Dubai resident who fell victim to rental scam sends warning to others | #phishing | #scams


A Dubai resident who lost Dh2,600 after being duped by a fake room rental listing on a popular online marketplace has warned others to be vigilant when booking services online.

Nada Hatoum, 36, was searching for a room to rent for one month when she came across an advert on Dubizzle.

After reaching out to the host with her inquiry, she was told to proceed with the booking via Airbnb.

Having asked the Airbnb customer services team about the legitimacy of the advert, the Lebanese citizen proceeded to make full payment via a money exchange house.

I forwarded that link to the customer support team to check if it was legitimate. I got a response saying it was and to enjoy my experience, so because of that I proceeded with the payment

Nada Hatoum

But days before she was due to move into the room, the advertisement disappeared from the website and the host was no longer contactable.

“I was searching for a long-term room rental through Dubizzle and found a convenient option for an affordable price in Eaton Place, Jumeirah Village Circle,” she said.

“I tried to reach the host via Dubizzle but got no response, so I texted the number that was listed on the advert.

“A few days later they responded on WhatsApp and said it was better to proceed with the booking on Airbnb.”

Having never used Airbnb before, Ms Hatoum installed the mobile application but could not find the room listing. The host from Dubizzle then sent her an Airbnb link, which advertised the room.

“I forwarded that link to the customer support team to check if it was legitimate,” she said.

“I got a response saying it was and to enjoy my experience, so because of that I proceeded with the payment.

“To reserve the room the host sent me an email asking me to pay through MoneyGram. I couldn’t find a nearby branch so she said I could also pay direct to her bank via Western Union, which is what I did.”

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After Ms Hatoum confirmed receipt of the payment, the host sent her a confirmation code and told her she would make contact a few days before she was due to move into the apartment for the key handover.

Days before Ms Hatoum was due to move into the rented accommodation, all contact with the host was lot.

“I messaged the Airbnb customer support team and told them that I could not reach the host,” she said.

“I sent them the confirmation code and they responded saying that the code was not related to any Airbnb booking.

“That’s when I got crazy. Prior to making the payment I checked if the advert was legitimate and the customer service team assured me it was.

“Now I was Dh2,600 out of pocket and was being informed that, because the payment was not made on the Airbnb platform, they could not refund me.”

Never make payments offsite

In most instances, payments made or received offsite do not follow Airbnb’s Community Standards, meaning refunds are not granted.

However, after arguing her case for several weeks, Ms Hatoum was issued a full refund on the basis that she was misinformed that the advert listing was genuine by a customer support agent.

“Our original handling of this case did not meet our usual high standards, and as a gesture of goodwill, we have reached out to the guest to make things right,” a spokesman for Airbnb told The National.

“Third party websites have nothing to do with Airbnb, and we advise all our users to book, pay and communicate only on Airbnb to ensure they’re fully protected by our secure processes.”

Airbnb says it has introduced various measures to help its community stay safe to online scams and frauds.

Advisories on the website inform customers on how to identify a genuine Airbnb link or email, why you should only pay and communicate through Airbnb, and what to do if asked to pay offsite.

“As long as a guest only communicates and pays through Airbnb, they will be protected, including by our secure processes, refund and support policies and other safeguards,” a representative said.

Suspicious sites can be reported to Airbnb at www.reportphishing.net/airbnb/.

Updated: April 24, 2022, 6:27 AM



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