My AirBnb Scam Experience

My AirBnb Scam Experience


My two best friends and I recently went to Madrid for a long weekend (Thursday to Monday) where we went to watch El Clasico, a massive soccer match between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid. It’s a big deal to go and we were super excited. We don’t get to all hang out together that much any more because Mike lives in Europe and Jake is about to have his second baby. So we wanted to maximize time together. We decided to get a 3 bedroom AirBnb in the center of Madrid instead of 3 hotel rooms. Yes, we are grown men and we all like to have our own rooms. Here is how my AirBnb scam experience went down.

My AirBnb Scam Experience

On the Monday after the game I left the AirBnb apartment at 5am for the airport where I was flying to Melilla. We had cleaned up the night before and everything was good to go. My friends left around 9am for their respective flights out of Madrid. As far as I was concerned all was well. I know these guys like brothers and none of us would ever mess anything up. We’re all very respectful.

Later that day I get a frantic email from a woman claiming to be the owner of the apartment. The very angry, accusatory email stated that we basically vandalized the apartment and she was claiming an outrageous $6000 in damage.

At first I didn’t think this was meant for me, nor did I know who this woman was. I had dealt with very nice people from a management company before and during my trip to Madrid. Then the woman started sending me photos of the apartment claiming we did all this “damage” to her apartment.

The photos showed 3 things she claimed to be damage. The first was she stated we didn’t take the garbage out. The second was that we left some crap on the floor in one of the bedrooms and stuck a bunch of “rubber” to the wall above it that she had to “sand off” the wall. Third, she says we broke a zipper on a chair that she claims cost 4000 Euros. She also added that she had to bring in a bat control company to usher out the vermins that she claims flew in during the night. Then she says we reached into the chair and took a bunch of feathers out and threw it all over the apartment. She literally sent me a message on AirBnb messenger saying this.

I was beyond baffled and messaged my friends in our 3-way WhatsApp chat we always use. Needless to say I knew they didn’t do anything. We were all confused and realized this was an AirBnb scam. So I’ll address the claims individually.

First, we took out any trash we had but left a small plastic bag full of water bottles. My friend Mike used to live in Spain and said there were weird recycling laws in Spain. He didn’t want the owner to get fined if we threw them outside in the trash.

We weren’t directed to a recycling bin, so it was left neatly bagged next to the kitchen garbage can that was the size of a small bathroom garbage can-very small. Seemed like the reasonable and thoughtful thing to do. No big deal, plus we pay for the apartment to be cleaned after our stay anyway. That’s pretty standard I think and surely not a big deal.

Second, I arrived into the apartment first on the Thursday and inspected the rooms to see which I was going to take, etc. One of the rooms had an ‘Endless Summer’ movie poster on the floor next to a bunch of random foam pads. On the wall above it were several rubber somethings on the wall. I thought it was weird but didn’t really pay much attention to it, as it wasn’t my place and maybe the owner thought it was decorative-who knows…people are weird.

I did however, take a photo of the ‘Endless Summer’ poster to send to Jake because he’s a big fan and I thought he’d be excited it was in his room. Didn’t think much about it until I got the email from the woman claiming we damaged that room. So I took the photo on my iPhone X; which time-stamped the photo at essentially the exact time I was let into the apartment Thursday. So this photo actually proved the woman’s claim was bogus against us because it showed what it was like when we arrived. It was exactly as it was in the photo she submitted in her claim on Monday.

Third, the mere insinuation that we, three 40 year old men, with advanced graduate degrees, who have all traveled to over 100 countries and have very good jobs, ripped up a chair and threw feathers around the apartment is so absurd I feel like an idiot even rebuking that absurd claim. However, she claimed we did and that we ruined her 4000 Euro chair.

