AirBnB takes almost two weeks to remove "fraudulent" account

Which? was able to set up a fake profile on AirBnB which remained up for almost two weeks.
Which? was able to set up a fake profile on AirBnB which remained up for almost two weeks.
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AirBnB has come under fire after an investigation found a delibarately fraudulent account was allowed to remain on its site for almost two weeks.

Consumer watchdog Which? set up eight fake listings on Airbnb without any proof of ID, then published a contact email address in breach of regulations in a bid to test the company's security policies.

AirBnB took down the email - which scammers often use as a method of asking people to pay via bank transfer outwith the AirBnB system, often for a room that does not exist. However, the consumer group found it was able to add it again later without any problems.

It then flagged up the potentially fraudulent account via AirBnB's on-site reporting mechanism, but it took the accommodation provider 13 days to remove it from the website.

The profiles were set up as part of an investigation carried out by the watchdog, which attempted to create a series of fake listings across Airbnb, Homeaway and Tripadvisor’s Holiday Lettings.

Holiday Lettings, however, said it had blocked the fake profile's attempts to send an email address to a prospective traveller; caught and removed Which?’s attempt to post an email address in the property’s description, and blacklisted the account within a few hours of it being flagged as fraudulent.

A spokesman said: "The safety of our travellers is our top priority. That’s why we have a large team on duty 24/7, an ever-growing collection of fraud prevention tools and systems, give safety advice to travellers every step of the way, and provide payment protection. If a property flags up a security concern, a member of our team completes a manual investigation, which includes requesting documentation and ID."

Homeaway did not allow Which? to set up the fake profiles, as it required a scanned passport or driving licence as proof of ID.

"A common type of scam on holiday letting sites is for fraudsters to get guests to contact them directly, usually by including a phone number or an email address in the listing’s photos or description," Which? said.

"In these cases, they’ll usually then suggest the holidaymaker transfers the money outside of the website via bank transfer."

Rory Boland, Which? travel editor, said: "More needs to be done to tighten this up and to quickly shut down fraudulent accounts when they are reported."

AirBnB's website warns customers that they should not "share your email address before a booking is accepted or transfer funds outside the Airbnb system".

"Fortunately, experiences like this are rare," a spokesman said. "We are working with Which? on the results of their investigation and are taking their concerns incredibly seriously."