A man who was scammed out of nearly £2,000 after being duped into sending money to a fake landlord has warned about the dangers of duplicate Airbnb websites.
Humayun Kabir, a journalist from Asian TV news Channel i Europe, was tricked after spotting a Gumtree advert for a flat, only to be palmed off to a mystery ‘owner’ who was not contactable by phone and unwilling to meet in person.
After being convinced by a sophisticated duplicate Airbnb website which mimicked every aspect of the real one, Mr Kabir parted ways with £1,800 of his own hard-earned cash to the scammer.
Initially spotting the well-presented North Castle Street flat online, advertised at £600 a month with two bedrooms and two parking spaces, Mr Kabir quickly messaged the poster to enquire about his potential new home.
He was then passed on to another man posing as a civil engineer based in Spain who used a picture of a passport in a bid to confirm his identity.
Mr Kabir, who has lived in Edinburgh for 16 years, was told he had to make a payment of two months rent and a one month deposit. It meant he parted with £1,800 in total to secure the flat.
Only then would any formal tenancy document be signed, with Mr Kabir promised his money back if he did not like the property.
In order to make the payment, Mr Kabir was sent a link via email to a duplicate Airbnb website where the fake landlord was listed as a representative of the property lettings company.
It was only after he had made the bank transfer and did not received a confirmation email from Airbnb when he realised something might be wrong.
Speaking about the conman, Mr Kabir said: “He told me that Airbnb was doing the payment procedure so I thought that this was the person I would pay. I am a very cautious person but this is the first time in my life I have been totally taken in.”
After Mr Kabir sent the payment through, the link to the site mysteriously disappeared, with the scammer claiming it was down due to too many people visiting the site.
He said: “When I checked the fake Airbnb link I was totally convinced. When he told me I had to wait 24 to 48 hours for an email I was confused. Then I realised that I had been scammed.”
Luckily, Mr Kabir’s bank was able to refund him the full £1,800, but he said he wanted to spread his story to ensure that other people are not duped by the same sophisticated scam and lose their money.
He said: “I went online to see if there were any incidences like this and I found many articles about it and many people who have been victims of the same scam. It is really shocking and it can happen to anybody.”
A spokesman from Airbnb said: “These websites have nothing to do with Airbnb and, when brought to our attention, we work with external partners to help report them and get them removed.
“We provide advice and guidance to help our community stay safe online, and last year launched our guide to online safety for hosts and guests in partnership with top security experts, Get Safe Online.”