The chair, which was a piece of shit, was already ripped when we arrived. We literally sat in it once or twice and saw feathers pop out. We picked them up and that was it. It didn’t even occur to us this was an issue or that we should report it or whatever. So she sends a photo of the chair to me with a small pile of feathers next to it and an immaculate apartment otherwise claiming we vandalized the place. Obviously we did not, this is so absurd. Anyone can claim something like this!

So her and I go back and forth and after a few messages she says she’s filing a formal claim with AirBnb and asking them to mediate. She’s clearly done this before and I didn’t even know that was a thing as this was my first time ever really using AirBnb.

Sure enough I get a message from someone named Victor saying he was handling the claim. No last name, no phone number, just an email from a guy named Victor at AirBnb support telling me this woman has filed a grievance against me for $6000 which is the approximate dollar equivalent of her Euro claim. And yes she claimed cash value for her time sanding rubber off the wall and cleaning up our trash. Neither of which she actually did anyway, I’m sure.

So I go back and forth a bit with Victor telling him this was an AirBnb scam and she was clearly trying to get money out of me and/or AirBnb. So I get testimonial emails with photo ID’s, emails and phone numbers from my friends debunking this bullshit claim and send a strongly worded email back to Victor. I also included the before photo matching exactly the photo she sent in after. That photo with the time-stamp alone should have proven her claims to be false and this was a scam attempt.

I hear back and Victor says I made a strong case and he’s going back to the woman to submit more proof of our vandalism. I say OK, but there is literally zero chance in hell I’m paying a single cent to this person. I also then DM with AirBnb Twitter support and was able to message with what I think was a real person and state my case. They basically gave me the runaround and referred me back to Victor. The person I was messaging with was clearly not American or a native English speaker. I could easily tell by their strange English messages so that made me wonder what would happen.

A few days go by, 4 to be exact, and then I get an email from Victor saying that they had ruled in favor of the host and she was eligible for additional payment. He continued that I would not be charged but my account has been notated for future discipline if anything else happens.

The email didn’t include any extra proof she submitted or anything. So I have no idea what additional proof or whatever crap she sent him. That said, I was glad it was over and I didn’t have to deal with fighting paying anything or dealing with my credit card. But I couldn’t believe that this AirBnb scam artist is going to get additional money or whatever compensation they’re giving her.

I mean, what’s to stop her or anyone after a renter leaves from reaching into a couch cushion and pulling out some feathers, tossing them on the floor, taking a photo and claiming the renters damaged the place? This is sheer madness to me. What kind of business runs like this? I also have no idea how much or how they compensate her but literally everything she claimed was a blatant lie. Everything!

I don’t know if I was targeted because this was my first time using AirBnb. Actually it was technically my second. 2.5 years ago I was hired and paid by AirBnb to help launch their AirBnb Experiences in Los Angeles. They gave me a house for a few days in West Hollywood under my account so I got the whole experience. The owner of that house left a very nice review so I technically have 2 reviews from my 2 stays even though it’s really only one and they’re 2.5 years apart.

That said, I also asked AirBnb to take down her false, negative review. I normally wouldn’t give a shit but before all this happened I was thinking I really liked the AirBnb experience and I’d like to use it more often. They said they would not remove it-as it was her opinion. Of course I responded under it saying it was a lie but who knows. So I am stuck with it and no idea how potential owners will look upon that review if I want to rent from them in the future.

So this was my AirBnb scam experience and as befuddled as I am with the bullshit claim this woman levied upon us; I am even more shocked that AirBnb is actually going to compensate her for her blatant lies that I clearly proved false! I’m honestly not sure what to think and will probably steer clear of AirBnb for a while. What’s to stop owners from filing false claims? I guess you have to video every little thing when you enter and when you leave. Also, have someone check you in and out with an inspection. What else can you do?

Have you ever dealt with an AirBnb scam?

Comments

  1. Lee, you should name her. I visit Madrid often and don’t want to run into her, nor do I want that for any of my friends.

    • The woman’s name is Belen. That’s the only name I see on the profile. Maybe I’m missing something but that’s all I see and in my correspondence there was never more than just a first name and to be fair I never asked.

