I have been using Airbnb since 2010 (wow – 7 years of constant travel) and I love it. I always recommend Airbnb to friends and colleagues. It’s just a better way to travel. Airbnb rentals are usually cheaper than a hotel, have way more amenities and help you save money while you travel. I’ve become an expert at how to pick Airbnb rentals, so I hardly ever have issues now. However, certain cities (Lisbon – I am looking at you) have gotten quite expensive. So this year, I decided it would be worth it to look at other places for rentals. One of those places was Craigslist. When we were in Colombia we used the Craiglist Colombia, it was painfully barren. But we were in Portugal so thought, “They must be more modern then craiglist colombia”. Oh we were wrong.
This is where I encountered a (many) scams, one of which was quite sophisticated. It was pretty easy for me to recognize, but this will be a guide so that you too can recognize these types of Airbnb scams and not get tricked. Just to be clear, this is not an Airbnb scam, but a Craigslist scam that takes advantage of those who have not yet used Airbnb.
(Message to criminals: Craigslist Scams are perpetrated by the worst individuals/criminal syndicates. Your mother would be ashamed of you.)
How to Recognize Craigslist Airbnb Scams
Most people have heard of Airbnb, but not everyone has used it. This is the tactic that scammers are now using is called the Craigslist Housing Scams, the goal is of course to cheat people out of money. They steal images from Airbnb or actual hotels or bnb’s, post the on Craigslist as listings and then ask people to pay on “Airbnb” which is actually a clone of the site. Avid Airbnb travelers can tell in seconds that the site is a clone, but a newbie may be fooled and end up losing money. Let’s go through the process of recognizing one of these Craigslist Airbnb Scams.
One notes this example is specifically a Lisbon Craigslist Scam but I have seen it on New York’s Craigslist Scam, Colombian Craigslist Scam and Mardid is one of the scam capitals of Europe.
Pricing is too Damn Good
The first tell that the craigslist listings we had found on Craigslist was a scam was that it was significantly cheaper than an average listing on Airbnb. Someone who often travels to a city will have a good idea of what an average monthly and daily price is. However, those who have not are at more risk to fall for a scam. They may have heard that the city was cheap, ridiculously cheap…and could fall for those amazing prices seen on Craigslist. Take a look at the two images above. The average price of an Airbnb monthly rental in Lisbon (Lisboa) is $3631. The top three images on the Craigslist screenshot are most likely fakes. Let’s look at the first. If you were to click thru, you’d see that the price is listed as €600 ($636 USD). The average nightly price for an Airbnb is $150. That would come out to $1,050 per week, so either at a weekly or monthly pricing, something is fishy here.
They Want to Take the Conversation off of Craigslist Immediately
Craigslist has encrypted emails that keep your info secure. If the listing asks you for your email immediately to communicate, they are most likely trying to get Craigslist out of the situation (no proof on Craigslist email servers). When we emailed the listing, we wanted to see what would happen, so we took the convo online. Here are the next tells on these Craigslist Airbnb scams.
The poster will ask you to vet yourself
Note those tiny little lines “I want to know more about the person who will be living in my apartment”. That turns the tables on you where you feel like you have to be good enough for them. It’s a very smart move.
Craigslist Airbnb Scams Will Tell You You can’t see the apartment
Note that the Craigslist poster makes it clear that the apartment cannot be seen. This is suspect. If you can’t see the apartment, how do you get the keys. Just another sign that something is definitely off
Craigslist Airbnb Scams Will Ask You To Book on Airbnb
This is where things get interesting. This Craigslist vacation rental scammer uses the reputation and validity of Airbnb to jump on its prey. They tell you that you can book through Airbnb. Again, most people have heard of the dashboard, so they are used to this. They will send you a link to the “Airbnb” site with a listing. Again, if you use Airbnb, it’s pretty easy to tell the site is fake, but a newbie could easily be fooled.
Do not do these things on any condition when conversing with these Scammers
- Give them your real contact information such as your cell phone number, full name, or even home address.
- Provide a bank account number to them.
- Give them a credit card, bank check, money order, bank account number or use some third party escrow service (they will ask it to hold an security deposit but really they just will disappear once you give it to them).
- Provide them with a credit score (they ask this sometimes to try and “vet” you but really they are trying to get your Social Security number and person information to sell it.
- Send them a paypal or even remotely given them your paypal account. They are using this to create a model of you to steal your money.
- Western Union them a deposit. This a favorite with scammers around the world. Western Union is crap about getting monies back from scams and these criminal know it.
Do ask to:
- Meet in Person because you cannot rent a place “sight unseen”. A face to face meeting will scare off 80% of the online scammers.
- Ask for the exact address so you can do a google maps walk around
- Do check the urls and ask why they are on craigs list vs just staying on Airbnb.
- ask for a valid text message number or phone number. Most governments track these so criminals will get scared off.
- Ask for reviews of real people. Then stalk those real people online and make sure they actually stayed in that apartment.
How to Prevent Being a Victim of a Craigslist Airbnb Scammer
Social Media Searches: In our case, I did a Google Plus, Facebook, and Google search for the scammer’s email. Nothing came up. Someone who uses Airbnb as a host will most likely be active on Social Media, so…if you can’t find profiles for that email on social, it is quite possibly a scam. Simply put their email on Facebook search & Google+. Then check to see if what the message says matches with the information that comes up (if anything does come up).
Google Image Search: Take the images for the listing. Run them through Google Image search. If you see your image come up, click it and compare the information there. We ended up finding a Facebook page for an ACTUAL BNB in Lisboa. We took the liberty of messaging them there and letting them know someone had stolen their images and was using them for a scam.
Take a Close Look at the Pictures: A look at the pictures that the scammer provided included one with the name of the BnB the images belonged to. We had already found them through reverse image search, but this confirmed the entire scam.
Check URLS: Almost looks legit, right? The URL above is the URL that was sent to me by the scammer. The URL below is the actual Airbnb URL. Let’s take a quick look at the sites now.
What does an Airbnb Clone Scam Website Look Like
The video above is a quick summary and shows what an Airbnb Scam website looks like compared to an actual Airbnb site. I hope you find this article helpful.
If you have not traveled with Airbnb yet, it’s wonderful. If you have questions about how to travel on Airbnb, leave me a comment, and if you want a credit towards your first Airbnb trip, add me as a friend and use my code here.