Danielle McCarthy

Domestic Travel

Family of seven lose $16,000 in Airbnb scam

Family of seven lose $16,000 in Airbnb scam

A family who paid $16,000 for an Airbnb rental are the latest victims of a fake listing.

Police are investigating the scam but say their hands are tied as the family paid via an international bank transfer to a third party.

The New Zealand Herald reported that the Spanish family is one of several victims who have lost large amounts of money through a scam which asks customers to stray from the usual Airbnb payment system.

Amaia Ros, 19,  and her family are calling on Airbnb to improve host vetting after they realised they were scammed by a fake listing in Auckland.

The family, who live in Barcelona, arrived in New Zealand in August for a short time to prepare for a long-term move.

The family of seven had stayed in two rentals through Airbnb before finding out the third property was a scam.

They had paid to stay in the fake listing from September 6 until the end of November – which amassed to a fee of $15,600.

Her parents were “sad and worried” after the realisation of the scam set in, spending years of savings to visit New Zealand.

“Thankfully we have enough money to stay ... but imagine if this happens to a family that doesn’t have the money. We were thinking of going back to Spain because of this, but then we met very lovely people and the community that helped us,” Ros said.

Quickly, a group of community members rallied to donate a discounted rental home with furniture organised by Harcourts agent Rachael Bridger.

Various dinners were dropped off to the grateful family who have since returned to Spain.

How to avoid an Airbnb scam

Airbnb users pay for their stays up front through the website. If guests pay directly to third parties rather than through Airbnb, they violate the policy and are no longer eligible for refunds. Hosts and tenants both receive endorsements through reviews.

A spokesman for Airbnb stood by the website’s security and said hosts had to provide their name, date of birth, photos, phone numbers and email addresses. The platform also uses predictive analytics to evaluate and stop suspicious activity.

“When we detect potentially concerning behaviour our team takes a range of actions including removing a user from the platform entirely,” the spokesman said. “Building a safe, trusted community is our priority.”

New Zealand’s Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment’s Consumer Protection manager Mark Hollingsworth said accommodation scams are becoming more sophisticated.

“If a consumer communicates directly with an accommodation host or makes any payments outside of the Airbnb online payment platform, they are no longer protected by the site’s terms and conditions. If a consumer is encouraged to do this, it could be a scam.”