Airbnb long-term rental scam: Red flags and exposed scammers

Airbnb long-term rental scam: Red flags and exposed scammers

Have you encountered an apartment rental where Airbnb has to arrange the rent payments and key handover? Inspecting the apartment before sending the money is not possible, whatever the reasons. Read on to avoid becoming a victim of fraud.

The scam scenario is always similar. The landlord offers to rent the apartment, where you pay the deposit and rent via Airbnb. Once you agree on the rental, payment instructions will arrive “from an Airbnb representative”. However, Airbnb has nothing to do with the rental. Scammers abuse the name of a well-known service to gain the victim’s trust.

The goal is to lure money quickly and then cut off communication. There is no property tour, and they never hand over the keys. I have been tracking rental scams since 2014. I know people who have lost thousands of euros. However, hundreds of people have saved money because they found out about this type of scam in time. I am continually updating the article with new findings to keep the number of people defrauded to a minimum.

▼ Table of Contents
  1. How to recognize a scam apartment rental
  2. Signals in the ad
  3. Communicating with the landlord and building trust
  4. Airbnb will make renting safer
  5. Payment Instructions
  6. What to do if you have been scammed
  7. Updates and changes in offender behaviour

How to recognize a scam apartment rental

  1. Signals in the ad

    Scammers prey on victims on rental ad sites and less often on Facebook. First, they create a rental offer and usually steal some other offer’s ad text and photos.

    If English is not the first language in your country, but some lesser-used language (such as Hungarian or Finnish), they will use a translator.

    Even someone who wants to rent their apartment becomes a victim.

    It is already possible to suspect fraud from the advertisement. The more of the following points apply to the advert, the more likely it is a scam:

    ⚠️ Suspiciously low price

    The advertised rental price may be significantly lower than the normal market rent. While this is €800 a month, excluding fees, the scammer offers the same property for €400 with all the extras. He needs to impress.

    ⚠️ Ad is on free servers

    Scammers place rental offers exclusively on free ad servers or Facebook. Often, only an email address is the contact, with no phone number or information on whether it is the owner or a real estate agent.

    Sometime since 2020, scammers have learned to bypass phone number verification. Do not be surprised if a phone number with your country code appears next to the ad. It may still be a scam, and you will never reach the phone number listed.

    ⚠️ It is not possible to see the apartment in person

    You can never see the apartment before you send money. A popular excuse is that the owner currently abroad has the only pair of keys.

  2. Communicating with the landlord and building trust

    The landlord almost exclusively uses email to contact you. This gives him the guarantee of anonymity, time, and the ability to communicate in a foreign language. Although the scammer is usually a foreigner, he can communicate from your country’s email address. In the email, he may ask to communicate in English, which is easier for him.
    A tell-tale sign for some languages is the confusion of masculine and feminine — where a person with a female name writes as a man.

    The scammer will invent a false identity and their relationship to your country. He aims to appear as respectable as possible, to give the impression of being a decent and fair person. He often claims to have lived in the country for several years and is now using the apartment as a summer residence or that he works as a doctor or police officer. Who could be more serious than a policeman?

    To increase his credibility, he can include scanned documents – driver’s license, passport, service card, and a few private photos. In all cases, it is either identity theft (stolen or copied photos of another duped unfortunate) or photo montages.

    You can easily verify the photos’ authenticity by uploading and searching Google images. Verify all the photos the tenant sends you this way. If Google finds the image, it is most likely a scam. If you go through a few of the links, you will confirm it immediately.

    This tends to be suspicious

    ⚠️ A stranger has email from a local provider

    Even though the scammer admits to being a foreigner, he uses an email address that resembles your country to communicate. Often, they also use pseudo-local names. Because they are unfamiliar with local realities, it may be easy for a native to recognise that no such name exists. It is like I made up a name that sounds Dutch… and there is not one.

    ⚠️ The scammer sends you stolen documents

    What better way to inspire confidence than to send the victim your documents? Who would suspect that a passport, a driver’s license, a police officer’s service card, or a private photo is either fake or stolen?

