Airbnb scam warning: Lord Sugar caught up in shock trick – how can travellers stay safe?

Lord Sugar, 72, said on his Twitter page today: “WARNING AIRBNB SCAM: Yesterday a American family of 6 turned up at one of my proprieties in London. “They had been scammed to think they could rent it for 3 days. The scammers took a photo from an estate agents web site and stole over $600 from these poor people. B******S .” The holidaymakers in question had been the victim of a scam where scammers take images of homes from elsewhere and pretend they are renting out the property. They then take money for the booking – but travellers turn up to find the property has not been rented out by the actual owner, or it doesn’t exist at all.

ARNING AIRBNB SCAM: Yesterdaya American family of 6 turned up at one of my proprieties in London

Lord Sugar

How can holidaymakers avoid such a shocking trick happening to them?

Consumer advice group Which? shared tips on how to make sure you aren’t caught out.

They called scams similar to the one used on Lord Sugar’s home “properties that look too good, or too cheap, to be true”.

They wrote: “They probably are. Try a reverse image search on photos of the property (on Chrome browsers, right click on the image on your mouse and choose ‘search Google for image’).

“Many scammers use the same picture for several listings. If you find the same picture being used for several properties, it’s probably a scam.”

This scam is one that can usually only be done once using a particular home, which would mean there are no reviews of the property – because no one has actually stayed there.

Which? advised: “These might just be new listings but, if you’re unsure, why take the risk? Genuine hosts will usually have many reviews of stays at their property.”

On their website, Airbnb offer advice to customers under the tab “How do I know if a listing is available?”

They say: “As long as you enter your destination, travel dates, and number of guests when searching on Airbnb, all listings that show should be available for your trip.

“While we strongly encourage all hosts to keep their calendars up to date, consider sending a message to hosts to double-check that their home is still available. You can also message the host to ask them other details about their space.”

Airbnb’s refund policy states that holidaymakers can get a refund in the instance of this scam.

They write: “Situations that may be eligible for a refund under this policy generally fall into one of three categories:

  • The host fails to provide reasonable access to the booked listing
  • The listing is misrepresented (e.g. number of bedrooms, location, lacks promised amenities)

  • The listing isn’t generally clean, is unsafe, or there’s an animal in the listing that wasn’t disclosed prior to booking

“Airbnb will either provide you with a refund or use reasonable efforts to find and book other comparable accommodation for any unused nights left on your reservation. The amount of any refund will depend on the nature of the travel issue.” have contacted Airbnb for a statement on Lord Sugar’s tweet, and how they deal with scams on their site.


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