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The Complete Guide to Airbnb Scams by Guests: How to Identify and Prevent

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Welcome to the world of Airbnb, where travelers find one-of-a-kind accommodations and property owners seize lucrative investment opportunities. 

As a host, you're looking to offer your guests the best experience while protecting your interests. But, as with any online platform, Airbnb is not immune to scams orchestrated by guests. 

In this comprehensive guide, we will equip you with the knowledge and tools to confidently identify and prevent Airbnb scams, so you can focus on providing your guests with an exceptional experience.

Common Airbnb Scams:

As an Airbnb host, you must be aware of the common Airbnb scams used by fraudulent guests to exploit hosts. 

Following are some of the most common scams we have researched and compiled to ensure you remain vigilant and informed:

Unauthorized Additional Guests: 

In this scam, potential guests book a property for a certain number of occupants but secretly bring additional people to the accommodation without the host's knowledge or consent. This can result in overcrowding, excessive wear and tear, and potential violation of local regulations.

Communication Outside the Platform: 

In this scam, guests attempt to contact hosts privately through WhatsApp, text messaging, or other means of communication outside of Airbnb. By doing so, they aim to circumvent the platform's policies, negotiate special deals, or carry out fraudulent activities without leaving a trace on Airbnb.

Even worse, the guest will send an inquiry about specific dates but requests payment outside of the Airbnb platform, often citing technical issues or the urgency to secure the property. Accepting payment outside of Airbnb leaves you without protection or recourse if things go awry.

The 'Overpayment' Scam:

airbnb overpayment scam

The guest intentionally overpays for their booking and requests a refund, asking the host to wire the difference to a third party, typically via Venmo or PayPal. However, the guest's payment method is likely fraudulent, and the host is left empty-handed when the refund never materializes.

The 'Fake Profile' or 'Fake Guest' Scam

This scam involves guests creating fake profiles or using stolen identities to book properties. These profiles often lack reviews, photos, and complete bios and harbor malicious intentions. The guest may use the property for parties, cause damage, or refuse to leave, attempting to extort the host for refunds or compensation.

The 'Last Minute Cancellation' Scam

Fraudulent guests book a property and cancel at the last minute, usually with an excuse such as a health emergency. They may repeat this tactic, hoping to wear down the host and receive an unjustified refund.

Credit Card Chargeback Scam

This scam involves guests disputing a charge on their credit card after their stay, falsely claiming they never authorized the transaction. This can result in a reversal of the payment, leaving the host without compensation for the booking.

Refusing to Pay for Damages

In this scenario, the scammers will cause damage to the property but refuse to accept responsibility or pay for the necessary repairs. They may deny causing the damage or claim it was pre-existing, leaving hosts to bear the financial burden of the repairs.

Exploiting Situations

Unscrupulous guests may use natural disasters to manipulate hosts into allowing parties or large gatherings. They may claim they are organizing a gathering for displaced individuals or a fundraiser for disaster relief, only for the host to discover later the event was a party causing damage to the property.

How to spot Airbnb scams by guests?

By paying attention to red flags, you can identify potential scams more easily. Keep an eye out for these warning signs when interacting with prospective guests:

Poor communication: 

Be cautious if a person communicates in broken language, evades your questions, or makes unreasonable demands.

Unverified profile:

A guest with an incomplete profile, no reviews, or fabricated details should raise concerns.

Incomplete payment:

Airbnb refund scam

If a guest's payment doesn't process or they request an unusual method, it's a sign that something is amiss.

Unusual requests: 

Guests asking for your email, phone number, or social media accounts may be attempting to contact you outside of Airbnb, which is against the platform's policy.

Suspicious activities: 

Be wary of guests who refuse to follow house rules, bring additional guests to vacation rental, or make unreasonable refund requests.

Proactive Measures by Airbnb host to Ward Off Scammers:

Implement these robust measures to safeguard your property and business from fraudulent guests:

Use a Guest Screening Solution

Invest in a guest screening solution like Autohost, which automates the vetting process by analyzing and verifying guest information, assessing potential risks, and flagging suspicious bookings. This allows you to focus on legitimate guests while maintaining the security and integrity of your property.

Guests with complete profiles only

Ensure guests have completed their profile information, including name, photo, phone number, email address, and a verifiable government ID. This allows you to verify their identity before accepting a reservation request.

Check all payment methods

Confirm the guest's payment is fully processed and verified through the Airbnb platform before accepting their booking. Never accept payment outside the platform, as it exposes you to risks and leaves you without recourse in case of issues.

Get in touch with your guests

Establish a rapport with your guests through the Airbnb messaging system, clarifying doubts and ensuring all necessary details are discussed in advance. Stick to the platform for communication to minimize security risks.

Find out what other hosts have to say

Read all the reviews from previous hosts to gauge the guest's reliability, respectfulness, and reasonableness. Be cautious with guests who have no review history or numerous negative reviews.

Refunding overpayments with extra caution

If a guest claims to have overpaid and requests a refund, take your time to investigate the situation before issuing a full refund. Verify the legitimacy of the overpayment and follow Airbnb's guidelines on refunds.

Implement Strict Cancellation Policies

Establish a strict cancellation policy to deter guests who may attempt to exploit last-minute cancellations for refunds. By setting clear expectations, you can minimize the chances of encountering the 'Last Minute Cancellation' scam.

Familiarize Yourself with Airbnb Policies

Stay informed about Airbnb's policies, terms of service, and best practices for hosting. Understanding the platform's rules and regulations ensures that you operate within the guidelines and can seek support if needed.

Document Everything

Maintain thorough documentation of all communication, transactions, and agreements with your guests. This record will prove invaluable in resolving disputes or defending your case in the event of a scam.

Trust Your Instincts

Trust your instincts if something feels off about a guest or their booking request. It's better to be cautious and decline a reservation than to fall victim to a scam.

By implementing these strategies, you can effectively minimize your exposure to Airbnb scams and focus on providing exceptional experiences for your guests. With a proactive approach, due diligence, and a confident understanding of potential risks, you can protect your property and investment while enjoying the benefits of Airbnb hosting.


Learn how to screen your guests