  2. I had a similar experience with Airbnb last year in Dallas in which a host made a false accusation. Two months later, I had a host cancel on me 28 hours before check-in for a stay during one of the busiest weekends in Miami. I was so turned off that I vowed to never use Airbnb again and have deleted the app from my phone.

  3. I wonder how quickly she’d reverse her claims if she knew how big of a platform you have within the travel industry. ?

    • You know man, I could’ve attached her and AirBnb really publicly and thrown some weight around but I don’t do that type of stuff. I’m raising awareness of it but this is an AirBnb issue and I tagged them and DM’d it to them. I’m not one of these jackass bloggers who do shit publicly to get other to gang tackle on their behalf. I’m a grown man!

      • Lee,
        Booked a three bedroom on the beach condo in the DR with Airbnb 6 months prior to going, email the host even right before we left to arrange pickup at the airport, which never happened.
        Turned out they had double booked the condo and we were out.
        They offered a POS condo down an alley well off the beach. Hell no.
        Manner to finally find in the same building, a 2 bedroom condo. What a fiasco for the first day. Had to move again on day 6 to another. Let Airbnb know about it after. Sent pictures, they took their superhost designation away, and refunded 30%.
        Not sure how to remedy this from occurring,

  4. Clare Randle says

    Such a shame that this has happened to you, and leave a bad taste in your mouth with AirBnb. I have only ever had positive experiences, but after reading this – I will be careful to video as I arrive and as I leave… just as a precaution. Thank you for sharing, Lee

  5. A friend booked an airBnb for us in Paris last year
    As for me. I wont stay again . I prefer the security
    And safety of a Hotel
    Its sad that you had to go through this
    You are a smart ,well educated, sharp New Yorker
    Imagine an avaerage person trying to
    Deal with a scam like this

  6. Perhaps others that read of your experience with Belen in Madrid a 3 bedroom house will be able to eliminate similar properties. Thus Lee in the long run your experience enlightened others a great deal. Thank you

    • Yes I hope so and thanks!

    • As an Airbnb guest and host myself (letting other minded travelers share my vacation house) I find this repulsive. I keep on seeing a spike in bad advertising towards Airbnb and I tend to believe more and more users -hosts and guests alike – try to scam others thru the platform, which in my opinion is against everything Airbnb stands for. At the same time I hold Airbnb accountable for whatever is happening on their platform and I think they should do a lot more to help guests and hosts in the same time. I had my fair share of bad guests, but I treated them with dignity, compassion, and tried my best to diffuse any potential conflict and provide a positive outcome even thou I was at a disavantage. I understand you had a bad experience and I encourage you to use your seasoned traveler skills, keep an open mind, and use Airbnb again. Read the reviews others left for a host and ask questions before booking a place. Cheers and best of luck in your future adventures!

      • Yes it’s repulsive but at the same time I try to see the good in things and realize these are exceptions not the rule. I wouldn’t be opposed to using it again although it may be a while.

  7. Out of interest Lee, what were her references like? I usually have a good look at them.
    We have used Airbnb dozens of times with only good experiences. Sad this happened to you on you first go!

  8. This is why it will always be hotels for me!

  9. I appreciate that you took the time to write the post and share your experience. So many others would take to social media and blast them. This is so much more dignified and still gets the message out there. We’ve only stayed at one AirBNB. It was fine but your post will make me really investigate and document before trying again. Thank you!

