• T. Velazco

Home Owners Beware: AirBnB Rental and Investment Scams

Updated: Jul 22





 

In recent years, AirBnB has been embroiled in a number of controversies and unfortunately they have done little to quell the public’s fears on scam listings. Recently, I uncovered a couple of issues in their policies when something happened to me, that both home owners and guests need to know about.


Scammers are listing properties on AirBnB that they do not own, and are forging certificates of use here in Miami and other cities, to circumvent vacation property laws and scam travelers out of their money.


This happened to me with a house I own, and AirBnB did not take down the listings or the accounts, and put the people staying at that property in danger.


It all started last year, when I listed my property on Zillow. I received an email from an interested tenant that wanted to sublease the house I own to use as a property for AirBnB. She claimed she owned a property management company that rented to corporate travelers and AirBnB clients. She had a website and looked professional. I figured since she was making money off the property, my rent would be paid on time. We signed a year lease stipulating that she would take care of the management of the property to use it as a vacation rental, and she would pay me my regular rent. She paid me the first few months, but after 5 months, she stopped paying and could not be reached.


At first I didn’t feel bad. I wasn’t alone because I got word that she stopped paying everyone; the manager who was taking care of the property, the electricity, the water, the internet, the pool cleaning service and the yard workers. When I first contacted her in reference to this issue, she lied and said someone stole money from her account. I wanted to believe her, hoping it was a one off issue. I even gave her advice on securing her bank accounts! Then later I found out from the person that managed the properties for her in Miami, that it was all a ruse to keep me calm while she fled the country because she had scammed multiple landlords.


Which brings me to today. Today I found out she is still listing my property on AirBnB, several months after being evicted for not paying rent. She is collecting hosting fees from unsuspecting travelers on AirBnB, and then leaving them in the middle of Miami stranded without a place to stay.


After she was informally evicted back in May of 2022, I thought that it would be the end of the story, but today I got word from my new tenant, who recently signed a year lease, that some random guests showed up banging on their door and proceeded to get violent to enter the home. They mistook my tenant for the scammer because the scammer did not show a picture of her face on the profile. Thankfully, no one was hurt, but the cops had to be called, because they would not leave. The worst part of this story is that tenant’s two small children were very upset with the whole situation because they did not know what was going on.


Understandably, the two guests were furious. They stated that they found the listing and booked it as a non-refundable stay on AirBnB. Unfortunately because of this, they will probably not get their money back, yet AirBnB and the scammer will still get paid. That’s why she made the listing non-refundable.


Airbnb was contacted after this incident, and I explained the gravity of the issue, stating that my tenant could have been hurt or killed by an irate guest and that the scammer should be banned on AirBnB, but they replied saying I should talk to her directly and closed the case. I replied saying I had not hosted or rented on AirBnB, and that it’s a scam listing for my property, but I never received another reply.


Previously, I contacted them back in May, and told them to block the property address from their system after she was evicted, but as you can see, nothing was done and she is still renting to new guests with no questions asked.


So is AirBnB really to blame? Absolutely, because AirBnB knows about these scams yet allows them on their platform when they don’t act to ban the property addresses from being listed. The reality is that banning a property listing does not agree with their bottom line. In my opinion, this makes them accomplices who are aiding and abetting to crimes committed by scammers online.


Wading through articles on the internet, I realized I was not alone. Just a few searches on Google for “AirBnB Rental Scams” brought me to similar stories of other landlords and guests that went through similar situations. From what I read in other news articles, the most the company does is take down the listing and ban the account whenever a story makes headlines, but as a singular entity I have not been able to get them to do either of those things.


But ok, let’s hypothetically say that they did ban her, you would think that would solve the issue, but it doesn’t. Even if they ban her account on the platform, she can just make a new account and rent my property under a different name. This is something she does frequently. While researching, I found different aliases and emails that she uses on their site to rent properties in different cities.


The fact is, you don’t have to show proof of ownership to host a property on AirBnB.


Banning one account, solves nothing. Taking down or flagging the actual property address is the only way, but AirBnB systems do not work that way.


It gets worse, because I didn’t just lose the rent money. I came to find out that to rent a property as a vacation rental, you need a certificate of use here in Miami. In June of this year, I got notice of a violation from the city, which now I have to pay in order to avoid a lien on my property. The worker from the city explained that only property owners can apply for these certificates, which means that she went behind my back, got my property info from public records, and forged my name on the city’s certificate application. I informed them the house was never rented by me under AirBnB and I can prove she forged my name on their online application, but they told me it didn’t matter. It is my responsibility as an owner.


So what can I do to fix my situation? Well, short of my story going on the news or a lawyer opening a class action suit, not much. AirBnB has over 30 million properties worldwide and made 1 billion dollars in their first quarter this year, alone. They are well aware of the scams, but they just don’t care. This is apparent from all the stories I read and my conversations with their outsourced and untrained customer service.


But wait, the rabbit hole goes even deeper, because not only is she doing rental scams but we found a post on her fiancé’s Instagram that was way more heinous. This scam is probably the reason why she left Miami back in April and stopped responding to messages or paying the rent to the various landlords who she was working with.


Her Instagram has 130k followers, yet it was set to private after April of this year. Digging around we found out that in February, her and her fiancée announced publicly on a post, that they were looking for investors for their Airbnb properties. Viewers were asked to front upwards of $25-$35k for an investment to buy in and receive returns on investments without owning any tangible property or bothering with actual hosting.


From our understanding, after speaking to one of the people scammed, about 40 people invested. We calculated that she made roughly about $1.2 million dollars. Then she took all the money, privated her social media, and went dark, leaving everyone wondering what happened.


We were able to get accepted on her account, and all her pictures are of her traveling to a new location in Europe every week; Italy, France, Spain. Her last post on July 8th of 2022, was of her in a bikini posing on a yacht in Miami. It is pretty clear she has been living it up on other people’s money.


Thankfully, all I lost was rent, but those investors lost much more. I can only imagine what destruction she caused in their lives by stealing their savings.


I recently spoke to one of the people involved, and a group of investors are planning on suing her, but no one can get her on the phone or in person, not even to serve her a court subpoena.


Her company is based out of Scottsdale, Arizona and has properties In Louisiana, Arizona, Miami and Costa Rica all listed under different aliases on AirBnB. She goes by various names.


I have tried reaching out to various news organizations but no one has contacted me. I wanted to inform others, because if you are renting out a house you need to be aware of both of these kinds of scams.


You need to do your due diligence on people saying that they have an AirBnB property rental company that want to manage your house because it could be a scam. Also, please be extra weary of any AirBnB “investments”. Being aware of these is the first step to not getting scammed.


Have you been scammed like this or with AirBnB? Share your story below in the comments.



Have you been scammed on AirBnB?

  • 0%Yes

  • 0%No

  • 0%I have never used AirBnB.


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