funds to pay the initial reservation. Then, any alteration (extension) get confirmed and approved without payment first. Now Air BnB won't pay us for the second booking as they did not collect.
I am hosting for almost 5 or 6 years. From time to time I would get guests and it's usually around each year in March and April, for some reason, the guest would be very nice at the beginning of his/her stay and we would get along pretty well, surprisingly well, they would even mention that they want to extend their stay, I would be so happy, because it's so easy to host them and I can talk with them, it's almost entertaining. When the last day of their stay comes, they would disappear with the keys and not extend their stay, come back home very late around 2am, wake up early and leave with the keys again and come back late again, on the third day they would send me a short text, how busy they are and they are soooo happy to be early at home tonight, so we can talk about their extension. I would revise them to place their booking and because my calendar is always on insta book, sometimes I would even get a new booking, because I would be so fed up with them exploiting. Sometimes they get angry at me, because I didn't said that I have a new guest, some would even demand that I cancel on the new guest, some would even try not to return my keys. And the worst once are offering me cash, but they forgot that they already own me money for the other couple days they were here for free, so I remind them to accept the extra charges, I sent them through airbnb, they claim, they never received those. Basically, guest is mind gaming. Just yesterday my latest guest tried the same: he so badly needed a place to stay. He even wanted the whole month, but he wanted it for 1/4 of the regular rental pricing, his argument was, I have during this difficult times no chance to get anyone else, and all places around me are way cheaper because the landlords forgive rent. My landlord did't forgave me any cent! I do not block any day/ hour for words, if the guest doesn't places extension, I simple don't care, I just take on a new booking. The part with getting the keys back is very difficult I need to say. I have been changing my locks probably once a year, sometimes I even don't ask them to return my keys, I just change my locks.
At the moment what bothers me a lot is, I have guests from other states, who think for some reason that the real estate in New York is getting cheaper, they tell me that landlords forgive rent, well it wasn't my landlord! At the moment I even don't cover the actual rental costs, even if I would host almost every day. Airbnb is cheaper as rental costs. This is why guest liking it, because I pay for my guests to stay here. I am upset about it. I give myself time till November and if this continues in the same manner, I will just move and my landlord will probably need to go down with his rent on his places, so I am kind of happy about it, that he looses it too. I haven't received any state or government help during this pandemic and I am so fed up with all this situation, it's very expensive time for me, I paid the entire pandemic out of my pockets. It's even funny to me that the guests think the real estate is cheaper in New York now. They think like that, because they scroll through airbnb listings and get happy, but they don't understand who is holding it, it's definitely not achievement of my landlord. I am going to be soooo happy when my landlord realizes that he will loose after I may lost this battle. I cannot wait. Over all the years of hosting, my landlord enriched himself too indirectly on airbnb, I could never find a roommate for that overpriced place I have, This are thousands he made with me and others, do you think he helped me during the pandemic, no, he kept enriching himself. The entire industrial block here got gentrified with airbnb, it's not because the landlords do something better, it's because hosts are working for that.
There is the fake cockroach scam. Never happened to me but other hosts have had it happen and posted about it. Guest has plastic cockroaches and takes a pic of them in a clean space to claim its not/get a free night/stay.
The porno shoot scam. Again not happened to me, but my friend who hosts in LA has it all the time. One night "honeymoon" booking but the camera crew shows up. She has stopped hosting one night stays.
The mail scam. Using an Airbnb to establish an address and take out fraudulent credit cards or dodge creditors/work some kind of identity theft angle to order expensive things and not pay for them but have them shipped to the address. All kinds of ways to use the mail to scam. We only host short stays but even so I suspect we have had a guest or two use or place for this.
Meth cooking scam. Not that its happened to us, but I have heard increasingly that Airbnbs are great temporary meth labs. You can thank Breaking Bad and Vamonos Pest for that idea.
Vagabond guest scam. This is a guest with no fixed address who uses Airbnb as a modern day equivalent to being a hobo riding the rails. They show up, stay for a bit on a longer term stay and then disappear leaving without paying for the whole thing and no true address. Again my LA host friend has had many of these guests.
The Affair to Remember (or forget...) We get these folks. I don't know if its a scam per se, but there is some shady action. Guests arrive separately, are very circumspect about using their names or allowing both to be identified. Don't sign the guest book. Leave separately. Ask a lot about privacy, don't have a profile picture, ask if you refrain from naming them in a review or reviewing at all.
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.
@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.
@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.
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.
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??