What are some known Guest Scams?

Level 10
Silver Spring, MD

What are some known Guest Scams?

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?

1 Best Answer
Level 3
Imperial Beach, CA

Yes, I’ve had many of those.  No history with AirBnB yet wanting to book an expensive property for months rather than monthly.  No photo and just joined.  And always Chinese.


But I’ve also had at least 4 who book, then cancel straight away.  So I wonder if this is a money washing thing.  If it is booked with a pre-paid credit card, there is no room to go back and recover damages from the guest. And money goes off and on  the card - from Chinese to US dollars - within 24 hrs.


I had one married couple, new to Air bnb, school teachers (or so they said), who said they had a young child for which our property (they said) was perfect,  who booked and cancelled within 24 hrs BECAUSE they could not get vacation time together.  Highly suspicious given that their vacation time is set in stone.


I don’t want to do instant book because I’ve been stuck with that before when I had a private booking (friend needing accommod) and could not get to the air bnb calendar in time to block out those dates.  Penalty to me.  Won’t do that again.  So now I only get enquiries from those who, for the most part,  just now joined air bnb.


Air BNB needs to screen these people better.  Just one ID is insuffient. What ID?. Address verified?  Last year these false applications were so bad that I removed the listing entirely for this property for most of the year, and then when those applications started up again, as described above, I had to remove the listing again or be accused by AirBnB of not responding.  I spent more time fending the applicants off or requesting further info and then having to justify that request, than I had time to attend to.



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117 Replies 117
Level 10
Frederick, MD

Let's see--


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. 



Well, the last one is easy to resolve. I have it in my booking requirements that guests must have a picture of themselves as their profile pic AND I require they send me pictures of their drivers licenses and the photos must match. I also require DLs for everyone on the reservation. This is stated in my listing so potential guests know my requirements before booking. 

So far I haven't had anyone refuse to provide ID, although some have tried ignoring my requests. These folks get the reminder that I need their DLs or I can't provide check in information. 

I've had 100% compliance and strangely, the bookings for secret affairs (with 2 cars from 2 different states) have all but stopped and I just get regular couples in one car.


OMG according to this I think I got through the porno shoot scam. EXACTLY what you described and I dont even know it's a scam at that time. My house never have cockroach before - never. 

I gave him 20% discount after that and the next morning he said he want 100% but I didnt let that happen. so scared 🥹

Level 10
Frederick, MD

@Anthony608 also wanted to shout out another Maryland host. I have long thought about doing a host get together at our cottage but that's gonna have to wait a bit. 

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.

Level 10
Anchorage, AK

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.

Level 10
London, United Kingdom

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??

"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.



Level 10
London, United Kingdom



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.


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?

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. 

@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. 



@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.