  10. Marcus Bowers says

    Did you leave a review? That could help others avoid a similar circumstance. I’ve only used Air BnB a handful of times but one thing I appreciate about it is the reviews of both the property and the host. They’ve helped me avoid problematic situations more than a few times

  11. Thanks for sharing this tale, On various travel blogs, I have read great reports of Air BnB.
    Two friends use it occasionally – both have shared experiences that would have put me off. Your tale is the third and final straw for me……

  12. We booked a stay in NY last year for one night. When we arrived, the place looked like it was just robbed. We didn’t have a key or anything and the host wasn’t responding. I randomly turned the doorknob and it opened. Piles and piles of clothes everywhere. Cabinet doors hanging off. The bed in the bedroom was on the floor with the sheets half off, no pillows, a cup of water with cigarettes in it next to the bed. Worst, the door locks from the outside!?!? We couldn’t open the door once it closed! There were bars on the window. I was 10 seconds away from calling the cops when my friend legit picked the door open with a pencils! ? I don’t know how he did it but I could care less. I was just happen to get out. The neighbors directly across the apartment said they didn’t know the owner but they see random people coming in and out all the time.

    We contacted Airbnb through email, Twitter and phone. Sent them pictures and explained the situation. It took them an hour to get back to us. When they did, all they did was try to contact the host. Was not helpful at all. Took us about three hours to figure out we’re just going to say fuck it and stay at his grandma’s house. We checked Airbnb a bit later and the house posting was still up.

  13. My husband and i got similar experienced but with bookingcom. We we’re going to Shetland for the uphella but before going straight there we stay 3 days in edinburgh so we could see othér places we didnt see the last time we visited the place. So i booked an apartment near the arthurs seat. I though its a good deal because its near the places we want to see, not far from stores and restaurants and there’s a washing machine that i can use to wash our clothes we used while staying in amsterdam . To make the story short, the apartment’s heater was not functioning well, the washing machine is broken, the kitchen are moldy and not cleaned. We talked to the owner and told us we could bring our clothes to their restaurant which is far from the apartment. As for the heater, they only checked and repair it one day before we checked out. After our stay there, the owner wrote and labelled us the ‘worst and dangerous client’ in their response to my comment. They wrote we broke the washing machine, the heater and a cooking pan.

  14. So far I haven’t experience anything like this on AirBnb but thanks for letting us be aware of this!

  15. Thanks for your time to share your experience. Always good to be alert and check all resources (and maybe cross your fingers) before you go. We have used Air bnb a couple times with good results but will definitely be more diligent about taking photos at check in and out ! (Also I always worry that they will cancel
    on you last minute?)
    Thx again for sharing ur story.

  16. I had something similar happen to me in Madrid in 2017. I booked a three week trip, arrived to find appliances were non-functional. The management company was challenging enough, finally sending someone to fix things two weeks into the stay(they never fixed the washer/dryer or microwave), And then the owner claimed I had destroyed $10,000 worth of property. My friends who live in Madrid tell me this has become an unfortunate effect of the way in which Russian prostitutes use property in Spain and Portugal for money laundering.

  17. I have had bad experiences with AirBnBs myself, I’ve written about one here https://all-you-need.net/my-first-airbnb-experience/ it just goes to show the problems we can face in such a new industry. It is a great tool though nevertheless, and pros have outweighed the cons so far.

  18. Going through the same experience with an airbnb booked last week in Barcelona. Its scary and it seems similar to renting cars we need to start taking photos/videos of the apartment at check-in and check-out going forward or just book hotels.

  19. Happend to me on 14 June 2019 in Rome.
    Funny part is that I read your story on a blog like 2 weeks before the italy trip. Told my wife.. She was like neah… Internet stories this never happens in real life.

    Today the host we ve had in Rome emails me that the couch is dirty and he had to get a new cover?! And clean the couch for a modic amount of 252 euros.

    I had this strange dejavu feeling. Fucked up my day..

    Obv i will share your story and my story with everyone I know and uninstall this crap called airbnb

    • End of the sotory?
      Exactly same as described by the blog owner.
      I have submited clear pics and justified everything… Same standard email was sent to me.
      After analyzing… We will pay you will not becharged but.. Bla bla bla

      Deactivating airbnb acount

  20. Hello Lee

    Your blog on Micronesia, Palau, Marshall Islands and Guam was very helpful. As for Airbnb, I had an issue with them in Malta a number of years ago and consequently never dealt with them again. That is a lot of money they lost in the long run! Erik from St Helena!

