4 Airbnb Host Scams (and How To Avoid Them)
Scams are rare but a scary reality of the Airbnb world. Millions of people use Airbnb every day. Unfortunately a few of those people have bad intentions. While guests are usually the victim of scams, hosts can sometimes be scammed as well. Unsuspecting hosts can get duped by fraudsters and cons. Here are some common Airbnb host scams that hosts should be aware of.
Bait And Switch
The bait and switch booking scam is one of the most common. This is a scam that impacts both hosts and guests. Guests may expect one apartment and arrive to find something very different.
Likewise, many hosts try to screen who they accept bookings from. But scams can impact even the most discerning hosts.
Sometimes guests or hosts may only want to stay with a person of a certain gender. A woman traveling alone, for example, may feel more comfortable staying with another woman. If your guest will share your living space such as the bathroom, kitchen or common areas, you might prefer to specify gender. After all, you’ll essentially be living together.
Gender switch was a common scam in the early days of Airbnb. A host or guest would lie about their gender so they could book at gender-specific locations. A gender bait-and-switch need only happen once for Airbnb to take action. It’s become less common because it’s so easy to get caught. But, that means those still doing it likely have sinister intentions.
The Party Scam
The party scam is another form of bait-and-switch. In this situation, a guest poses as a certain type of person, but turns out to be someone completely different. For instance, The guest books as a “safe” couple or single adult. When they check in, it’s a large group or even underage teenagers. Not all of these bookings result in harm done, but the fact that this was done in the first place is troubling.
There are legal and safety concerns. For example, underage drinking or other illegal activities on your property puts you at risk. You also damage your reputation with your neighbors and community.
If the person who booked your property is not the person who turns up, it is a ‘Third Party Booking’. This violates AirBnB’s terms of service, as does having more guests present than disclosed. If this happens, contact Airbnb immediately.
Service Animal Scam
Not every Airbnb listing is pet-friendly. But generally, hosts must accept assistance animals such as seeing-eye dogs. This applies to all properties, even if your listing/house rules state “no pets”. This is an important part of Airbnb’s Nondiscrimination Policy. Guests are not required to disclose the presence of service animals before booking. Hosts also can’t charge extra fees to guests with a service animal. This Airbnb policy is designed to make travel easier for everyone. But some users may take advantage of the non-discrimination policy to bring pets.
The service animal scam is a growing concern for many Airbnb hosts. It’s important not to discriminate against service animals. These animals play an important role in your guest’s ability to travel. Most hosts welcome well-trained service animals. But other assistance animals, such as emotional support animals, aren’t specially trained. Guests are also not required to provide documentation for a service animal. This leaves a loophole for scams. Some guests with regular pets may pose them as ‘service animals’ and bring them to ‘no pet’ properties.
It’s possible to deny even assistance animals under certain conditions:
- Your listing includes a shared space.
- Someone living in your space has pet allergies.
- You have a dog or other pet that doesn’t socialize well.
You should include information about any allergies or safety concerns in your listing. This will better inform prospective guests. Be clear, honest, and polite when communicating with guests about this. No pets–service or otherwise–can be left alone in the property.
Some guests are dishonest and attempt to get a full or partial refund. Guests might invent any number of things to complain about. Host forums tell stories of deliberately unplugged wifi or items being purposely damaged. You may not be able to completely prevent this kind of activity, but clear communication can derail complaints. Check in with guests regularly to inquire as to any questions or concerns. You may be able to solve problems before they become complaints. Superhosts are better able to withstand fake complaints.
How To Avoid Scams
Avoid nightmare bookings by being on guard when accepting bookings. If you don’t do the key exchange in person you are particularly susceptible to bait and switch scams. Outside cameras and noise monitoring devices can help. They help you to identify common scams like extra guests or third party bookings.
You can’t always avoid scams, so be properly insured for common contingencies. Always report scams to Airbnb and use the review system to warn other hosts.
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