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Indian expat Anamika showing the emails she exchanged with fraudsters behind the fake Airbnb Image Credit: Mazhar Farooqui, Gulf News

Dubai: An Indian exhibition and conference manager in Dubai has been left aghast after losing over Dh16,000 to a fake Airbnb website.

The victim, Anamika, said the scam was executed with such meticulous attention to detail that she did not suspect anything was amiss until she was duped.

The 28-year-old said she was looking online for a temporary accommodation when she got an email from a certain Angela Morrison offering her ‘furnished one bedroom apartment in CityWalk, Jumeirah’ for rent.

“For good measure, she also sent me pictures of the purported property. I was impressed. At Dh4,100 per month it looked like a steal deal,” recalled Anamika.

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Screenshot of the cloned website where the one bedroom on City Walk was listed Image Credit: Supplied

Convincing charade

In subsequent emails, she was deluded into believing that Morrison was based in the UK and had bought the apartment as a vacation home but now rents it out on Airbnb as she was too old to travel to Dubai.

“We exchanged around a dozen emails between March 8 and March 11. They were so convincing I didn’t even have the slightest inkling that they were part of a scam,” rued Anamika.

Cloned website

In order to close the deal, Anamika was directed her to a web page where the City Walk apartment was listed - complete with fab reviews and five-star ratings.

“As I found out later, the website was a clone. Barring a very small change in the URL, the site looked deceptively similar to the original Airbnb website. I fell for it and entered my debit card details as advised, to book the apartment,” recalled Anamika.

She was initially charged $2,152 (Dh8,155) towards security deposit and advance rent. When she asked why she was billed in dollars, the cyber criminals offered to give her a refund but docked another $2,152 from her account by convincing her to share her One-Time Password (OTP) with them. The money, Dh16,311, went to a bank account in Switzerland.

Anamika has since lodged complaints with both her bank, Emirates NBD and Dubai Police.

“I wish the bank had called me to warn about the transactions. They could have prevented it,” she said.

Emirates NBD bank said they are in touch with the customer to initiate the dispute process, adding that it may take up to 90 days. “We need to wait for the bank to complete due process so that the customer can confirm outcome before we provide a response,” a spokesperson for the bank said in an email to request. The spokesperson added that their online transactions are double-secure verified and can only be successful after the entering the OTP which are only received by the cardholder.

(Name of victim changed on request)

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Anamika didn't think there was anything amiss when she received this confirmation Image Credit: Supplied

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.