Rental scam: House for hen’s party didn’t exist
Auckland woman turned up at her accommodation to find it wasn’t there.
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’.