Fake Airbnb scam traps UK pilot in Dubai

The alleged City Walk one-bedroom apartment listed on Airbnb’s website cloned with attractive images, owner’s fake name and photograph as well as fake reviews and ratings
Image credit: screenshot

Dubai: A British pilot in Dubai became the latest victim of a sophisticated real estate rental scam carried out by cybercriminals using a fake Airbnb website.

Less than two months after Indian manager Anamika lost 16,000 Dh after falling in love with the racket, UAE-based pilot Alan Smith (name changed) came forward detailing a similar experience. He lost 10,800 Dh.

Much like Anamika, Smith was also contacted by the fraudster who identifies as Angela Morrison and claims to own property in Dubai.

NAT 200504 FALSE LIST ANGELA MF-1589199329538

The alleged City Walk one-bedroom apartment listed on the cloned Airbnb website with attractive images, owner’s fake name and photograph as well as fake reviews and ratings
Image credit: screenshot

Smith said he was researching short-term rentals online when he received an email from a certain Angela Morison offering him “a furnished one-bedroom apartment in CityWalk, Jumeirah” for a monthly rent of 3 900 Dh.

“I was moving home and needed something temporarily between June and August. The apartment has ticked all the right boxes. Mrs Morison (sic) claimed that she bought the place as a vacation home but was now a bit too old to travel, I was assured that I would not be disturbed during the stay. I believed it, “the 31-year-old recalled.” I was told the rent could be further reduced if I paid upfront for two months, “he added.

Deception

Lest there be any doubt, Smith received photos of the property and advised him to book the place through Airbnb.

In order to close the deal, he was then taken to a web page where the apartment was listed, with five star ratings and fabulous reviews.

NAT 200504 FALSE AIR INVOICE BNB MF-1589199326753

UK pilot had no idea something was wrong when he received this invoice from a fake Airbnb site
Image credit: screenshot

It turned out that this was not the real Airbnb site but its clone. 200) in addition to 3,600 Dh towards a security deposit.

Smith said he discovered he had been scammed when he came across last month’s Gulf News article about the scam. He has since filed complaints with his bank and via the Dubai Police E-crime platform.

Crawling snowshoe

In recent times, dozens of UAE residents have fallen for this well-oiled scam. The growing list of victims includes a Pakistani engineer, an Irish teacher, an Indian cadre and a South African cadre. Between them, they lost more than 40,000 Dh to the profit of the cybercriminal named Angela Morrison. Victims believe the name is loosely inspired by Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, as subsequent investigations showed that the emails sent to them originated from Germany. South African public relations manager Ahmad Badat, who was led to believe Angela and her husband were an elderly couple from Germany, said he was frustrated with his bank’s lack of support , AirBnb and the classifieds site. “AirBnb sent me an email saying they can’t be held responsible when my bank told me they couldn’t because I authorized the payment myself. I find it ridiculous that the bank gives its customers no security and no sense of protection, ”he explained.

Oddly enough, Badat, Anamika, and Smith made their payments through the same local bank.

Smith said he was dismayed the bank failed to report his transaction given that it had encountered similar cases days earlier.

How to avoid fake Airbnb scams

  • Never pay outside of the Airbnb site. First, check the URL to make sure you’re on the real Airbnb site – not a clone page.
  • Second, only pay on the Airbnb platform. If someone asks you to pay by bank transfer, cash, or direct to their Paypal account, it is almost certainly a scam.


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