Summer 2021, how to book vacations online safely

With the increase in vaccines and thanks to the Green Pass, more and more Italians are starting to book vacations online again in the nearest locations or abroad. According to data provided by Airbnb, bookings of accommodations that can accommodate groups and families of five people and up have increased from 33% in the summer of 2019 to 53% for that of 2021, while rural tourism has increased from 21% of nights in 2019 to 37% this year.

The flip side of the coin is that, in the face of an increase in online bookings (7 out of 10 users now book online), this is a good opportunity for scammers who try to cheat unsuspecting tourists every year. In fact, in 2020, the reports on the site of the Postal and Communications Police have increased by 142% compared to the previous year and, in the period of the pandemic, many have used the excuse of the impossibility of establishing a physical contact as an excuse to use "alternative" channels. However, it is possible to book the vacation safely, thanks to some tricks.

The profiles of online scammers

Recognizing which are the common scammers can be of great help to avoid being cheated. These are the 3 most common sketches.

The Brain on the Run

In the past, many scammers wrote in very unlikely Italian because of automatic translators that were not always accurate. Today, these software have evolved and the translation is very realistic, so it is even harder to spot cheaters. This owner then explains that he has moved abroad and cannot show the house in person. All this leads to a request for an international wire transfer, after asking for all personal documents which will then be used to construct false identities.

The Computer Technician

This scammer has excellent computer skills which he used to create an Airbnb clone site. With some excuse, he invites the user to continue the booking through a direct link that only serves him to continue with the deception. Often the difference is minimal and you need to pay attention to the details in order not to fall into the trap.

The mate

The scammer immediately shows himself very kind and friendly by thanking you for choosing his accommodation and proposing a big discount. These are tricks to create complicity and bring the user off the Airbnb site so that he can deal privately. This is the best ground for him to go on the attack.

The 7 tips to book safely

Avoiding scams is not difficult, just follow a few tricks. "The most common frauds take place on other sites and the Airbnb name is used to lure the potential victim because it is a brand that reassures - explains Giacomo Trovato, Country Manager of Airbnb Italia - It is important that both the contacts between host and guest and the payments always take place within our site or application, as indicated by our terms of service. In fact, Airbnb retains the amount at the time of booking, transferring it back to the host only 24 hours after check in."

Never pay directly by bank transfer

The Airbnb site, as is also the case for other platforms, provides for payments exclusively through the site and in no case by bank transfer. So don't trust anyone who asks for a deposit through a payment system that is not contemplated.

Don't communicate off-site

Regularly the entire booking process takes place through the Airbnb site. It is advisable to be wary of those who propose to continue the negotiation outside of it, perhaps with the promise of a discount.

Beware of links shared via email or from other sites

It is advisable to be wary of those who say they rely on Airbnb but are using a classifieds site or a generic real estate portal. The link could be to a fake site.

Recognizing Airbnb from Clones

Deception can be hidden deep inside. All Airbnb pages have the address starting with or .com, and a number after the word "rooms," as in the example: Addresses that are more complicated or have a different structure should be suspicious. A Google search with the name of the ad (e.g. "Bright Terrazzo Milano") and "Airbnb" as keywords should be the test; only legitimate pages should show up.

Read the ad carefully

There are many small details that can be the sign of a likely scam. For example, an overly competitive price for the week of August, particularly vague descriptions, a complete lack of reviews, or a user profile that was created just a few days ago. A trustworthy host will usually take care of the listing well.

Airbnb is not a real estate agency

Behind the claim of a host that he or she "instructed Airbnb" to show you the house, there is almost certainly a scam around the corner. In fact, there are no Airbnb staff with keys, as if they were real estate agents.

Beware of bait accommodations

If, once you arrive at your destination, you are asked to change accommodation, obviously not up to the standard of the one you booked, using as an excuse a sudden problem that arose in the original apartment that made it temporarily uninhabitable, the best thing to do is to document everything and contact the platform immediately to get a full refund.