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Security & privacy

If you use Airbnb or another site like it, you have to know about this scam

If you travel frequently or own a rental property, Airbnb is a great way to find deals on lodging and maybe make a little money on the side. The platform is simple, intuitive, and the rating system helps users steer clear of dodgy interactions. Plus, it all works through PayPal, which is famously secure in its own right. This makes Airbnb a trusted platform for travelers and hosts alike.

Not all is roses with the travel app, however. In spite of its decent reputation, a series of security hacks affecting multiple users has the Airbnb community seriously worried. Users have reported their passwords have changed without their knowledge, their profiles deleted, and thousands of dollars lifted from their PayPal account with no explanation.

Could these recent scams be a breach in Airbnb? Are the culprits a group of rogue hackers? Or is it a different kind of scam that’s taking advantage of users without their knowledge. If you’ve ever used Airbnb, you won’t want to miss out on this vital security information.

Are users being compromised on Airbnb?

A number of Airbnb users have been subjected to mysterious charges and bookings without their knowledge, according to this new report from USA Today. It appears hackers have been making reservations at fake destination rental properties through victim’s Airbnb accounts. Accounts affected by this scam seem to book non-refundable stays in rentals halfway around the globe.

What’s worse, these accounts are compromised and altered, with personal information useful for password resets being deleted by the hackers. This prevents the original account owners from logging back in and fixing the issue.

Many of these victims have taken to social media to voice their complaints, claiming their accounts have been hacked and pointing blame squarely on Airbnb. As the scam has continued to grow, the company has reached out to affected parties and offered refunds — despite the “non-refundable” status of their bookings.

This addresses the problem to some extent, but many of the hackers take advantage of Airbnb’s PayPal billing function. This allows them to stealthily nab thousands of dollars while they’re logged in, with very few ways to actually stop it.

How can I protect my Airbnb account from these hackers?

In a statement to USA Today, Airbnb claims that these breaches were not related to its own servers, and instead happened elsewhere. If this is the case, the scam is most likely a classic phishing scheme that targets Airbnb accounts specifically.

With phishing, all a person needs to do to get compromised is click on a bad or falsified link, enter personal information, and unknowingly send it to the bad actors on the other side.

These scams are notoriously common, and every single internet user should be aware of their telltale signs. That way, the number of phishing victims can decline — discouraging would-be hackers from pursuing the practice.

To keep your Airbnb account safe, make sure you’re always aware of where you’re going online. Avoid websites that seem strange or unreliable, and try to stray off the beaten path, so to speak.

Any website or popup that asks for your login information should be closed immediately and avoided at all costs. Additionally, keep in mind the kind of information that Airbnb would normally ask for. If you seem to be pushed from the app into a popup that asks you to wire money, provide your credit card info, or send money directly to a host, that’s a major red flag.

Most importantly, if you see anything suspicious, make sure to reach out to Airbnb and let them know what you found. This can help the platform become more secure, and potentially stop threats before they have a chance to develop.

In the meantime, stay safe out there, and happy travels.

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