My Experience with AirBnB Rental Scam & How to Avoid Getting Scammed

When my boyfriend and I were looking for an apartment in Seville, we found many online that looked too good to be true. And most of them were. We encountered numerous listings that turned out to be a scam. This is the interaction we had with one of the scammers. (translated from Spanish to English)

We found a listing for a big apartment in one of the most popular districts of the city, for only 400 € per month. This looked too good to be true, but I thought it would be a good idea to send a message anyway. Call it wishful thinking. So my boyfriend contacted the owner and told him we were interested in the apartment and would like to arrange a viewing. This is the reply we received.

Hello
Thanks for contacting me,
I am Fabio, with regard to the rent of an apartment in Calle Jesus de las Tres Caidas, Seville (400 € / per month). I’m the owner of the apartment.

I want to rent to some nice and responsible people and to be able to do it, I have to know some details about you, how many people think to live in the apartment, for how long, if you have a constant income, etc.

Besides everything else, here is some information about the department and myself so we can get to know each other.
I am an architect (I have my own company) in Lisbon, Portugal. I worked in Seville for the last 5 years, and this apartment was bought while I was working there, in Spain, now I think it would be a better investment, to rent. I am the sole owner of the apartment, it is paid in full and has no legal problems. The apartment is not inhabited since I moved to Portugal.
The rent for 1 month is € 400 (for the entire department) including all services (water, electricity, Internet, cable). You can rent the apartment for any period of time (open-end contract) but not less than 1 month.

You can move into the apartment, the same day when you receive the keys. The only problem is that I am already in Portugal, but I hope that, together, we will find a solution.

I appreciate your interest in my property, and I am looking forward to a future collaboration and friendship.
If you need photos of the apartment, please let me know
Can you send me your phone number? Use Whatsapp?
Do you speak English or Portuguese?
If you have any questions, do not hesitate to ask me
Thanks and sorry for any inconvenience!


At first glance, it looks good. But, of course, I wasn’t going to pay for an apartment I hadn’t seen with my own eyes, not before I knew the apartment was real. This was our reply.

Good morning Fabio.
We would be 2 people, my girlfriend and I are working, we have renewable contracts and enough savings to face the rent of your apartment, which we liked a lot.
Could we arrange a visit to the flat with someone you trust?
Thanks for answering.

Note how little information we give about ourselves, and the first part of his reply.

Hello
I just read your email, you seem to be a very nice person!
I’m not in Seville at the moment, I work (as an architect) and I live in Portugal, Lisbon.

Of course, you will have to see the apartment before analyzing more details.
I am willing to send you the keys so you can visit it and see if it suits your needs. The handing over of the keys and the viewing permission (signed by me). We can use the Airbnb booking process (www.airbnb.com), they will provide assistance to handle the payment and delivery of the rental package.
The monthly rent is € 400, you must also pay € 800 for the guarantee deposit, which ensures the minimum damages that may occur during your stay. The deposit is symbolic since I have many things on my property much more expensive than that, but we must respect it since it is included in the Airbnb booking process. Your deposit will be refunded in full after your payment.

Are you familiar with the Airbnb booking process? I will explain the procedure if you are interested, so let me know as soon as possible because I really need to take care of this matter.
I sent you pictures of the apartment.
Thank you!
Fabio

This is when I knew it was a scam. He mentioned that the entire process would be on the AirBnB website. This is when I remembered a similar story I read online. Someone had found an apartment online and the ‘owner’ sent him an AirBnB link to handle the payment. This happened to be the same amount of money as Fabio mentions in his mail (€400 plus €800 deposit, so €1.200 in total). This person was redirected to a fake site that looked exactly like the Airbnb site, only there was one letter off in the web URL. This was a fake website, the money was transferred directly to the scammer and the victim never got his money back.

Even though we already knew it was a scam, we decided to ask him to explain how this AirBnB process would work.

Great Fabio.
The truth is that we like the apartment and we are interested. I know Airbnb as an application, but I have never used it, perhaps out of mistrust. If you explain it to us, it would be great. Anyway, could we see the apartment before using Airbnb? After seeing it, we would not mind adapting to the means of payment you prefer.

I await your response, regards.

Hello
Look, if I could show you the apartment without Airbnb, I would not use it now …
I’ll explain step by step how the Airbnb booking process will work, just to be sure:

1 – To begin the reservation process, all I need is your information:

– First name

– Surname

– Phone number

– Email

2 – I will send you the reservation notification in your name through Airbnb. I already have the keys to the apartment and the rental contract in Airbnb custody.

3 – At this point, I will send you the link of the apartment through Airbnb, where you must confirm the details of your reservation, the time you wish to stay, the name and address and the first month’s payment and the guarantee deposit.
The agreed amount is € 400 for the first month and a guarantee deposit of € 800, the total amount will be € 1200.
 Airbnb will withhold your payment until you have received the keys and the contract, and have seen the apartment. After seeing the apartment, you will have to make a decision, whether you want to take it or not. I will receive the money only after having seen the apartment and decided to take it.
If the apartment is not as I presented it, you have the right to refuse it. Airbnb will return your money to your bank account within 24 hours of your decision.

