Dubai: A British pilot in Dubai has become the latest victim of a sophisticated property rental scam run by cyber criminals using a fake Airbnb website.
Less than two months after Indian manager Anamika lost Dh16,000 after falling for the racket, UAE-based pilot Alan Smith (name changed) has stepped forward detailing a similar experience. He lost Dh10,800.
Just like Anamika, Smith too was contacted by the fraudster who identifies herself as Angela Morrison and claims to own a property in Dubai.
Smith said he was searching for short term rentals online when he got an email from a certain Angela Morison offering her ‘furnished one bedroom apartment in CityWalk, Jumeirah’ for a monthly rent of Dh3,900.
“I was moving home and needed something temporarily between June and August. The apartment ticked all the right boxes. Mrs Morison (sic) claimed that she had bought the place as a holiday home but was now a little too old to travel, I was assured that I won’t be bothered during the stay. I believed her,” recalled the 31-year-old. “I was told that the rent could be further reduced if I pay upfront for two months,” he added.
Lest there be any doubt, Smith was sent pictures of the property and advised to book the place via Airbnb.
In order to clinch the deal, he was then directed to a web page where the apartment was listed, complete with five-star ratings and fab reviews
As it turned out, it wasn’t the real Airbnb website but its clone “It looked so super realistic that I got tricked and entered my debit card details to make the transactions,” said Smith who was charged two months of rent (Dh7,200) besides Dh3,600 towards a security deposit.
Smith said he found out that he had been conned when he came across last month’s Gulf News article about the scam. He has since lodged complaints with his bank and through the E-crime platform of Dubai Police.
Of late, scores of UAE residents have fallen for this well-oiled scam. The growing list of victims include a Pakistani engineer, an Irish teacher, Indian manager and a South African executive. Between them they have lost more than Dh40,000 to the cyber criminal who goes by the name of Angela Morrison. Victims reckon the name is loosely inspired by Angela Merkel, the chancellor of Germany as subsequent investigations showed that the emails sent to them originated from Germany. South African PR executive Ahmad Badat who was made to believe that Angela and her husband were an elderly couple from Germany said he’s frustrated at the lack of support from his bank, AirBnb and the classifieds website. “AirBnb have sent me an email claiming they cannot be held responsible while my bank has told me they are not able because I authorised the payment myself. I find this ridiculous that the bank gives their clients no security and sense of protection,” he reasoned.
Curiously, Badat, Anamika and Smith made payments through the same local bank.
Smith said he’s appalled that the bank didn’t flag his transaction considering it had come across a similar cases days earlier.
How to avoid fake Airbnb scams
- Never pay outside the Airbnb website. First, check the URL to make sure you’re on the real Airbnb site - not a clone page.
- Secondly, only pay inside the Airbnb platform. If someone requests you pay via bank transfer, cash or directly into their Paypal account, it’s almost certainly a scam