Airbnb scam lists owner of Philadelphia home never listed
Christmas Eve had a special ending for Fitler Square resident Molly Flaherty. She returned home after spending time with her family to find Nicole Brunet, who was with her own family, trying to enter. Brunet had used Airbnb to rent the house for his parents who were visiting for the holidays – a surprise for Flaherty as she never listed the property.
After Flaherty convinced the group she wasn’t trying to rip them off — the safe was for a pet sitter, not renters — she spent a week trying to convince Airbnb to remove the listing. fraudulent. But Flaherty gained little traction until New Years weekend, when the post was deleted after The Inquirer contacted the company about its protocols for such incidents. In a statement Tuesday afternoon, Airbnb said false listings are rare and that it “provided guest support at the time to help sort things out, including a full refund.”
The company did not say how it is investigating these incidents, but said it tries to update those involved when it can. In Flaherty’s case, an Airbnb spokesperson said the company deactivated the listing, although Flaherty said the company never followed up to tell him.
“I’m still worried because they haven’t confirmed anything with me,” Flaherty said Tuesday. “I don’t know if that [listing] will reappear or if there are still people who have future reservations and think they have a reservation with me.”
Over the years, scammers have found ways to make the system work. In Philadelphia, three tenants thought of renting an apartment in 2020 to learn the space was actually an Airbnb rental. And last year, a California family learned that someone had photos of used open doors to list their newly purchased accommodation on the rental site. In Flaherty’s case, it appears her property was legitimately listed on the site until 2020, when she purchased the home. The original advertiser’s account was somehow revived in what the company calls it an “account takeover”.
In California’s case, the list sat for weeks until reporters asked for comment.
Screenshots provided by Flaherty show days of messaging between the owner and Airbnb support. Flaherty was told that a member of a ‘specialized team’ would follow up with her, which they eventually did, asking Flaherty to write her complaint in a letter that would be shared with the ‘host’ from the list.
Fearing that the fraudster had even more information about her, Flaherty kept the letter brief and only signed with her initials. Airbnb’s response reiterated that the company does not “own, manage or control the listings” and cannot arbitrate such disputes or private contract terms. The company told her that the easiest way to handle complaints was to contact the host directly, but the company reassured her that they had contacted the account holder to remind them of their “Obligations as an Airbnb host.”
Flaherty doubted the scammer would admit wrongdoing and the company’s handling of the situation left her desperate and looking for a lawyer who might be able to help her. She was worried that Airbnb would do nothing.
She left a handwritten note on her front door warning potential Airbnb renters that the $140-a-night listing was fraudulent and that her home was in fact not available to them – a note she is holding in case others arrive.
Nicole Brunet, the woman who thought she rented Flaherty’s house for the holidays, said she also hoped the company would be more responsive to concerns, especially since it appears the announcement was at a given time an actual rental.
“There was really no way to tell” the list was fake, Brunet said, noting that it had over 100 reviews, with an average rating of 4.7 out of 5. “It looked like any other list, which is kind of the worst part. scarier about it. I’m just like, well, I can’t trust anything.
Previous tenants have praised the location, showering the host with positive reviews through 2020.
Brunet is expected to get her money back, but she said the incident left a bad taste in her mouth. She put her family in a hotel for the holidays.
“It seems that their security mechanisms are really not foolproof,” she said.