Woman falls victim to fake Airbnb site phishing fraud, says no ordinary rental scam

Summer Burt works in internet retail and said she considers herself tech-saavy. 

Still, the Seattle resident has learned an expensive lesson, one where people who are out to steal your money are masters of disguise.

“I’ve gotten so much response from people who are either in similar correspondence or have fallen for exactly the same thing,” Burt said.

Earlier in June, Burt found a rental listing on Craigslist.

“Drove by it, cute little home, contacted the person who was renting it,” Burt said.

The person on the other side of the email told her he was out of state, but that his home listed on Airbnb was now available for long-term leasing.

“He sent me a link to his Airbnb site with the house and pictures and reviews of people who stayed there,” Burt said.

She noted communication was flawless and the man even sent her pictures of himself. 

However, the most convincing thing she admitted was the Airbnb website itself, which she noted started with ‘https’, something that normally proves the legitimacy of a website.

Burt said the fake site looked like an exact clone of the real one, and at that point, there were no red flags for her.

“I’ve used Airbnb a ton to book vacation homes, that alone was very legit,” Burt said.

She was then asked to wire money through a bank transfer, so she sent the man first month’s rent and a security deposit through the site.

“It cost me $6000 that I am not going to get back,” Burt said.

In hindsight, Burt said there were some holes in the sophisticated spoof, and shared her experience with Q13 FOX in hopes of helping others.

 “He never ran a credit check on me,” Burt said.

Airbnb also told Q13 FOX on Tuesday that they don’t ask people to wire money.

“The most important thing to know is that as long as you stay on the airbnb.com platform and only send money through Airbnb, you will always be protected. Guests can keep themselves, their payments, and their personal information protected by staying on our secure platform throughout the entire process—from initial communication through booking and payment. Airbnb will never ask you to pay for anything outside of our site, through email, or through a third-party booker," an Airbnb spokesperson said. 

If someone sends a link to their site, rather than clicking on that link, start fresh and go to their homepage.

In Burt’s case, she only found out that it was all a scam after knocking on the door of the home she thought she was renting.

“Two women who live there answered,” Burt said.

The women told Burt they lived there and they knew of others who were also scammed.

She later found out that the pictures used to scam her were scraped from an old Zillow listing.

Now Burt is back to square one, looking for a rental home for her family with $6000 less in her pocket.

“I think that is the biggest thing, it is public record on who owns a home, make sure you are corresponding with the actual owner,” Burt said.

In the meantime, she has since reported the crime to the FBI’s internet crime unit.