Navigate Safely: Top Ways to Identify and Avoid Airbnb Scams

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As an Airbnb user, you need to know about the scams that threaten your travel plans. This article delves into the most common Airbnb scams, equipping you with the knowledge to spot and sidestep them, ensuring a safer booking experience.

Key Takeaways – Airbnb Scams

  • A diverse range of Airbnb scams impact hosts and guests, including false advertising, unauthorised charges, identity theft, and bait-and-switch tactics.

  • Airbnb users should always communicate and make transactions through the official platform and perform diligent checks such as verifying host profiles, property details, and using reverse image search on property images.

  • Airbnb encourages documenting any issues during stays and offers support via its Resolution Centre, and it is imperative for users to protect their privacy and security by checking for hidden cameras and safeguarding personal information.

Understanding Common Airbnb Scams

Illustration of a person browsing through Airbnb listings on a laptop, concerned about beciming a victime of an Airbnb Scams

Airbnb scams cover a wide spectrum, including:

  • False advertising

  • Unauthorised charges

  • Identity theft via account hacking

  • Discriminatory practices

Airbnb scams can have a significant impact on both hosts and guests, making it all the more important to be aware of them. Nearly a quarter of all complaints related to Airbnb are connected to scams, which can lead to financial loss, identity theft, and a negative Airbnb rental experience.

Unmasking an Airbnb scam requires a careful and diligent approach. New accounts with a limited number of excessively positive reviews or hosts who are unresponsive to property-related concerns can be red flags for scammers. Bear in mind, scammers may distort reviews by fabricating fake accounts to post positive comments. Therefore, thorough verification of all information and documenting the property with photographs or videos upon both arrival and departure are crucial steps towards scam prevention.

Fake Listings

Photo of a person looking disappointed in front of a non-existent property

Fake listings are a common Airbnb scam where fraudulent hosts deceive guests by creating non-existent properties or using stolen images to trick them into booking a fake listing and paying outside the platform. These scams are designed to ensnare unsuspecting guests, often offering discounted rates or other incentives to make the fraudulent Airbnb listing seem more appealing. To avoid falling victim to fake Airbnb listings, always book through the official platform and verify the authenticity of the property.

Guests can spot phony listings by questioning odd angles, digitally altered amenities, and nonexistent views. Avoid making payments through wire transfers, bank transfers, or money orders outside the platform; this could result in Airbnb account hacking.

Phishing Scams

Illustration of a person receiving a suspicious message on a laptop

Phishing scams are another common Airbnb scam. Here’s how they work:

  1. Airbnb scammers use fake emails or messages that request personal information, posing as Airbnb.

  2. They try to illicitly obtain sensitive data from unsuspecting guests.

  3. These scams can lead to serious consequences, including identity theft and financial loss.

If you become a phishing scam victim, consider taking the following steps:

  1. Seek legal advice

  2. Perform all online transactions using a credit card for better fraud protection

  3. Use identity theft protection services to monitor potential fraudulent activities.

Bait-and-Switch Tactics

Photo of a luxurious Airbnb listing and a substandard property, there are concerns of an AirBNB Scams

Bait-and-switch tactics are another type of Airbnb scam where hosts entice guests with appealing listings, only to substitute the offer with lower-quality properties upon arrival. This underhanded tactic can leave guests in an uncomfortable and frustrating situation.

If you become a bait-and-switch tactic victim, make sure any agreement for a partial refund is arranged through the Airbnb app before consenting. If the situation is entirely unacceptable, promptly reach out to Airbnb’s customer support team for assistance.

Protecting Yourself from Fraudulent Hosts

Shielding yourself from deceptive hosts is fundamental in guaranteeing a safe and pleasurable Airbnb experience. To avoid airbnb scams, here are some steps you can take to minimise the risk of falling victim to scams:

  1. Carefully evaluate host profiles before booking a stay.

  2. Maintain all communication within the Airbnb platform to ensure transparency and accountability.

  3. Verify property details, such as location and amenities, before making a reservation.

By following these steps, you can have a more secure and enjoyable experience using Airbnb, just like many successful airbnb users and hosts.

Always assess host profiles by conducting thorough research on the host and listing, reviewing feedback from previous guests, and verifying the host’s verification status. It’s also important to utilise Airbnb’s messaging system for all communications, as it provides a record of all conversations and ensures protection under Airbnb’s policies.

