BBB: Phony Landlords Rent Too-Good-to-Be-True Apartments

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Better Business Bureau

  Looking for an apartment? Watch out for this con using the Airbnb name. Phony landlords post photos of too-good-to-be-true rentals and claim the property will be managed by Airbnb. In reality, both the property and the relationship with Airbnb are fake.

How the Scam Works

You look at Craigslist, Apartments.com, or another major rental listing website for an apartment, and you spot a good deal. The apartment is a great price for the location. It comes fully furnished, allows pets, and includes utilities. The "landlord" claims that he is working overseas or on an off-shore oil rig and is looking for someone to rent his property. Because he will be out of reach, Airbnb will manage the apartment. 

You email the "landlord," and his reply says that he will contact Airbnb to start the "rental process." But first, he needs your contact information, "a copy if your ID or Passport if possible," and a "fully refundable" $500 security deposit. In some reports of this scam, targets were asked to pay by iTunes gift cards. Only once he receives the security deposit will an Airbnb agent be assigned to show you the property. 

You send the money and information, and the "landlord" tells you to watch for a confirmation email from Airbnb. Unfortunately, that message never comes. When you follow up with the phony landlord, he quickly stops replying to your emails. Unfortunately, you are out $500 and you shared your personally identifiable information with a con artist who could use it for identity theft. 

How to Spot a Rental Scam:

- Always pay through the Airbnb website: If a property is listed through Airbnb, you will never need to pay the landlord directly or through email. And you will never receive a PDF from Airbnb requesting payment.

- Watch out for deals that sound too good: Scammers lure in targets by promising low rents, great amenities, and other perks. If the price seems much better than offered elsewhere, it may be a scam.

- Don't fall for the overseas landlord story: Scammers often claim to be out of the country and instruct targets to send money overseas.

- Check out BBB Tips : Many scams use similar techniques, see bbb.org/rentalscam for more advice.

For More Information

Read more about scams using Airbnb's name and platform on Airbnb.com. 

To learn more about scams, go to BBB Scam Tips (bbb.org/scamtips). To report a scam, go to BBB Scam Tracker (bbb.org/scamtracker)