Kiwi family scammed out of thousands by AirBnB impersonators

Author
Luke Kirkness, NZ Herald ,
Section
National,
Publish Date
Monday, 8 January 2018, 9:27AM
Airbnb says it has recently introduced more stringent security features on its site (123rf)
Airbnb says it has recently introduced more stringent security features on its site (123rf)

A Wellington family hoping to catch a break in the City of Sails, were instead scammed out of thousands.

In lieu of a holiday away Mel Jansen and her family spent the summer of 2017 at home, after they lost $4800 to scammers they had been led to believe were Airbnb staff.

The summer could have been their last holiday together as Mel Jansen's husband, Luke Jansen, was on kidney dialysis and was very sick at the time.

Jansen spoke to the Herald yesterday, after reading of the Auckland woman who , with her friends, also lost $4800 to scammers pretending to be Airbnb.

She said the story had an uncanny similarity to her family's tale.

"It was pretty horrendous, but it sounds exactly the same."

She's one of a handful others that have contacted the Herald with their stories of being duped by fake Airbnb representatives.

Jansen's ordeal with the scammers began in late 2016, when she went to book a Coatesville villa, via Airbnb, for her extended family group of 25.

It was her first time using the accommodation booking site. Together with her 18-year-old daughter she searched the site and found the villa for $4800.

The booking was for 10 days over the New Year from December 29, 2017.

"We didn't believe our luck that a house of that calibre was available at that cost for that large amount of people.

"We were pretty keen to book it ASAP, we talked to people on the site and they said it was all cool to bring as many people as you like," she said.

Jansen signed up to the site, booked the villa, and then tried to pay for it with her credit card.

She was then contacted via email by someone purporting to be from Airbnb. She was asked to transfer the money to a Spanish bank account.

Jansen told the Herald there weren't any terms and conditions or fine print to read before handing over money for the booking.

Transferring money to the account she said that the contract seemed "legit".

A week before they were due to stay at the house she hadn't heard from Airbnb.

"I thought it was strange we hadn't heard from them about keys and stuff.

"That week I emailed a couple of times and the emails started bouncing back.

"At the time it didn't seem weird, everything looked legit and was branded, it was just incredibly sophisticated," she said.

On Christmas Eve morning Jansen was contacted by Airbnb informing her she had been scammed.

"We were devastated," she said. "It could have been the last family holiday we would have," she said.

She also filed a report with police – but was later told there was nothing they could do.

She said she waited five hours on hold to talk to someone from Airbnb before eventually being told if she wanted to speak to them further they would have to get a lawyer to contact their legal department.

Jansen's husband received a kidney transplant in April 2017, meaning the family would be able to holiday together again.

She said next time, she wouldn't be booking through Airbnb.

An Airbnb spokesperson said it had recently introduced new security systems.

"We recently introduced new security tools to help tackle fake listings and educate our community about staying safe online, including more education to users on how to book safely.

"Fake or misrepresented listings have no place in our community."

Airbnb advised customers to only send money through its site.

"As long as you stay on the platform and only pay via Airbnb, scams simply cannot succeed."

NZ Herald

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