    One of the first misused identities was that of Detective Luca Paight from Cleveland, UK, around 2014. Scammers obtained his passport, police ID, driver’s license, and a photo of him with his family and used it to build trust with victims.

    Airbnb long-term rental scam: Red flags and exposed scammers

    I know of several cases where scammers have taken advantage of a Slovak or German citizen. However, I have managed to track them down. I have spoken to them, and they have confirmed how the fraudsters achieved this.

    ⚠️ How to inspire trust

    The scammer may claim to have lived in your country for several years. However, they do not speak the local language and use a translator. Although he does not offer an apartment, he always acts like he does. For example, he asks for information about the number of tenants, the date of moving in, or scanned documents.

    Do not send him personal documents under any circumstances. You are putting yourself at risk of identity theft and abuse. In addition, the fraudster may offer rentals or commit other criminal activity on your behalf. If you have sent scans of your ID to fraudsters, report them as stolen (or misused).

  3. Airbnb will make renting safer

    In one of the steps, the scammer suggests that Airbnb will arrange the rental. They will take care of the payment and hand over the keys to the tenant, as the scammer can now come to town.

    This is nonsense; Airbnb does not hand over any keys.

    To increase trust, scammers sometimes prepare fake websites that are supposed to resemble the Airbnb website. You can identify the fake page with several small details.

    ⚠️ Wrong address

    If you look closely, you will notice that the site address is not Airbnb. Instead of com/ it is Or any other, but it is always what comes before the first slash of the address that matters. If you have any doubts about the site’s authenticity, check the address.

    This method is called phishing. It aim is to slip the user a fake page that looks as much like the official one as possible, for example, a domain or email address.

    ⚠️ Copied design

    The design of the fake scammers’ website copies the design of Airbnb. However, it has nothing to do with this website; in fact, it is damaging the brand and reputation of Airbnb.

    ⚠️ Unreasonably high ratings and a number of guests and reviewers

    At least, in this case, the scammers were being unreasonable with the number of raters and guests. While other Airbnb hosts have ratings in the tens, at most in the lower hundreds for the most active users, the scammer boasts 1,639 guests and ratings from 563 users. The ratings are, of course, the highest possible.

    This is especially suspicious for someone offering property for long-term rental.

    ⚠️ Superhost badge

    The scammer also added a superhost badge to his profile.

    This status is for users who meet several conditions. These include a minimum of ten completed bookings, a response index of at least 90%, a user rating of at least 80%, and closure of each booking. Checking the compliance with the conditions is four times a year.

    ⚠️ Links lead nowhere

    If you click on any link on the site, it either does not work or redirects you to a non-relevant page on the actual Airbnb site.

  4. Payment Instructions

    If you do not cut off communication even at this point (which I recommend), it will inform you that it has passed the whole thing on to Airbnb for resolution. It will tell you to wait for an email from them with further instructions on how to proceed and, most importantly, where to pay.

    Shortly after, you get an email pretending to be sent by Airbnb. In reality, it is the scammer, which you can easily tell from the address from which the email arrived. In the email, there is a confirmation of the information provided by the scammer (not to be, since he sends the emails) and payment instructions.

    1️⃣ Pay anonymously with Paysafecard

    Sometime before 2019, people often used prepaid Paysafecard cards to transfer money.

    Paysafecard is a reputable system operating around the world. Unfortunately, fraudsters also favour it. Money transfers through it are quite difficult to trace.

    A scammer, or a scammer posing as Airbnb, will ask you to buy Paysafecard vouchers in the agreed rent amount. They will then ask you to send them the numbers and PINs of your purchased coupons. Once you send them to the scammer, you will lose money.

    The scammer immediately turns the money into cash, and it is almost impossible to recover it.

    2️⃣ Payment to a bank account

    In 2019, transfers of “rent” to foreign bank accounts, most often in Germany, have become more prevalent. For example, I have personally come across an account with SolarisBank, operated under a German license.

