When Anne Bradbury, an experienced Airbnb user, found what looked like the perfect flat to rent for a weekend away in Amsterdam, she emailed her friends, who quickly agreed it looked great.

After checking the reviews, and making sure the reviewers were legitimate – as she had done several times before – and then making several further checks that the listing was genuine, she went ahead and made the booking.

Three weeks later the 27-year-old marketing executive from London has just learned she’s fallen for a highly sophisticated scam and has lost almost £800.

amsterdam
The flat in Amsterdam was perfect … it just didn’t exist.

The chilling reality about Bradbury’s experience is that if it can happen to her, it can happen to anyone who books on the site. She has used Airbnb many times – she typically books four large flats or houses a year – and has years of online experience.

Her case will send a shiver down the spine of travelers who have booked an Airbnb flat this summer. It also serves as a timely reminder to other users never to pay for an Airbnb reservation outside its own payment system. Until recently, the fast-growing property website, which has allowed 80 million people around the world to rent a spare room or whole home from a complete stranger, has been relatively untroubled by the fraudsters who have plagued other property rental websites – most notably Home Away.

But what happened to Bradbury demonstrates that Airbnb, which now operates in 191 countries, is similarly being targeted by people who will go to extraordinary lengths to mimic the website’s booking process, and use it to relieve victims of their holiday cash.

Source: The Guardian

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