Accommodation scams targeting Australian users and shared economy platforms have tripled in number from 2015 to 2016.So far this year, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has received 150 reports of scams on websites like Airbnb tricking unsuspecting travelers out of a total of $80,000. That’s triple the number of reports in 2015, which collectively cost Australians $65,000.Delia Rickard, ACCC’s deputy chair, told The Sydney Morning Herald that fraudsters know travelers are on the hunt for accommodation deals especially around the holidays. She went on to explain they’re using some shady methods to lure those users:“When you go to book a break, scammers direct you away from the site and ask you to pay them directly using money orders or wire transfer services such as Western Union and MoneyGram. Some reports indicate that scammers create very convincing fake versions of the site which they can use to collect personal details and banking information.”Unfortunately, some users have already ended up booking and paying for a fake ad using one of these third-party websites. They’ve lost hundreds if not thousands of dollars in the process.
To protect against these kinds of scams, Rickard is urging travelers to pay for a reservation only via a secure payment system that’s directly provided by the accommodation service. Users who do so can take advantage of refund policies and many of the other safeguards that are provided by services like Airbnb in the event some issue arises.Travelers should also exercise caution around suspicious confirmation links. Fraudsters love nothing more than phishing for users’ information, and they’ve targeted Airbnb in the past.Sam McDonagh, Airbnb Australia’s country manager, won’t stand for that, which is why his company is taking an active role in tracking down wrongdoers and raising user awareness. As he explained to The Sydney Morning Herald:“But we also know that one incident is one too many, which is why we’re pleased to work with the ACCC on this to ban folks who do the wrong thing. The bottom line is when you book a reservation through our secure platform, you receive the benefits of Airbnb’s global trust and safety team and the forty safety features that kick in long before a transaction can take even place.”Anyone who thinks they’ve been scammed should contact the relevant law enforcement authorities.