    There is some indication that bank accounts are white horses, and the principle of operation of SolarisBank may allow fraudsters to set up an endless number of unique account numbers.

  5. What to do if you have been scammed

    It depends on what point you are at, however, I recommend following these steps:

    1️⃣ Stop the flow of money

    If you have sent money by bank transfer, contact your bank immediately and ask them to stop the transfer. Do the same if you give the other party your credit card number.

    Spoiler: The likelihood of you getting your money back is relatively low. I know of only one case from August 2022 where a victim from Slovakia contacted the bank and had the money back in his account the next day. However, call the bank.

    If you have already purchased Paysafecard coupons, block them immediately.

    2️⃣ Go to the police to file a criminal complaint

    Go to your nearest police station and file a criminal complaint against an unknown offender for fraud. The police will write everything down, and you can document the emails from the fraudsters as evidence. Do not delete any emails.

    If you sent copies of your documents, report this to the police and ask for confirmation that your documents can be misused. It is highly likely that fraudsters will use your name and documents in future advertisements.

    If the police contact Paysafecard or the bank, provide them with information about who is on the other side of the transaction.

    Spoiler: the police are unlikely to detect the culprits. They have to follow the law and the fraudsters are from abroad. Often from countries where international cooperation is extremely difficult. For example, the Facebook Marketplace fraudster I exposed lived in Burkina Faso.

    3️⃣ Report the advert and email address as fraudulent

    Write to the site where you found the advert and alert them to the fraudulent behaviour. You can send a link to this article. The aim is to delete the advert from the internet as soon as possible so that there are no more fraudsters.

    In the same way, have the email used by the scammers blocked.

    4️⃣ Let me know

    And finally, please: If you have come across a different scam scenario than I describe in the article or other stolen identities, please notify me at This way I can stay in the loop and warn other potential victims. The more information you provide about the scam, the better.

  6. Updates and changes in offender behaviour

    In the summary below, I list the known identities that scammers use in advertisements and communications. In addition to names, I deliberately publish addresses, emails, phone numbers and bank account numbers. By publishing these, this article can be traced by other people who may want to rent an apartment from the scammers.

    To be sure, I repeat: The real people listed below have nothing to do with the scams, their documents and identities have been misused.

    • Eduard Wiest (
    • Hertin Loer (
    • Sabrina Lauenstein (

    🔴 September 2023: Possible identity theft of Daniel George Gamez

    In connection with fraudulent rentals in Germany, we have received information that fraudsters have obtained a copy of the passport of US citizen Daniel George Gamez.

    It is possible that in one of the next rounds of fraud they will steal his identity and send a copy of his passport to gain trust. We have a scan of the passport copy but will not publish it.

    The same scammers used a copy of German citizen Jorg Andreas Reinke‘s document to gain trust, and misused his identity.

    Both Daniel George Gomez and Jorg Andreas Reinke had nothing to do with the fraud and were merely victims of fraudsters.

    🔴 February 2022: Identity Barbara Christine Baehr + German passport

    Fraudsters are now exploiting the identity of Barbara Christine Baehr in connection with at least an apartment in Sternberg. To increase credibility, they send a photocopy of a passport in the name of Dr. Barbara Christine Baehr Hoffmann with the year of birth 1953.

    Interestingly, Barbara Baehr is a well-known German entomologist with a Wikipedia profile in several languages. The fraud scenario is identical to the previous cases. Communication is from the email address

    I contacted the real Dr. Barbara Christine Baehr on February 20, 2022. She confirmed to me that her identity was stolen when she wanted to rent an apartment in Tübingen, Germany.

This article about Airbnb Scam was originally published in Czech by the same author. This post is a translation of it. The facts described in the article are based on the author’s experience with frauds in the Czech Republic. In other countries some details or procedures may differ.