  21. Hello Lee

    Your blog on Micronesia, Palau, Marshall Islands and Guam was very helpful. As for Airbnb, I had an issue with them in Malta a number of years ago and consequently never dealt with them again. That is a lot of money they lost in the long run! Check out CBC.Ca Airbnb for more stories.

    Erik from St Helena!

  22. Hi,
    We’ve just gone through a very similar experience in Buenos Aires. Myself and a friend were to travel together, however eventually only he was able to make the trip, I had to cancel for personal reasons. My Airbnb account was used for payment, and communication was via my account, since I was the one in charge of booking between us.
    Interestingly, prior to his arrival the “host lady” was very scant with information about the particulars of his arrival and check-in, however eventually “she” did agree to give him the arrangements. On his arrival he’s met by another guy, who is in charge of welcoming guests, who explains that the “landlady” has various houses in the area.
    My had a wonderful stay, however he had to cut his trip short (of which he informed the “landlady” in advance of trip), so another few extra days would remain unused. He asked the “landlady” if it was possible to use these remaining days in the new year, and she kindly agreed, but said: “it is too early to plan”. He thought she meant that indeed this was too much time in advance to schedule a new trip, which is fair enough.
    On his return, he gave me an all-happy account of the trip and asked to give a very good review, which I left on “her” profile.
    The moment I do that, I suddenly see a scathing review of my as guest, saying the place was left in an awful mess, a light broken and so on. My friend vehemently denies it: I am a landlord myself, and I dealt with tenants for a number of years, my friend is a mature fella who stayed at my place on numerous occasions and is impeccable guest.
    I ask the “landlady” to provide a picture of the breakage, and she sends a picture of horrific damage to the ceiling light (light fixture is gone and there are cables sticking out of the ceiling, there is no clear picture of the actual light fixture, it is not certain is it there or is it torn off: the picture is rather blurry!).

    What makes it all so strange is:
    1) “the landlady” reacting 3 (three) weeks after his departure
    2) there’s no mention of the helper fella anymore, it was all “her” who spotted it
    3) this is in context of his request to keep the remainder of unused time, which is quite a lot of money for the days unused – which in principle “she” didn’t say ‘no’ to kindly allowing to be shifted to the next year, but then this horrific alleged act of vandalism would completely cancel out any such possibility 🙂

    Why we think “she”/”landlady” are a hoax – because
    1) to us this looks like a commercial operation with several properties and employees (my friend met with at least one of them, but could be more right?);
    2) would a genuine bona fide landlady risk her reputation this easily and do a foul play on a nice visitor, making false accusations just like that? a commercial scammer operation easily would!
    3) why did “she” react in delayed mode – leaving 3 (!) weeks after the guy’s departure to react? also, her reaction comes across rather bland/vague, no details of anything, no pictures of the actual messy room… just that light… “she” said “the maid spent 4 hours cleaning up the place” – no pictures to show that, whatsoever…
    Being a commercial operation, such a long delay in reacting makes more logical sense: as a commercial venture is more cold-blooded and rational, taking time and being way more not-normal-human in its responses, more like a large-scale operation. I just didn’t feel there was sufficient swiftness of emotion and outrage from the “landlady”. I am a landlord myself: I would be furious – this is not what I see here: very slow and scant responses, not much detail given, pictures blurry, unclear, no pictures of the room itself.

    Please folks: beware of elaborate shady commercial players masking themselves as “Airbnb”. I’ve never used Airbnb in my life, this has been our first attempt, and my friend was the one who travelled without me – but I will probably never use Airbnb in my life again: and having read the other story in this blog, the more afraid I am now to ever use Airbnb again!

  23. p.s. the profile of the “landlady” in question is named “Natalia”, and the place was in Recoleta (Buenos Aires), which is the best part of the city. The guy who welcomes guests was called Raúl.

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