Finally, confirm all property contact details, and report any warning signs to Airbnb without delay.

Evaluating Host Profiles

Assessing host profiles and login credentials is a significant measure to protect yourself from scams. You can verify a host’s verification status by searching for the ID verification badge on the host’s profile. This badge signifies that the host has submitted ID, proof of address, and a personal photo, which can provide an added layer of security.

When assessing a host’s reviews, look out for an absence of reviews or a pattern of very negative reviews or feedback, as these could suggest potential issues with the host or the property. Also, take note of the host’s response rate. A high response rate indicates the host’s engagement and reliability in communicating with guests.

Communication Best Practices

Effective communication is vital when reserving a property on Airbnb. Always communicate through Airbnb’s messaging system to ensure all conversations are documented, which can be crucial in resolving potential disputes. Any attempts to communicate or make payments outside of the Airbnb platform should be reported immediately, as they can lead to scams and potential legal complications.

If a host attempts to redirect communication or payment outside of Airbnb, it’s important to flag the suspicious activity or messages and contact Airbnb customer service to report the misconduct.

Always remember, your safety and security are paramount.

Verifying Property Details

Confirming property details is an additional significant measure in protecting yourself from scams. It’s crucial to thoroughly examine the home information, photos, and host’s profile for any warning signs. Also, ensure the accuracy of all details provided in the listing to prevent falling prey to fraudulent activities.

Woman checking laptop as she is concerned she has become a victim of one of the AirBNB scams

When reviewing the property details, look for listings with a substantial number of positive reviews and carefully consider more recent reviews to confirm their consistency with the advertised property details. Lastly, be wary of single listing of properties that appear overly appealing or are priced unusually low, as these could be indicators of a potential scam.

Detecting Deceptive Property Images

Another prevalent strategy employed by fraudsters involves using misleading property images. By performing a reverse image search and checking reviews for mentions of photo accuracy, you can detect if the listing’s photos are genuine or stolen from other sources. You can perform a reverse image search using tools like Google Images or TinEye. This can help you ascertain the authenticity of listing photos, and determine if they have been doctored, or plagiarised from other sources, potentially indicating a fraudulent scheme.

Also, scrutinise the reviews to see if prior guests have noted inconsistencies between the same property listing’s images and the real property.

Reverse Image Search

A reverse image search can prove beneficial while assessing a property’s visuals. As mentioned previously, you can use platforms like Google Images or TinEye to perform a reverse image search. This tool can help identify if the images have been used elsewhere or are associated with different properties, indicating the potential presence of a scam.

To conduct a reverse image search, follow these steps:

  1. Visit Google Images or TinEye.

  2. Upload the image or paste the image URL.

  3. This can reveal if the images have been used on other sites, potentially indicating a fraudulent listing.

Remember, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

Checking Reviews for Photo Accuracy

Reviews can offer a substantial amount of data about a property, including the precision of the property images. When reading reviews, check photo accuracy to detect any discrepancies between the property images, and the actual location.

Instances of deceptive Airbnb photos can be revealed in reviews, such as photos that do not accurately represent the property in the listing or misleading photos that do not reflect the actual place. By carefully reading through the reviews, including fake reviews, you can gain valuable insights and avoid potential pitfalls.

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Navigating Illegal and Unregulated Listings

Navigating Airbnb can pose challenges, particularly when dealing with illicit and unregulated listings. It’s important to be aware of local laws and regulations, and to spot red flags in the listing or host’s behavior to ensure a safe and enjoyable stay.

Illegal and unregulated listings refer to properties that do not adhere to local laws and regulations governing short-term rentals. These listings can bring about a myriad of issues such as:

  • Legal and ethical dilemmas

  • Severe pest infestations

  • Safety risks

  • Illicit activities within the premises

Researching Local Laws

Before reserving a property, it is imperative to acquaint yourself with local laws and constraints about short-term rentals. This can ensure that the listing you are considering is legal and compliant with local regulations.

Contact local government offices for information on zoning and planning codes or city ordinances that apply to short-term rentals. Also, ensure that the vacation rental property has a license or registration number that matches the local requirements. Remember, it’s always better to be informed than to be caught off guard.