💬 Reviews

  • Tom Tom says:

    Saved us from a scammer in Finland. Thanks

    The flat was on Facebook and the mail they communicated with us was “Alexa ”


  • LvL LvL says:

    I had a similar situation where I suspected it was a scam but was curious to see what’s about and indeed the scammer followed the above steps, add on Facebook, communication via email with the email
    The man said he was living in Finland but renting in my country and after two emails where he was building trust he dropped the airbnb payment method.
    I told him no thanks and of course dis not send any documents.

  • Amanda dawes Amanda dawes says:

    I have also been talking to about the same flat to rent so glad I dug a little furter

  • Joe Joe says:

    inquired about a listing on Zillow and received this email response chain for reference. DO NOT DEPOSIT ANY MONEY, FOLKS!

    Everything is just like in the pictures, fully equipped with
    all the appliances you need, very clean and well kept. The apartment
    can be rented furnished or if you want you can use your furniture and
    deposit mine in the storage unit. I work as an civil engineer and the
    company I work for has developed projects all around the world. Now, I
    have received a very good offer from them to move to the United
    Kingdom department, an offer that I have accepted.

    The apartment is vacant so you can move-in anytime you want, also my
    contract in the UK is for the next 6 years, so for this period, I will not
    return 100%.

    The rent of 1000$/month is for the whole apartment and includes all
    the utilities: heat, water, electricity, parking, laundry in-suite,
    washer and dryer also included, cable and internet. You will have full
    access to all building amenities. Just in case repairs are needed
    there, I will cover the costs, so no worries. The price I’m asking is
    below the market because I want to find a responsible tenant to take
    good care of the place.

    I’m the owner of the apartment, it’s already paid in full and there is
    no mortgage on it. You have everything you need near-by (public
    transportation, schools, groceries etc.). Also I love pets, so if you
    have any pets, I won’t have any problem, pets are allowed. Honestly
    from my point of view I’m sure that You’ll love it for sure and rent it
    on the spot.

    Few questions:
    – I would like to know how many people will live in the apartment?
    – Any pets?
    – How long do you intend to rent the apartment for?

    Please let me know if you are really interested in the place so we can
    discuss further.

    Thank you and look forward to hearing from you!


    The company I work for moved me to the United Kingdom, and unfortunately there is a problem showing you the apartment because I have already left. I haven’t managed to rent the apartment before leaving for the United Kingdom because someone said I would rent the apartment and haven’t managed to keep the promise. I waited for him, but unfortunately, he could not get the money in time, so the transaction failed, and I had to leave before renting it. Obviously, this experience has brought me huge inconveniences and left me with a bitter taste, so I prefer to use a worldwide property management company.

    The company I am talking about is called Airbnb (www.airbnb. com) their website is mainly focused on short term rentals, but they also have a NEW service for long term rentals. I used this service last month when I rented my apartment in London, United Kingdom. I can tell you that it was a great experience and the only way I will proceed renting my apartment is by using Airbnb. I think that you have already heard of them, they are well known globally, also they are a company listed at the stock market that values billions in revenue each year. Look at their website as a reference, but please know that you will NOT find my apartment there. I need to initiate the transaction before anything.

    Using Airbnb involves three parties: me as the owner, you as a potential tenant, and Airbnb as a responsible third party authorized to handle this transaction. Airbnb will handle everything, from paperwork (official documentation) to shipment. Airbnb works the same way as the escrow account on which you place the deposit when you rent an apartment, except that instead of a bank, we use Airbnb. Of course, nobody can take that money until you inspect the condo and sign the lease agreement.

    I understand that this is not a conventional way to rent a place. Still, please keep in mind that the “reward” for following the Airbnb transaction is a lower monthly rent. Also, I will pay for all the fees that Airbnb will request for using their services. Please note that the Airbnb services are necessary only until you inspect the apartment and sign the lease agreement. After that, you can deposit the monthly payments directly to my bank account or set up a suitable payment method for both of us.

    My phone number is ************ (UK phone number), please keep in mind that there is a big time difference between us. I am new at work, and I try to avoid speaking on the phone; if I cannot respond, I will do my best to call you asap.

