A mother claims she was conned out of £3,000 when her Airbnb account was hacked by an imposter who booked six holidays and had to be thrown out by horrified hosts when their fraud was revealed during a stay.
Cazz Ward woke up to text messages from the travel accommodation company last month, informing her she had booked six holidays overnight, many to London an Barcelona.
But the 51-year-old from Manchester had not booked a holiday since her trip to Berlin last year, so knew instantly that her account had been hacked.
The crafty conmen had changed her account password so she was unable to cancel the bookings.
She even received frantic messages from one Airbnb host who had to evict one of the criminals and call police after they pretended to be her to stay at the accommodation.
Despite the six different holidays draining £3,000 from her bank account, she claims it took her to tweet the CEO of Airbnb before she was refunded her money – 10 days after it was taken.
Now Cazz is sharing her story for fear that other Airbnb users could be at risk and believes poor security on the site could be to blame – though Airbnb believe she could have been the victim of a ‘phishing scam’.
Cazz said: “The people that hacked into my account actually went to stay at one of the flats they booked.
“The host had to evict them on his own and they are criminals. It’s dangerous.
“I was sent a message from one of the hosts saying ‘what’s happening? I have been told to get you out of my property’.
“He didn’t seem to know what was going on and had to call the police.
“I called Airbnb and [the hackers] had booked trips in London and Barcelona worth £3000.
“The only reason I know about all this was I called them myself and they said they would get it resolved. I had being ringing them all week without a response.
“I even had an email telling me to change my password, but I couldn’t because the people who hacked my account had already changed it.”
Even after realising that she had been the victim of a hacker, Cazz says that she struggled to reclaim the £3,000.
She claims it took ten days of phone calls between different departments and eventually a tweet to the CEO, Brian Chesky, before she was fully refunded – without an apology.
Cazz said: “The distressing thing is Airbnb didn’t even tell me my account had been hacked until I contacted them. They’d already known for four days.
“I want to let other people know what has happened so they can be careful.
“We’ve booked five or six holidays in the past with Airbnb and they’re fine as long as nothing goes wrong.
“I had a conversation with several people to ask if they were refunding my money. One said it had already been done, one said they had partially done it and the other said it would take the next day.
“Over a week later and I was still waiting, until Wednesday [15 March] when I received a full refund after contacting the CEO.
“Then they said they couldn’t see the problem with my account and that they would close it, but I have an active booking on there for a family trip to Berlin I am going on in a couple of weeks.
“There is no communication between different departments and they won’t speak to you.
“In the end, it was a tweet to the CEO that seemed to get them to do something.
“We finally got our money back, but no apology or goodwill gesture.
“I won’t be using them again after the trip we have been to Berlin.”
A spokesperson from Airbnb highlighted that the company had a safety team of more than 600 people who work 24/7 to try and ensure instances like this do not occur.
Following investigations, the travel firm have been led to believe that Cazz was the victim of a ‘phishing scam’, meaning her username and password were stolen elsewhere and hackers used the same log-in to compromise her account.
The Airbnb spokesperson said: “Fraud has no place on Airbnb and we immediately worked with the guest to recover their account and provide our full support.
“The online and offline security of our community is the most important thing we work on every day and we deploy a number of sophisticated systems to help prevent, detect and tackle attempts at fraudulent activity.
“There have been over 160 million guest arrivals in Airbnb listings and negative incidents are extremely rare.”