A friend and I were recently scammed after renting an apartment in London through Airbnb. Beware.
We were unable to contact the host that day, but we arrived at the apartment building at the time we had told the “host” during the most recent communication. We didn’t have a code for the building but another resident let us in. There was no one at the apartment to meet us. We stood in the hall with our suitcases for almost two hours without phone service or Wi-Fi. The resident in the adjoining apartment happened by and asked to help. He knew the owner , a man, not a woman posing as the host. He texted the owner who then spoke to us and explained that he had not rented the apartment nor given anyone permission to do so. We had been scammed! He had contacted Airbnb several weeks earlier and asked them to take down the listing. The last time I looked, the apartment was still being offered by the fake host.
We were lucky to find such nice Londoners to help us. Nonetheless we had wasted our whole day and found ourselves in London on a Friday evening without a place to stay. Thank goodness the ever-reliable Strand Hotel was able to accommodate us. We will never use Airbnb again.
Here’s some advice. Always have a customer service telephone number as back up. After we left the building and got phone service, it took us a long time to find an Airbnb number to call, then we experienced several dropped calls from Airbnb. The three customer service reps we spoke to were kind and assured a full refund would be made. (It was eventually.) Still, precious time was wasted while we waited, sorted the situation, and tried to find help via Airbnb.
As we are both experienced travelers, I do not know what else we could have done to prevent the situation. There were positive reviews about the apartment—apparently they were fake too. The fake host communicated with us several times via Airbnb. She assured us that she would give us all the codes and keys on the day of the rental. On that day she went off the grid.
Perhaps there is a back story that might explain or mitigate the scam, but I will never book through Airbnb again. The company does not do enough due diligence, and doesn’t remove listings that are identified as scams. I’m sure many folks have had positive experiences, but I am not willing to give them another chance after this