    LET ME KNOW IF YOU ARE STILL INTERESTED IN THE PROCESS, so I can provide all the detailed steps of the transaction (I am sure that many of the questions you have now, will be answered after I will send you the steps).

    Thank you and hope to hear from you soon!


    I will do my best to be as transparent as possible during the whole transaction. To build up confidence and gain peace of mind, I have attached a copy of my PASSPORT to this email. Also, please know that you will receive official documents from Airbnb also, before depositing them.

    Regarding the process, you will have to deposit the first-month rent + last month’s rent, a total of 2000$ (1000+1000), to Airbnb so that they can proceed with the shipping of the rental package (keys and documentation). Please note that Airbnb will HOLD your deposit (escrow) until you receive the rental package (keys and documents) and go and inspect the apartment. Please know that I will pay for all the fees that Airbnb will take. (transaction and shipping fees).

    Below I will explain step by step how the transaction with Airbnb works. To avoid any misunderstanding, please READ CAREFULLY THE FOLLOWING STEPS:

    1 – To start the process, all I need is your contact information: full name, mailing address (street, number, city, and postal code), cell phone number, a move-in date, and lease agreement preferred (e.g., 6 months or 1-year rental contract with the option of renewal). The lease agreement will be a standard one.

    2 – Once I have your contact information and your approval, I will go to the Airbnb office (UK) to start the transaction. I will give them the apartment keys and necessary documents.

    3 – Airbnb will check everything, including the ownership documents. If everything is in order, they will proceed with the transaction. They will also confirm that I’m the legal owner of the apartment I’m renting to you.

    4 – Airbnb will send you a notification (via email) where they will inform you that the keys and the documents are in their custody. They will also send you all the steps, how to proceed, and all the transaction details.

    5 – At this point, you need to send the amount of 2000$(1st-month rent + last month rent) to the Airbnb payments representative (lawyer escrow account) provided to you in the notification. THE PAYMENT NEEDS TO BE SENT WITHIN 24 BUSINESS HOURS AFTER YOU WILL RECEIVE THE TRANSACTION DETAILS, OR ELSE THEY WILL CHARGE ME AN ADDITIONAL FEE.

    6 – As soon as the payment is completed, you need to send the payment details to Airbnb. (a copy of the receipt proving that you sent them the deposit).

    7 – Airbnb will verify the payment. If everything is in order, they will start shipping procedures using UPS Next Day Shipping Service.

    8 – You will receive the package (keys and documents), and you will have 5 business days (inspection time) to check the place and decide if you want to rent it.

    9 – If you decide to rent the apartment, you need to sign the lease agreement that Airbnb sends, email it to them, and they will release the funds to me. If, after the 5 days inspection, you decide not to rent the apartment, Airbnb will refund the whole deposit.


    Airbnb insures your deposit, and this means that if you do not sign the lease agreement for any reason, Airbnb will refund you the whole deposit, so you are 100% protected.
    They CANNOT release the funds without your approval, and they can do it ONLY after you send them the lease agreement with your signature. (after the 5 days inspection period).
    Airbnb will send you official documents (invoice, rental agreement, and insurance document) BEFORE sending the deposit to them.

    From my perspective, everything is safe, and the reward for going forward with this process is significant. Also, because it’s a SELF-SHOWING process, I find it usual (common sense) that you need to make the deposit first, as a guarantee. I hope you share my opinion because I cannot modify the transaction terms in any way, so PLEASE READ CAREFULLY ALL THE TRANSACTION STEPS.

    Let me know if you have the funds available (2000$) so we can move forward. If you have the funds available and agree with the transaction steps, please email me your full information (full name and address, and cell number) to get the transaction started.

    If you have any further questions regarding the transaction, please let me know.

    I am waiting for your reply!

  • Precy Precy says:

    This article is really helpful. Thank you Petr for publishing it. We almost get scammed but thanks to this clear and detailed article, we saved ourselves thousands of money.

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