Spotting Red Flags

While going through multiple listings, stay alert for warning signs indicating a possible scam. These might include properties that appear overly appealing or are priced unusually low, listings with very few reviews or lacking guest reviews, and profiles with numerous listings.

If you come across a listing that seems too good to be true, it probably is. Always trust your instincts and conduct due diligence before making a booking. After all, your safety and peace of mind should always come first.

Handling Disputes and Resolutions

Sometimes, even with all precautions, conflicts may occur. In such cases, it’s important to handle them effectively by documenting any issues and utilising Airbnb’s Resolution Centre.

If you face any problems during your stay, it’s important to:

  1. Record the situation by capturing photos or videos.

  2. Convey the issue to your host through Airbnb messaging.

  3. If the issue remains unresolved, escalate it to Airbnb’s Resolution Center.

Documenting Issues

Recording problems that occur during your stay can aid in settling any conflicts. Use digital photography to capture photos or videos of the problems, such as missing or broken amenities, and communicate them to your host through Airbnb messaging.

When documenting the issues, focus on capturing clear photos or videos highlighting the problem. Documenting the property’s cleanliness and adherence to the listing description and ground rules is essential for potential claims or discussions with the host or Airbnb.

Utilising Airbnb’s Resolution Center

If you can’t reach a resolution with the host, you can resort to Airbnb’s Resolution Center to report the concern and request help from the platform. The Resolution Center is a platform for hosts and guests to address and resolve issues arising from a booking.

To report an issue through the Resolution Center, log in to your Airbnb account, navigate to the Resolution Center page, and click on ‘Report an Issue’ before selecting the reservation in question. If you need to also request payment or a refund, click on the ‘Request Money’ button and follow the subsequent prompts to state your case.

Ensuring Privacy and Security

Guaranteeing privacy and security during your stay is of utmost importance. This involves checking for hidden cameras and safeguarding your personal information. It’s important to remember that your privacy and security are just as important as finding the perfect Airbnb.

To guarantee your privacy, here are some steps you can take:

  1. Meticulously inspect all outlets for any dubious plugs that might conceal a camera, particularly in bedrooms and bathrooms.

  2. Always use strong, unique passwords for your online accounts.

  3. Enable two-factor authentication wherever possible.

  4. Be mindful of the personal information you share on the internet, especially on public networks.

Checking for Hidden Cameras

The notion of concealed cameras in your Airbnb can be disturbing. To ensure your privacy, it’s crucial to inspect the property for hidden cameras upon arrival. Be particularly vigilant in private areas such as bedrooms and bathrooms.

You can utilise an RF detector or even use the flashlight of your phone to search for reflective surfaces that may indicate the presence of camera lenses. Remember, your privacy is important, and it’s always better to just check out and be sure.

Safeguarding Personal Information

Safeguarding your personal data is vital while using online platforms such as Airbnb. Using strong, unique passwords for your online accounts and enabling multi-factor authentication can greatly enhance the security of your personal and financial information too.

When setting a password, ensure it is lengthy, uses a combination of characters, and avoids common words and phrases. Also, be mindful of the personal information you share online, especially on public networks. Remember, your safety and security are paramount.


In conclusion, while Airbnb offers a unique and appealing alternative to traditional accommodations, it’s vital to be aware of potential scams and take preventative measures. By understanding common Airbnb scams, evaluating host profiles, verifying property details, detecting deceptive or inaccurate property descriptions and images, navigating illegal listings, handling disputes effectively, and ensuring privacy and security, you can enjoy a safe and enjoyable Airbnb experience.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it common to get scammed on Airbnb?

Yes, it is common to encounter Airbnb scams, including risks like title theft, fake reviews, misrepresented listings, and account hacking. Be cautious to avoid falling victim to these scams.

Can Airbnb be trusted?

Yes, Airbnb can be trusted as it has protocols in place to prevent scams and filters out fraudulent users. It is important to follow safety guidelines such as not sharing personal contact information and paying through the platform.

Can I trust Airbnb with no reviews?

It’s best to get bad reviews and avoid a property with no reviews or several negative ones. Additionally, make sure the property address Airbnb fits the criteria of being operated by a Superhost before booking to ensure it’s a quality listing.

How can you tell if Airbnb reviews are fake?

You can tell if Airbnb reviews are fake by looking for clues such as the time frame for reviews, patterns in language and tone, consistency in the guest’s and other guests’ reviews, their Airbnb history, profile picture, and review content. You can also use advanced tools to detect fake reviews.

