Don’t let this Airbnb scam fool you

Airbnb scamming becomes automated and streamlined.

Of course, Internet fraudsters are after our money all year long, but holiday seasons are happy hunting times. Even with airlines and hotels drastically raising their prices, they sell out extremely fast, leaving rushed travelers desperately sifting through travel websites in the hope of finding accommodation or air tickets at a reasonable price.

We don’t mean to imply that scammers who target travelers have it easy. To succeed, they need to fool a considerable number of people, which means not only posting, but also efficiently handling huge numbers of fraudulent ads and listings simultaneously. Well, this season, they have a powerful new tool at their disposal: Land Lordz.

Excuse me, what is Land Lordz?

Land Lordz is a subscription service for fraudsters. It helps automate the creation and management of fraudulent property listings and professionally designed fake pages that look very similar to genuine Airbnb websites. At the moment, the Airbnb scam is the only one that has surfaced, although we suspect other popular travel websites can be added in the future.

The basic package costs $550 per month. For this price, a malefactor can manage more than 500 fake offers simultaneously and interact with up to 100 soon-to-be-scammed guests.

What does the scam look like?

Malefactors take advantage of Land Lordz to compose and submit promising property offers on Airbnb, normally based on names and images from legitimate listings. Several sets of default positive comments from fake reviewers are included. Each offer emphasizes that the payment will go through Airbnb, as it normally does, which means customer protection and refunds for unhappy guests.

With the place in the listing looking almost too good to be true, it’s natural to reach out to the host to ask for more details. The immediate response includes a link that leads to a site that isn’t Airbnb at all, but has an extremely professional design that is very similar in design to the real Airbnb site. The fake steers you toward signing in.

As soon as you log in, your credentials go directly to the scammers. But that’s not the end of the story. Recall that the Land Lordz service helps malefactors keep track of all messages with would-be victims. Therefore, they immediately request a deposit — no deposit, no reservation. Of course, the moment you wire the money, the thieves cut off communications.

How to avoid this kind of scam on travel websites

  • Be skeptical of tantalizing offers. If an opportunity seems too good to be true, it probably is. To learn more about how to avoid disappointments — or worse — down the road, read our post about the dangers of modern vacation planning.
  • Be suspicious if your future host prompts you to click any links. Be extra suspicious if the host asks for direct payment up-front.
  • Always check the browser address bar to make sure you are actually on the website you are supposed to be on. Use a reliable Password Manager: If it does not autofill the password line on a log-in page as it should, there is a good chance you are on a fake site.
  • Always use a reliable antivirus solution to be alerted when the links you click leads you to a phishing or other malicious website.