Dubai resident victim of rental scam sends warning to others

A Dubai resident who lost Dh2,600 after being duped by a fake room rental listing on a popular online marketplace has warned others to be vigilant when booking services online.

Nada Hatoum, 36, had been looking for a room to rent for a month when she came across an ad on Dubizzle.

After contacting the host with his request, he was told to proceed with the booking through Airbnb.

After questioning Airbnb’s customer service team about the legitimacy of the listing, the Lebanese citizen proceeded to pay in full through an exchange house.

I forwarded this link to the customer support team to check if it was legit. I received a reply saying that it was and to take advantage of my experience, so because of that I proceeded to payment

Nada Hatoum

But a few days before she moved into the room, the ad disappeared from the website and the host was no longer reachable.

“I was looking for a long-term room rental through Dubizzle and found a convenient, affordable option at Eaton Place, Jumeirah Village Circle,” she said.

“I tried to reach the host via Dubizzle but received no response so I texted the number listed on the advert.

“A few days later they replied on WhatsApp and said it was better to proceed with the booking on Airbnb.”

Having never used Airbnb before, Ms. Hatoum installed the mobile app but couldn’t find the room listing. The Dubizzle host then sent her an Airbnb link, which advertised the room.

“I forwarded this link to the customer support team to verify if it was legit,” she said.

“I received a reply saying that it was and to take advantage of my experience, so because of that, I proceeded with the payment.

“To book the room, the host sent me an email asking me to pay via MoneyGram. I couldn’t find a branch nearby, so she told me that I could also pay directly to her bank via Western Union, which I did.


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After Ms. Hatoum confirmed receipt of payment, the host sent her a confirmation code and told her she would get in touch a few days before she was due to move into the apartment for key collection.

A few days before Mrs. Hatoum moved into the rented accommodation, all contact with the host was extensive.

“I messaged the Airbnb customer support team and told them I couldn’t reach the host,” she said.

“I sent them the confirmation code and they responded saying the code was not linked to any Airbnb reservations.

“That’s where I went crazy. Before making payment, I checked if the ad was legit and the customer service team assured me that it was.

“Now I was 2,600 Dh out of my pocket and I was informed that since the payment was not made on the Airbnb platform, they could not reimburse me.”

Never make offsite payments

In most cases, payments made or received offsite do not meet Airbnb’s Community Standards, which means refunds are not given.

However, after several weeks of pleading her case, Ms Hatoum received a full refund on the grounds that she had been misinformed that the advert listing was genuine by a customer service agent.

“Our initial handling of this matter did not meet our usual high standards, and as a sign of goodwill, we reached out to the guest to work things out,” an Airbnb spokesperson told The National.

“Third-party websites have nothing to do with Airbnb, and we advise all of our users to book, pay, and communicate only on Airbnb to ensure they are fully protected by our secure processes.”

Airbnb says it has introduced various measures to help its community stay safe from online scams and fraud.

Reviews on the website tell guests how to identify a genuine Airbnb link or email, why you should only pay and communicate through Airbnb, and what to do if you’re asked to pay offsite.

“As long as a guest communicates and pays only through Airbnb, they will be protected, including our secure processes, refund and support policies, and other safeguards,” a representative said.

Suspicious sites can be reported to Airbnb at

Updated: April 24, 2022, 06:27

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