What are some common Airbnb scams?

Be vigilant for fake listings, phishing Airbnbscams, and bait-and-switch tactics when using vacation rental site, Airbnb. Always verify the legitimacy of the rental before making any payments.

Is Airbnb still trustworthy?

Yes, Airbnb remains a trustworthy platform for millions of users worldwide. Like any large online marketplace, it is not immune to scams, Airbnb has implemented robust measures to ensure the safety and security of its users. These include secure payment systems, a comprehensive user verification process, and a dedicated customer support team

Can I trust Airbnb with no reviews?

While many Airbnb listings without reviews are legitimate, especially new ones, it’s important to exercise caution. Hosts have to start somewhere, and a lack of reviews doesn’t necessarily mean the listing is one of the Airbnb scams. However, you should take extra steps to ensure your safety.

What Airbnb scams to watch out for?

It is important to be aware of potential Airbnb scams to protect yourself. Here are some common scams to watch out for:

Phishing – Airbnb scams: Scammers may send emails or messages that look like they’re from Airbnb, asking for your personal information or login details. Always check the sender’s email address and never click on suspicious links.
Fake Listings: Some listings on Airbnb might be fake. Be wary of listings with prices that seem too good to be true, lack of reviews, or overly generic descriptions. Always read reviews and check the host’s profile.
Overpayment Scam: A scammer may book your property and ‘accidentally’ overpay, then ask for the excess to be returned. Later, their initial payment is revealed to be fraudulent, leaving you out of pocket.
Bait and Switch: A host may advertise a property but upon arrival, you find the property is significantly different from the listing, or you’re taken to a different, lower-quality location.
Payment Outside Airbnb: Be cautious if a host asks you to make a payment outside the Airbnb platform, such as direct bank transfers or cash. Always make payments through Airbnb’s secure system.
Advance Fee Scam: Scammers might ask for a deposit or full payment in advance, promising keys by mail or a meeting in person, only to disappear once the payment is made.
Third-Party Booking: Be cautious of hosts who say they’re booking on behalf of a friend or relative. This can be a setup for a scam.

Useful External Websites

  1. Action Fraud (National Fraud & Cyber Crime Reporting Centre)
    • Website:
    • Description: Action Fraud is the UK’s national reporting centre for fraud and cybercrime. If you’ve been scammed, ripped off, or conned, this is the place to report it. They provide a central point of contact for information about fraud and financially motivated internet crime.
  2. Citizens Advice
    • Website:
    • Description: Citizens Advice offers free, independent, confidential, and impartial advice to everyone on their rights and responsibilities. They have specific guidance on how to deal with scams and can advise on the steps to take if you’ve been a victim of an Airbnb scam.
  3. Financial Conduct Authority (FCA)
    • Website:
    • Description: The FCA regulates the financial services industry in the UK. While they do not directly deal with Airbnb scams, they can be a useful resource if the scam involves financial fraud or unauthorised payments.
  4. Trading Standards
    • Website: Contact through local council
    • Description: Trading Standards enforces consumer protection legislation. They deal with complex consumer problems and potential criminal activities. You can report a scam to your local Trading Standards office through your local council.
  5. Airbnb’s Own Reporting System
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With over three decades of experience in the heart of London’s financial sector, I have dedicated my career to the pursuit of robust cybersecurity practices and IT leadership. As a Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP), Certified Information Security Manager (CISM), Certified Chief Information Security Officer (C|CISO), Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH), and Computer Hacking Forensic Investigator (CHFI), I bring a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the table.

My journey in the field of cybersecurity has not only been about personal growth but also about sharing my insights with others. As an international speaker, I have had the privilege of addressing audiences worldwide, discussing the importance of cybersecurity in today’s digital age. My passion for knowledge sharing extends to my work as an author and blogger, where I delve into the complexities of cybersecurity, offering practical advice and thought leadership.

In my role as a CISO and Head of IT, I have overseen the development and implementation of comprehensive information security and IT strategies. My focus has always been on creating resilient systems capable of withstanding the evolving landscape of cyber threats.

My Master’s degree in Cybersecurity has provided a solid academic foundation, which, when combined with my practical experience, allows me to approach cybersecurity from a holistic perspective.

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