Airbnb steps up security measures in crackdown on fraudsters

Worldwide: Airbnb is stepping up security measures to prevent fraudsters using its website to deceive holidaymakers into sending money to scam accounts.

The actions came to light last year after numerous families were tricked into transferring payments for seemingly genuine properties to fraudsters who disguising themselves as real property owners.

The company has since reported rising booking numbers with ten million British holidaymakers arranging short term rental accommodation via its online platform in 2017 – and it has pledged to stamp out the illegal activities.

In addition to reinforcement measures such as ID checks and checking names against regulatory, terrorist and sanctions watch lists, the company has introduced stricter authentication requirements when customers log in from an unrecognised device.

It has also conceived new guides to help guests and hosts protect themselves with the help of internet safety group, Get Safe Online.

Nick Shapiro, global head of trust and risk management at Airbnb, said: “While we already take steps to help keep bad actors off our platform we think these guides will further protect customers.”

Booking websites such as Airbnb rely on trust between owners and bookers, however some users have paid thousands of pounds for properties that turned out to be fake listings.

One such case was the Gilmour family from South London who transferred over £5,000 to a fraudster posing as the real host of a luxury property on the Balearic island of Majorca.

Other victims have also been tricked by websites set up by fraudsters which display photos and details lifted from genuine web pages.

Figures from Action Fraud reveal fraudsters stole £6.7 million from holidaymakers last year but many fraud cases also go unreported. Although Airbnb checks its members’ IDs, this does not stop fraudsters from hijacking real profiles.

Customers using sites like Airbnb can protect themselves by communicating directly with owners through the booking website’s private messaging system and paying via the firm’s secure payment set-up.

However, not all online marketplaces do ID checks or provide secure booking. A safer way is to pay by credit card as a bank may provide a refund if a booking proves to be fake.

Holidaymakers can report any holiday fraud to Action Fraud online or by calling 0300 123 2040.