4 – As soon as you confirm the payment to Airbnb, within 24 hours they will contact you with the exact location and instructions where you can collect the keys and the rental agreement together with the exact address of the apartment.

5 – After receiving the Airbnb package, you will have 48 hours to go to the address of the apartment and see if you like it or not. In case you refuse to rent it, just contact me or Airbnb and they will activate the cancellation policy and return the money you have paid.
In case you agree to rent the apartment, read and sign the rental agreement and then send it by email.

If you are ready to book and accept the Airbnb booking process, you would need the information requested previously.
If you have any other questions, do not hesitate to contact me.

P.S. I have sent you a copy of my passport ID. Please check attached.
Best regards,
Fabio

He sent us a picture of a passport, supposedly his passport. When I looked him up on Google, I found no architect by that name. He didn’t appear on any website, not even on Facebook or LinkedIn. Even though it is possible for someone not to have an online presence, it is still a bit odd.

Be careful when looking at apartments online, and be especially careful with the ones that look too good to be true.

NEVER pay for an apartment you haven’t seen with your own eyes or an apartment of which you can’t be sure it even exists.

If you encounter a homeowner who wants to arrange the payment via an AirBnB website, the conversation should take place on the AirBnB page to begin with. AirBnB has its own messaging system which protects both you and the homeowner in case something happens. Use it!

NEVER click on a link someone sends you and make a payment on that page without checking in detail that everything is correct. Check the page’s URL, make sure all links are clickable, for example, the help or contact links on the bottom of every page. There are many articles to help you verify the authenticity of a website.
For example:
AsiaOne: How To Avoid Getting Scammed on Fake AirBnB Websites

Which?: How to spot scams on Airbnb and other letting sites

I hope our experience helps you in your search for an apartment, wherever you are, and remember: no matter how amazing an apartment may seem, always stay aware!

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Travel Safety Tips: Is Seville Safe?

Is Seville safe for a single woman to visit alone? 

Is Seville safe for a single woman to visit alone?

Clients asked me this question more than once, and in my opinion, the answer is yes. Of all the cities I visited in my life, I can say that Seville is the only one of them where I have not felt uncomfortable walking around by myself. As a young woman, I am perfectly comfortable walking around the city by myself both day and night.  The center of the city has a very convivial atmosphere. The days are long and nights even longer, people are out on the streets every hour of the day, so you’re never completely alone anywhere in the center.  However, you still have to be smart. I have some tips that should help if you’re traveling solo to Seville, or really anywhere in the world. 

Travel Safety Tips

  1. Use your common sense. Don’t wander off into lonely dark alleys at 2AM, don’t leave your bags open or unattended and don’t carry your wallet or phone around in your back pocket. Basically, don’t draw unwanted attention towards yourself. 
  2. Try to not look like a tourist. Walking around with a camera around your neck, a map in your hands and an I Love Sevilla T-shirt will just make you an easy target for people trying to take advantage of tourists.
  3. Stay aware of your surroundings. It’s good to know where you are, so you won’t accidentally wander off into the bad part of town. When out on the streets, I’d recommend carrying your bag in front of you at all times, and move away if someone gets up into your personal space a bit too much. I once had my phone stolen out of my bag because I was not aware of what was happening around me. While looking at some clothes in a shop, a woman was standing right next to me, looking at the same rack of clothes. She was standing quite close to me, so close that it made me feel uncomfortable. My first thought was that this was probably because she wanted to look at the same blouse I was looking at. So I moved out of her way, but every time I moved away she moved with me. This should have made some alarm bells go off in my mind, but unaware as I was, I didn’t really think that she would be trying to steal something from me. I just walked away after I got too uncomfortable, and 5 minutes later when I went to the cash register, I opened my bag to grab my wallet and realized that my phone was gone. When I tried to call it it was already turned off, and nowhere to be found. Ever since that day, I always carry my bag in front of me and immediately grab it when someone gets into my personal space. 
  4. Don’t be alone all the time. This might be difficult as a solo traveler because you don’t always have someone around you. Let other people (maybe your family at home) know where you are and what you’re doing. Whenever you feel uncomfortable, talk to the people in your surroundings and let them know that you’re traveling solo. Even though this might sound weird, it will often make the other person look out for you. Whenever I have a solo traveler on my tours (since I work as a tour guide in Seville), I always tell them what parts of town they should avoid, and try to give them helpful tips on where they can go and maybe meet other travelers or locals. So chat with local service people such as waiters or tour guides. I would also recommend going on a tour on one of your first days in your new destination. Not only will you learn about the place and get a lot of historical, cultural and culinary insights, you might also meet some other travelers you can meet up with later on. 
  5. Don’t be too friendly. If your gut tells you that a situation makes you feel uncomfortable, don’t be afraid to say no. Sometimes, if you’re too polite or shy, people will walk all over you and that way you might be forced into a situation you really didn’t want to be in. So don’t worry about being impolite, because if somebody doesn’t respect you, they are not worth your time. 

Have you ever traveled solo to another country? And do you have any advice for other solo travelers?