Airbnb has proven to be a good alternative for travelers across the world. But one Denton woman has a warning: be careful before you book. When it comes to certain listings, she says the company has a lot of explaining to do.
This year was Kelley Long's turn to plan this year's family summer vacation.
"We were going to New York City. We were going to see the Rangers play the Yankees."
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Her first step was booking a place for her family of seven to stay.
"After looking at hotels and stuff, it was going to be $300 a day for one couple," Long explained.
It wasn't quite in the family's budget, so they turned to Airbnb and came across an impressive listing.
"It's heart of the city, 15 minutes away from the Yankee stadium, 10 minutes from Times Square. Perfect location," said Long.
The listing was $449 a night.
"Way cheaper, nicer, better location and we get to stay together. It's a big happy family," she said.
Long said she wanted to know more about the home, so she googled the address and came across a listing on Zillow.
She said she found the same address and photos online, but the property was for sale for $2.1 million.
"Something told me that you can't be on Airbnb and be for sale. That doesn't make sense," she said.
Long said she reached out to the property owner listed on Airbnb to check things out and quickly got this response:
"Don't worry! That was only a test on the market. Your booking is not in danger."
After being reassured, Long paid the $500 deposit. But she still had a bad feeling about it.
"I contacted Airbnb and said, 'This listing is for sale. I don't think this is accurate.'"
Airbnb's response: "After an investigation, we confirmed that the listing you reported is a good listing."
But Long said she still had doubts.
"I just couldn't understand how something so beautiful was going for $500 a night, while other listings were about $1,200 a night," she said.
"My mom told me to contact the listing agent. I emailed her and within three minutes I got a response that this is 100 percent a scam."
The realtor for the property told NBC 5 that at least three consumers from different parts of the country have lost money on that fake listing.
The realtor said they've reported it to Airbnb a number of times but the company "was less than helpful."
Long said she called Airbnb to inform them of this scam. She said she did get her money back, but the company never addressed the problem.
"They didn't take the listing down, so people were still booking on it," she said.
This isn't the only fake listing Long said she found on Airbnb.
She discovered a three bedroom, three bathroom condo in New York's Financial District. She thought it was gorgeous, but a Google search lead her to the real listing: a three bedroom, three bathroom condo, with the same pictures, on the market for $3.4 million.
Long said she flagged this listing on the site, thinking Airbnb would take them down. But when the NBC 5 Responds team checked, the listing was still there.
"It makes me wonder what type of background checks are they doing on their owners," Long said.
The NBC 5 Responds team had the same questions, so we reached out to Airbnb.
A spokesperson told us, "Fake or misrepresented listings have no place in our community, and our team is constantly working to strengthen our defenses and stay ahead of bad actors. Our original handling of this incident fell below the high standards we set for ourselves, and we'll be reviewing what happened with our agent."
Airbnb said the user and listing have been removed from its platform for violating our community standards. The company has also removed other listings and users that Long reported for violating its community standards.
"We have removed the listing in New York flagged by this user. This bad actor did not receive any payments or complete any reservations." -Airbnb
As for background checks, Airbnb said it screens all hosts and guests and also runs background checks looking for prior felony convictions, sex offender registrations, and significant misdemeanors.
But Long believes more needs to be done to prevent fake listing from appearing on Airbnb again.
"If somebody can just put it on their site, what if we were to show up?" she said. "If i hadn't done my research, what would have happened."
When using lodging services like Airbnb, here are Samantha Chatman's Solutions:
- Never pay anyone outside of the site. Only send your payment through Airbnb.
- Try googling the address of the home you plan on staying in.
- Look for reviews. Long said the home she booked didn't have any reviews on the site.
- If you ever notice a suspicious listing, Airbnb wants you to flag it on the site and call them directly at 1-855-424-7262.