Airbnb users warned of cruel scam leaving families confused and travellers thousands out of pocket

Airbnb users are being warned of a cruel scam targeting customers of the site, which has travellers thousands of dollars out of pocket and left homeowners confused.

Two women fell victim to the scam — which involves the use of old real estate listings to create fake Airbnb rentals online — in Melbourne over the Christmas period, the Herald Sun reported.

WATCH THE VIDEO ABOVE: Cybersecurity expert talks about new scam on the rise.

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The scam was exposed when the two travellers turned up at the apartment they thought they had booked, expecting to say at the home, only to turned away by the legitimate homeowner.

While it’s not known how much the Melbourne travellers lost, a week-long stay in inner-city homes often costs more than $2000.

Often, criminals direct customers to pay offsite for the rental, allowing them to avoid detection as fraudulent.

Cybersecurity expert Monica Whitty joined Nat Barr and Matt Shirvington at Brekky Central on Friday, to speak about a new scam affecting Airbnb customers. Credit: Seven

Appearing on Sunrise on Friday, Monash University cybersecurity expert Professor Monica Whitty said the scam began overseas but has since appeared in Australia.

“It has been going on for a long time, firstly in Europe, now in Australia,” Monica said.

“Criminals set up fake sites on real genuine websites — they look real, real photos, real addresses, but the victims often pay offsite and into the criminal’s account.

Monica said often properties that had been sold in the past few years, still had an extensive collection of photos online that were used at the time of sale and it “wasn’t difficult” for criminals to get their hands on the photos.

But she said it was difficult for customers to “spot fakes” in these kinds of scams, but there were measures to safeguard yourself online when booking accommodation.

“You can do some checks and do things that are going to protect you — like never pay off the site, pay through the site, that’s one thing that will protect you,” she said.

Monica said it was also important to use a credit card when booking.

“You can look online about that property,” she said.

“Do a little search to see if it’s been used in other scams. You can use Google reverse image to see if it has been used in a scam previously,” she finished.

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