Airbnb rental scam in Brussels — how I fell hook, line and sinker, almost.
I was quite taken by the photos of this fab place in Brussels that seemed like the answer to all my prayers. I went through the stages of booking until at the last minute, I smelled a rat! “This is a scam!” I thought, and I was right.
Berman Exposito rental scam
I just encountered a scammer and nearly fell victim to his fraud technique — A phishing attack using fake Airbnb bookings to get you to transfer funds into an account in another country.
I was booking a place to stay in Brussels “through Airbnb” with someone I made contact on Craigslist. Yeah I know, “Craigslist”.
Features of the play:
- Great place, great price, great pics, great location
- Special link he sends you to make the booking — it looks like an official airbnb.com link but it is not.
- He says he wants to get to know you and then that he likes you. He sends you some vague biographical hints.
- You can’t see the place because he’s in another country, is that ok?
- Someone will meet you there and your money is very safe, don’t worry.
- It looks like a real Airbnb page. It plays like an Airbnb page so it all gets absorbed by this cash price deal. I was duped into booking a room and almost duped into transferring money but smelled a rat and called it off at the last minute.
My part in this scam
Now that I think of it, of course the whole thing is a scam. I just didn’t want it to be so I was biased against that outcome in my cognition of it. Which is why it seems obvious now. In no particular order, here are some of the characteristics of the experience which all turned out to be fake:
- None of the links on the email are clickable
- The email alias in the emails is strange: email@example.com and so on
- The require cash transfers to an account, no credit card.
- I’m dupable. I got duped. I was just lucky I didn’t get scammed. Cognitive bias costs money.
- You can’t meet the renter because he’s in some other country is odd, but not impossible, like many of the details about how this should play out.
- I did a bit of domain digging and found footprints in Spain, Brussels, Geneva and Italy.
- There’s another persona doing the same thing with a Swedish profile — sending links and stuff. Na-ah.
- A tineye search for the images in the listing and found them in seven different apartments in two continents. Popular furnishings, I think not.
What to do when you suspect your being scammed
- Check your bookings in your Airbnb dashboard. If it’s genuine, it should appear there almost immediately. If in doubt, you should cancel the transaction.
- Check the urls — they should be from airbnb.com and not anything else such as airbnb.reserve-it.com or something.
- It is carefully stage managed, that’s how they get you.
- If you smell a rat, call it off. One sure sign is that you can’t pay by credit card — bank transfer only. Big No-No!
- If it’s too good to be true, it’s because it’s too good to be true.
- None of the people you are dealing with are real, they are invented characters and thieves.
Signs of a Scam Factory in Spain
- The headquarters of this activity seems to be in Spain — domain trace leads to Barcelona.
- There are multinational connections in Geneva, Brussels, Spain, Greece, Brazil, Canada and many locales and languages. They are using Airbnbs API to populate shell sites that look and play like the real thing. That takes skill.
- Some domains in the system were only set up a week ago, suggests automation, content management and active development. They have designers and writers. Tailored messaging.
- They are cropping up in a few places in 2017.
This was going on in 2016 in the Airbnb community forum.
Rental Scams info from 2010 — still good info today
> Rental scams target both landlords and tenants!
The name Exposito has cropped up before with the same MO.
Below is the closer email they sent me. No links work. It looks authentic though. I was teeing up a payment, I was all set. Then I thought the better of it.