Michaela Scarrott was excited to spend a month with her friends in what was described on Airbnb as a “luxury apartment” located in Whangarei, New Zealand. There was only one problem—Michaela wasn’t looking at the apartment on Airbnb, but was on a fake website posing as the housing marketplace instead. As a result, Michaela’s hopes of spending a fun-filled month with her friends in New Zealand were taken from her, as was her deposit of $4,800.

From being duped to double charged, there are numerous accounts of Airbnb customers having bad experiences. But there are even more stories of customers being pleased with the inexpensive and reliable options Airbnb has to offer. So what can you do to avoid all of the scams and make the best of your Airbnb experience?

1) Only pay using Airbnb’s website

Scammers continue to become more and more sophisticated, therefore it is essential that you verify you’re on the correct website when paying for the place you want to stay. Any payment link that redirects you to another website is most likely a scam, so make sure that you only make payments using Airbnb’s secure payment system.

2) Read all of the reviews

This may sound like a lot of work, but reading the reviews is the most important part of choosing where to stay. Reviews are the only way potential guests can get a feel for who the host is and what the place is like, so take the time to read reviews. By identifying problems and complaints, you’ll have a greater chance of not being disappointed.

 

3) Review photos

Pictures can be deceiving but the owner of a well-kept apartment or house shouldn’t have any problems posting lots of photos of everything on the listing. If there are only a few photos or they are poor-quality, or if photos of certain rooms aren’t included on the listing, the owner might be trying to hide something. Look for listings with lots of photos from various angles and you won’t be surprised when you arrive.

4) Research the area

This can be as simple as using Google Street View to get a feeling for the location. A listing might describe the place for rent as being “downtown” or in a “safe neighborhood,” but by doing a little research of your own, you can know for sure.

 

 

5) Read through the entire listing

If you’re not careful, it’s easy to overlook house rules or hidden fees. Make sure you know the answers to these types of questions: Are pets allowed? Is there a cleaning fee? Are there local taxes? The more you know, the better.

By taking more time to prepare for your vacation, you can ensure that you have a positive experience using Airbnb. A little extra effort and research can make all the difference between a relaxing holiday and a horrific night.

—Michael R. Morris Jr.