This Airbnb was touted as the “perfect” Bondi Beach apartment; a “luxury villa” just minutes from the iconic Aussie beach, filled with natural light, sleek furniture and just $652 per night with space for 12 people.
But it was too good to be true, in fact it was worse.
The six-bedroom ‘Bondi Beach luxury villa’ is, according to Fairfax, not actually in Bondi, but in Florida. The address listed for the Airbnb advert is actually a backpackers hostel in Bondi Beach.
Per a Fairfax report, using Google image search on the images featured in the listing, it came up with a Florida property listed on US real estate site realtor.com.
The property’s listing started out with the following message:
“PLEASE do not book before you contact me! All the bookings made without prior contact will be canceled! [sic]”.
Fairfax’s SMH claimed a response to a further inquiry insisted that payment could not be made personal details such as a full name, address, ID and utility bill had been provided.
It comes after the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) recorded close to 200 complaints of fake Airbnb listings last year, which led to the company providing $88,000 in consumer losses.
It’s also a controversial topic for the travel industry, who have love/hate relationships with it.
In November last year, a survey showed Aussie travellers preferred hotels over Airbnbs, however that didn’t stop Qantas jumping into bed with the home-sharing site, letting frequent flyers earn points when booking with Airbnb.
Airbnb launched its ‘Trips’ arm of the business late last year, and last week bought out luxury rental company, Luxury Retreats, to expand its offerings.
Per Fairfax, complaints in 2016 had tripled since 2015, and speaking to SMH, ACCC deputy chairwoman Delia Rickard said anything requesting payment outside of the Airbnb app should not be trusted.
“Anytime you are asked to pay via a wire transfer or gift card, anything that is difficult to trace, that should tell you it’s a scam,” she said.
“If you have been scammed you should report it to Airbnb and also to the ACCC’s ScamWatch service.”
Rickard added that the whole ‘reverse Google image search’ approach would be wise for Airbnb to stay on top of legit listings on the site.
“These image searches are one of the things we encourage dating sites to do on all profile pictures. We certainly encourage online booking sites to do something similar.”
An Airbnb spokesperson told SMH, “Airbnb will never ask you to pay the cost of a reservation off-site or through email. The bottom line is when you book a reservation through our secure platform, you receive the benefits of Airbnb’s global trust and safety team.
“More than 150 million guests have had safe, positive experiences on Airbnb and negative incidents are extremely rare. We proactively educate our new guests on the importance of keeping their bookings strictly on the Airbnb platform.”
Fairfax claims that after being contacted by them, Airbnb removed the ‘Bondi luxury villa’ from the site, and banned the host from the platform.