Rental scam: House for hen’s party didn’t ex­ist

Auck­land wo­man turned up at her ac­com­mo­da­tion to find it wasn’t there.

Herald on Sunday - - IN OTHER NEWS - By Kirsty Wynn

Ahen’s party of 20 women was al­most left without a venue af­ter a scam on Airbnb in­volv­ing a house that didn’t ex­ist.

Auck­land wo­man Re­nee Car­roll only re­alised she had been scammed an hour be­fore guests were due to ar­rive for the week­end of cel­e­bra­tions on Fe­bru­ary 3.

Car­roll booked what she thought was a four-bed­room char­ac­ter villa in Auck­land for the high tea party.

The house was booked and paid for through the le­git­i­mate Airbnb site and Car­roll was sent an ad­dress by the host “Paul”.

But when she ar­rived to col­lect the keys she re­alised she had been conned.

“I turned up to col­lect the keys and I was look­ing for 28 Ki­pling Ave in Ep­som,” Car­roll said.

“I saw 24 then 26 … then it was the end of the road and I started to get that feel­ing and I was like, uhoh, here we go.”

The house was not at the ad­dress Car­roll was sent — scam­mers had fraud­u­lently used pho­tos from a real es­tate list­ing of a home re­cently sold on the North Shore.

With a car laden with food for the guests en route, Car­roll made a pan­icked call to her Airbnb host “Paul”.

“I tried ring­ing the host num­ber and it came up ‘ver­i­fied num­ber Cam­bo­dia’ — it didn’t con­nect.”

Car­roll im­me­di­ately called Airbnb staff who ques­tioned if she was “at the right house” be­fore of­fer­ing al­ter­na­tive ac­com­mo­da­tion and then a full re­fund.

De­spite get­ting her $436 back, Car­roll wanted to warn other Airbnb cus­tomers to be cau­tious — even when book­ing and pay­ing through the site.

The “new” list­ing did not have any re­views — some­thing Car­roll said will be es­sen­tial if she books through the site again.

“To book through Airbnb they make you send all this in­for­ma­tion like your driver li­cence, so you would think they would ver­ify the host ad­dress.”

Af­ter call­ing var­i­ous venues Car­roll “had a melt­down mo­ment” and was cry­ing on the side of the road be­fore a friend’s fa­ther came to the res­cue and of­fered his house as the venue. “I was so up­set be­cause I had every­thing planned, the pho­tos look great, it had an un­der­cover deck, every­thing looked lovely, it was per­fect.

“It just didn’t ex­ist.”

And Car­roll wasn’t the only per­son caught up in the scam.

A photo of Auck­land-based Iron Bridge real es­tate agent Paul Foster was used in the list­ing, as were pho­tos of a house he re­cently sold for $1.23 mil­lion on Hyde Rd, Rothe­say Bay.

“Wow. I had ab­so­lutely no idea — it’s a real shock,” Foster said when told of the scam.

“I just feel for the per­son who was scammed — that is ter­ri­ble.”

Car­roll is one of sev­eral New Zealan­ders who have been scammed on Airbnb — most lure vic­tims through the pop­u­lar book­ing web­site but then get guests to veer from the usual pay­ment sys­tem.

An Airbnb spokesman said it was an un­usual sit­u­a­tion and the com­pany would al­ways pro­tect users who paid through the Airbnb plat­form. “Fake list­ings are ex­tremely rare,” the spokesman said.

“The guest re­ceived a full re­fund and we have per­ma­nently banned the bad ac­tor from our plat­form.

“As long as you keep your com­mu­ni­ca­tion and pay­ment on the Airbnb plat­form, you can rest as­sured you will al­ways be pro­tected.”

De­spite the un­for­tu­nate start to the week­end, Car­roll said the party went well and without fur­ther drama.

“The evening was great. My friend was none the wiser. I am lucky a friend’s dad made his house avail­able at such short no­tice.”

The im­ages for the house that Re­nee Car­roll rented were posted by Airbnb host ‘Paul’.

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