By: April Carson
On Christmas night, when Molly Flaherty approached her Philadelphia residence, she was taken aback to find four unfamiliar people resting around the lockbox at her entrance steps.
At 10 pm, Flaherty felt a touch of fear as she considered the potential scenarios: were these people trying to break into her home? Were they at the wrong house? Was there something wrong with the property itself that was causing alarm? As it turned out, however, when she approached them and identified herself as the homeowner, their confusion outweighed any malicious intent.
Nicole Brunet, positioned at the lockbox, informed Flaherty that she had rented out her property on Airbnb to accommodate her parents who were in town from California for the holidays. However, little did Nicole know that Flaherty hadn't listed her house on any vacation-rental platforms at all.
The listing was real, but Flaherty wasnt the one who created it. Someone else had created the listing without her permission, listing the house on Airbnb and pocketing the money generated from it. It was in fact a scammer who had used her address and images of her property to advertise the home on Airbnb.
When Brunet arrived at the Airbnb address, it was almost as if she and Flaherty had shared an intuition that something wasn't quite right. Yet upon further inspection of the listing details and photos, they quickly realized with astonishment that it indeed matched Flaherty's home.
Flaherty provided screenshots of the Airbnb listing that has since been taken down. She mentioned that photographs of her home's interior were clicked before she acquired it in 2020.
After Flaherty adamantly denied having ever listed her residence as a vacation rental on Airbnb, Brunet came to the realization that she had been duped, according to Brunet.
Airbnb has coined this scam as an "account takeover", when a fraudster obtains access to the account of an Airbnb owner. An Airbnb spokesperson disclosed to Insider that Flaherty's home listing was not fabricated, but rather it was a lapsed posting reactivated by an offender.
Brunet expressed, "I'm competent with technology which is why I was able to read reviews and examine pictures prior to renting this property. To make sure my parents would be content here, I even took a stroll around the house."
She protested in disbelief, claiming that the listing "had every component of a real account." She confessed that this experience has damaged her faith and trust in Airbnb. The company responded to Insider with a statement indicating their disappointment and regret. They provided financial compensation for the guests' inconvenience and removed the bogus listing from their platform.
Brunet expressed that, when she informed Airbnb of the listing that night, they provided her with an alternate booking. Yet due to concerns over its legitimacy, Brunet was unwilling to accept their offer as there were no guarantees it wasn't a fraudulent listing.
To make sure her parents had a safe, comfortable environment to stay in while they visited, Brunet found them a hotel room close by and paid for the week-long stay out of pocket. To her surprise, however, she got a full refund from Airbnb shortly after making the purchase–a sensation that surely felt like unwrapping Christmas presents early! The unexpected reimbursement was worth more than $1K.
After a week of waiting, the listing was eventually removed from Airbnb - according to Flaherty.
On Christmas Day, Flaherty contacted Airbnb to alert them of the scam listing. Unfortunately, it remained active for an entire week before being taken down! Worrying that other guests would try to book a stay at her house and be scammed, she took precautionary measures by posting a note on her front door that read: "If you booked this address through Airbnb it is illegitimate. This residence is not available for rent - Airbnb has been informed multiple times."
Constantly refreshing the listing, Flaherty vigilantly examined its calendar for any signs of booking. Fortunately, it appeared that no one had reserved the Airbnb in her area any time soon. With a relieved sigh, she knew she wouldn't have to expect strangers at her doorstep anytime soon.
Despite this, Flaherty experienced fear every time she stepped out of her house - fear that strangers would be waiting for her when she returned. "I was constantly anxious and worried, imagining someone just turning up to my home in the middle of the day or at night," said Flaherty.
She was informed a specific team was investigating the issue, yet as the listing kept showing up online, she took other steps. She had relatives and friends submit reports concerning this inaccurate posting and sent Airbnb access to an Philadelphia database which stated her ownership of that property. Eventually, the issue was resolved and the posting removed.
After engaging in a few days of negotiations, I was informed that Airbnb classified me as an outsider since I wasn't the host nor a renter. Furthermore, they refused to mediate when such disputes are reported by third parties. When asked for comment on this matter, an Airbnb representative stated that the company needs to execute its due diligence whenever someone from outside makes a grievance.
After Flaherty contacted The Philadelphia Inquirer to share her story, Ximena Conde followed up with Airbnb and the listing was promptly taken down.
Flaherty expressed a lack of notification that the listing had been removed, to which Airbnb's representative explained was likely due to issues with privacy concerning Flaherty being considered an external party.
Airbnb also added that they have tools and systems in place to detect unauthorized listing activity, as well as services that monitor the property so that any concerns can be address promptly.
Flaherty expressed her disappointment in the amount of time it took for Airbnb to take down the listing. "It felt like they weren't giving enough attention to all these complaints," she elaborated. "To me, it seemed that they simply didn't care."
Although Airbnb acknowledged the gravity of the incident, their response left much to be desired in terms of demonstrating sincere concern. Unfortunately, this is not the first time a user has reported an incident involving Airbnb's lack of attention to customer complaints.
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April Carson is the daughter of Billy Carson. She received her bachelor's degree in Social Sciences from Jacksonville University, where she was also on the Women's Basketball team. She now has a successful clothing company that specializes in organic baby clothes and other items. Take a look at their most popular fall fashions on bossbabymav.com
To read more of April's blogs, check out her website! She publishes new blogs on a daily basis, including the most helpful mommy advice and baby care tips! Follow on IG @bossbabymav
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