Five flavors of common Airbnb scams

Travelers’ most frequent complaints fall into a few categories.


February 3, 2020

Phantom “plumbing issues,” phantom damages, phantom hosts — travelers can fall into all sorts of sketchy situations on Airbnb. Last fall, Vice exposed the seedy side of the short-term rental platform. 

Sometimes, the getaway doesn’t feel like a vacation

They asked readers to send in their worst tales of Airbnb stays gone awry. Hundreds of people responded. Their complaints fall into a few big categories:

  • The bait and switch: Those “plumbing issues” usually mean you’ll be offered another place to stay — but the digs are always divier.
  • The 3rd-party payment racket: Some hosts asked guests to pay outside of the app. Pro tip: If your host asks you to pay in Bitcoin, run.
  • The damages deception: Including the host who tried to charge a guest $2k to clean up a coffee stain on the carpet. 
  • The 5-star shakedown: Some travelers said their hosts strong-armed them into leaving good reviews.
  • Guests can suck, too: Airbnb angst is a 2-way street. Some hosts said it’s notoriously hard to get the company to reimburse them when the guest breaks the shower-curtain rod.

They’re trying to stop the swindlers

After the investigation was published, the company made a pledge to verify all listings on its platform by the end of this year.

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