Airbnb users may want to check their accounts even if they aren’t planning a trip anytime soon – some fellow customers on the rental site have been scammed with reservations they didn’t make.
Account holders have been charged for non-refundable reservations at fake destination homes and in some cases, users report that money was taken from their bank and Paypal accounts.
Airbnb confirms that there have been some occurrences, but said in a statement sent to USA TODAY that “these are isolated incidents and at no point was the Airbnb platform compromised. We have robust systems in place to protect users’ accounts and our team of trust and safety experts work hard to constantly strengthen our defenses.”
Airbnb is working with those affected, company spokesman Charlie Urbanic said via email, “to help them secure their accounts and provide refunds after their log in details were compromised elsewhere, such as through a phishing email or malware.”
Users’ accounts, Airbnb says, were accessed with correct account login credentials “compromised elsewhere.”
Airbnb has resolved a case in which UK-based communications professional Alice Chautard had three non-refundable reservations made in Kiev, Ukraine on her account Saturday and then the hacker cancelled the reservations, and deleted the account that charged her “all within 2 minutes,” she posted on Twitter.
Earlier today, she noted that her Airbnb incident “has been sorted out … and a refund was issued.”
Rachel Sheerin, a Charlotte, N.C.-based sales professional who says she uses Airbnb about twice a month, said emails from Airbnb Saturday “alerted me to something happening,” she said in an email interview.
Her credit card had been charged three times for a total of about $1,500, then her account was deleted and her phone number changed – factors that made it hard for her to communicate with Airbnb.
“I immediately went to my Airbnb app and tried to contact support to get the message that I have to have an account to access their support center,” she said. ‘The irony! They deleted my account and then provided no access to support.”
She got an email from Airbnb customer service after contacting the company’s Twitter help account and has been refunded one of the three charges. “I’ve emailed him back and am waiting on word for the other 2 charges,” Sheerin said.
“I travel internationally a lot as a speaker and have loved Airbnb in the past,” she said. But “after this, I’m done with Airbnb not because I was hacked but because it was so difficult to get in touch with anyone, the response I got was subpar and there was no ownership of the issue. I had a credit card on my profile but what about all of the people who have their debit cards linked? Their cash is gone.”
Others are just as despondent, complaining about a lack of response by the company. One New York City Airbnb user said she would notify the Manhattan District Attorney’s office. “Your customer service isn’t helping,” she tweeted.
“This is a security issue and you should at least inform involved people about your procedures for this,” tweeted one person who said his bank account had been hit by an incident.
Airbnb noted that it has handled more than 500 million guest arrivals on Airbnb and “negative experiences are extremely rare.”
The company offered some advice to users:
•Avoid unauthorized sites. Ensure that the address contains “https://” and doesn’t contain any odd additional characters or words. The main body of the address should simply read “airbnb.com.” For instance, “airbnb-bookings.com” or “Airbnb1.com” are all invalid web addresses. When in doubt, you can always type “https://www.airbnb.com” directly into your browser to get to the Airbnb website.
•Scrutinize emails. Be wary of those that ask you to click a link and enter personal information and emails with a sense of urgency, saying, for instance, “Unless you click this link your Airbnb account will be disabled” especially if they don’t come from a recognized @airbnb.com email address.
•Watch where you are going. Make sure you stay on Airbnb’s secure platform throughout the entire process – through payment. The company will never ask you to wire money, provide credit card information or otherwise pay a host directly.
•Report issues. Let the company know about suspicious listings, emails or websites by emailing Airbnb at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Follow USA TODAY reporter Mike Snider on Twitter: @MikeSnider.