How to spot scams on Airbnb and other letting sites
Our expert advice will help you make sure your holiday accommodation really exists
Holiday booking fraud is on the rise. According to police statistics, holidaymakers were conned out of £6.7m in 2017. Some victims lost thousands of pounds booking holiday-let apartments or villas that didn't really exist.
So before you book with Airbnb, Holiday Lettings or Homeaway, take a look at our top tips on how to spot fake listings.
Listings with the host’s email or phone number
This is a dead giveaway. Both Airbnb and Holiday Lettings ban direct contact outside of their mail systems to deter fraudsters (and protect their commission). They are able to detect and automatically remove obvious attempts to include email addresses, but fraudsters have found ways to beat these checks – for example, by adding an email to the property photo or description and suggesting you contact them directly, often to get a better deal.
Hosts that suggest you avoid paying through the website
Avoid any listing that asks you to pay outside of internal systems. The most common scam is to ask people to send payment by bank transfer.
URLs sent by email
We’ve seen several imitation Airbnb websites set up by scammers that look utterly convincing. If you’re asked to log into your account via email, go to airbnb.co.uk or holidaylettings.co.uk and do it there. Don’t click on 5airbnb.com or any other similar-looking URL. Want to know which companies you can trust? Read the results of our best and worst hotel booking sites.
Properties that look too good, or too cheap, to be true
They probably are. Try a reverse image search on photos of the property (on Chrome browsers, right click on the image on your mouse and choose ‘search Google for image’). Many scammers use the same picture for several listings. If you find the same picture being used for several properties, it’s probably a scam.
Property listings with no guest reviews
These might just be new listings but, if you’re unsure, why take the risk? Genuine hosts will usually have many reviews of stays at their property. See our guide on how to spot a fake review for more advice.
Multiple listings on one profile
We saw one Airbnb account with 63 listings on it – 62 of them were fakes with email addresses embedded. The real owner’s account had been hacked. There are genuine agents with several listings using holiday-let websites but, if in doubt, look for hosts with a single listing. If you do get caught out by a fake listing, see our advice on how to get your money back after a scam.
For travel advice, recommendations and inspiration, subscribe to Which? Travel magazine