Season of Spammers?

The last three requests to book have been people either 1. trying to find a way to connect outside of the airbnb platform (we block and report, although Airbnb clearly is on top of this and tends to shut down the request almost as quickly as we do), or 2. asking a series of ridiculous questions about the property, one question at a time, and clearly not paying attention to the answers that have already been given (or reading the description in the listing). In all three cases they were (of course) people who had just signed up for Airbnb and were requesting for approximately 3 months of tenancy. In the five or six years I’ve been an airbnb host, I’ve only seen a handful of requests that gave me clear red flags. Are others seeing this trend as well, or is this just a fluke?

There are many, many reports of hosts receiving these scam inquiries lately, reportedly from China. Always asking pointless questions and asking for months-long bookings. Seems there is some new organized scam ring operating.

There have always been guests who try to get you to communicate off-platform, but many of those are just people trying to avoid Airbnb fees, not really trying to scam you out of money. And there are also well-known scams that have been around for years, like their employer is paying, but they have another place to stay for free, so how about we split what my employer is paying?

But this “Chinese guest” one seems to have sprung up within the past few months. What surprises me is that these scammers think hosts are stupid and don’t share warnings on host forums. They must reel in a few suckers, though, if they just continue.

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For those of you experience this – where are you located? Is the target all USA, or elsewhere? I’m in North America’s most (ethnically) Chinese city, and we’ve never had this happen.

I don’t think this has anything to do with local Chinese guests sending these, Spark. I’ve read a bunch of posts from hosts who have been getting these, but no one has mentioned whether the account shows that the (fake) guest is from China, or just corresponding in Chinese, with a translation. For all we know, it’s just a handful of guys sitting in a room somewhere, setting up multiple fake accounts, and sending these out en masse.

It’s just that Vancouver gets a LOT of Chinese visitors, and a lot of people moving from China who need temporary accommodation after they step off the plane while looking for something permanent. (My last guest and my next one fit that description exactly (from Hong Kong) and the second-next is visiting Vancouver family from Shanghai.) In other words, lots of demand from China for STR in Vancouver.

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I sometimes wonder what would have happened if we’d just accepted this very weird request to book. Would someone have actually showed up? Would money have actually been paid into our airbnb account? The last one just kept asking questions about parking location, how many cars, was it public or private, was the apartment well ventilated because he hates stuffy rooms. When we told him to put all his questions into one link instead of continuously asking questions, he said “go ahead and block me, you are a rubbish host.” It was just one of the weirdest airbnb conversations we’ve ever had.

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Ah, I see what you meant. I haven’t kept track of where the hosts who are reporting these scams have their listings- for sure many have been from the US and not places where there is a large Chinese population. But there is a majority of US hosts on English-speaking hosting forums, so for all we know, hosts in France or Spain or Brazil are getting just as many of these scam inquiries as US hosts, they are just posting about them on forums in other languages.

But the messages from these scammers makes it obvious to experienced hosts that they aren’t legit, as they all use the same formula- asking questions that are weird or unnecessary, making idle conversation, asking to book for many months, all brand new accounts.

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Was it actually a request, or an inquiry? Most scammers send inquiries, because they know if a request is accepted, Airbnb instantly tries to charge them for a booking, and if the charge fails to go through, Airbnb will likely delete the account.

With an inquiry, they can just keep trying to engage you endlessly, probably hoping that at some point they’ll be able to convince some naive, unsuspecting host to deal with them off-platform, at which point they will somehow screw the host out of money. And if a host pre-approves an inquiry, nothing happens- as far as Airbnb is concerned, the guest simply decided not to go on to book.

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You’re absolute right Muddy, it was just an inquiry. Makes sense that they’d be just trying to wear the host down.

Your only obligation with an inquiry is to initially answer. Only that time. Why would anyone ‘engage’?

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He asked multiple questions, which we answered. Is that what you mean by "engage?’

Yes. You are only required to answer the first question.

Oh, well thanks so much for clarifying that. Really appreciate your input.

I only send them a pre-approval. I don’t answer any questions.

But an inquiry is provided to guests for the purpose of being able to ask questions. While I’m not advocating a host wasting their time answering clueless questions, the answers to which can be easily found by actually reading all the listing information provided, or answering those who are pretty obviously scammers, to ignore answering a guest who sends a question is pretty rude, IMO. It also would confuse guests who are using the inquiry feature as it is intended, to ask a legitimate question.

Most hosts would want guests to ask reasonable questions if they are uncertain about something, rather than tie up the calendar with a request, IB, or arrive expecting something that makes the place not a good fit for them.

If I was seriously considering booking a property but had a question before I was ready to commit, and the host simply didn’t bother to answer and instead just pre-approved, I would never want to book with that host.
I might even be tempted to report them to Airbnb as non-responsive.

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Exactly… I send the preapproval so that the person does not book!

If someone has a genuine question and I think they are likely to book, I might answer their reasonable questions. But I have to weigh the possibility that they are not going to book. I will ignore the rude ones.

If the potential guest has reading comprehension issues, they are going to be too much work for me to host. I don’t want them.

Yes, go ahead…

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Well, of course ignoring rude ones is understandable. You indicated that you don’t answer questions at all.

There is always a possibility that an inquirer won’t go on to book. But you are running a business. Not answering a potential customer’s question simply because they might not put money in your pocket is a strange attitude. Answering potential guests’ questions is part of hosting. How would you like it if you went in a store and the salesperson refused to answer a question you had about a product unless you committed to buying it first?

How about if you called a business to ask them a question, for instance asking for a quote from a cleaning company and what their services include, and they hung up on you because they refuse to answer questions about their services unless you are a paying client?

My post was in the context of this thread.

It’s a different business model. A guest who needs that level of handholding should book something else. I don’t cater to every single type of traveler.

Most businesses say they reserve the right to refuse service.

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Thanks for making that clear. I’ve only had one guest who sent an inquiry with a raft of questions. At least she sent them all in one message (numbered 1-20 :rofl:). None of the questions were really things the answers to which would be found in the listing, they were more along the lines of her assuming a host is her personal trip planner to give her information about the area, where to find this and that.

I did answer her, although for some of her questions I had to say that I had no idea what she was talking about. She did go on to book, and she certainly wasn’t objectionable as a guest, nor would I decline her if she were to request to book again, but she did have a bit of an entitled attitude (which I could tell she was entirely unaware of).

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I have had such guests and learned that offering concierge services is not my business model.

Now when I get a request like that to answer a long list of trip planning questions, I don’t answer them at inquiry stage.

If they ask too many questions after a trip is booked, I send them a delayed response (scheduled in Gmail). The more questions they ask, the more delay I program. Hopefully, they get the idea that I’m not a hotel concierge.

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