Fake Airbnb directs users to apartment complex with no place to stay

wasco terrace apartment cap.jpg
Charlotte and Patrick West manage the Wasco Terrace Apartments in Northeast Portland. (KATU Photo)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KATU) — A Northeast Portland couple tells KATU News that Airbnb guests have shown up to their apartment complex with reservations, but none of the tenants have their homes listed with the short-term rental site.

"We've been at this place for over three decades and never had anything quite like this happen," Charlotte West told KATU News.

The couple manages the Wasco Terrace Apartments. Charlotte said guests who booked a stay on Airbnb showed up to her home last Tuesday, and showed up to a tenant's apartment over the weekend, and again Monday.

"We're the managers here, we didn't do that, nobody else would be doing that," Patrick West said.

Patrick said a family with an older man, an older woman and young children showed up to their home with a reservation.

"They were supposed to be getting an apartment here for the weekend," he said.

Again, over the weekend, Charlotte said a couple from out of town came with a reservation. Most recently on Monday, she said, a group from England came to the complex with a reservation.

"They were looking for a lady named Helen and they had a number. They (were) trying to call her -- no contact. Unfortunately, it looks like they had been scammed," she said.

Charlotte said no one in the apartment is on the site. She said her tenant did not list the apartment on the site. If she did, the Wests said it would be a violation of the leasing agreement.

Airbnb told KATU News it has no record of a user with an address from the apartment complex.

The city of Portland told KATU News none of the addresses are registered with the city as a short-term rental.

Airbnb said three guests booked a stay with a host who listed an unspecific address in the neighborhood. The company told KATU News the guests were given help with a new reservation. Laura Rillos, a spokesperson for Airbnb, said the host was not paid since the guests never checked in.

"We have offered rebooking assistance to the affected guests, removed the listing and banned the user from our platform. The most important thing to know is as long as you stay on the Airbnb platform and only communicate and pay through Airbnb, you will always be protected as we do not release payment to the host until the guest is safely checked in. If anyone ever has any issue at all, our 24/7 customer service and trust and safety teams are standing by ready to assist," Rillos said in a statement to KATU News.

Airbnb gave the following tips for customers booking on its website:

• Get To Know Your Host & Home in Advance: The Airbnb experience is unique and authentic because you’re booking with a local host. That means every home will be different. We always recommend that guests take advantage of the many tools Airbnb offers to get to know your host (and listing) before you book. Read the host’s detailed profile and listing description thoroughly, including house rules, amenities, and cancellation policy. We also have a safe and easy way for you to get to know your host before booking a reservation through our secure on-platform messaging tool. You can use it to get your questions answered about the home and set clear expectations with the host for your stay.

• Read Previous Community Reviews: In addition to detailed profiles and secure messaging, you always have our global community to rely on. If you’re curious what a previous guest’s experience has been with a potential host, all you need to do is check that host’s reviews ahead of time. Both guests and hosts publicly review each other — and only do so after the reservation is complete — so you know the feedback is informed, unbiased, and real.

• Always Communicate & Pay on Platform. All you need to do to avoid a scam is to stay on our secure Airbnb platform throughout the entire process — from communication, to booking, to payment — and you will be protected. Plus, we never release payment to a host until the guest is safely checked in, and you should never be asked to wire money or pay another user directly. In fact if you are, we advise you to report this behavior to us right away.

• If Anything Isn’t Right, Reach Out! If a guest arrives at a listing and it’s not as advertised, they should immediately reach out to our global Customer Service team for help. They are standing by 24/7 in 11 languages with rebooking assistance, refunds, and/or reimbursements to help make things right in the rare event that things don’t go as planned.

The Better Business Bureau told KATU News customers should use a site that they are familiar with and suggests using a short term rental company that is well known.

"Timeshares and vacation rentals are a great way to travel and have the comforts of home. However, scammers love to take advantage of vacationers by making false promises and creating a sense of urgency to fool them into paying for something that doesn’t exist," said Stephen Meyer, a spokesperson with the Better Business Bureau Northwest.

Meyer said customers should book a stay using a credit card. He said credit card companies are better equipped to handle fraudulent purchases. Guests, he said, should never use pre-paid cards or wire money for a reservation.