A BRITISH dad has lost £4,000 after being scammed by a bogus Airbnb listing – and only received £150 compensation from his bank.
Lee Walker, 44, thought he had found his dream Algarve villa and tried to book it so his stepson could propose to his girlfriend in a romantic setting.
Lee Walker, pictured with his wife Toni, lost £4,000 in an Airbnb scam[/caption]
He received an invoice and said everything looked official[/caption]
But he was left devastated when he discovered the man he paid did not work for Airbnb and realised he had fallen victim to a scam.
Mr Walker, from Nuneaton, told The Sun Online: “I felt physically sick, it was heartbreaking. I didn’t know how to tell my wife and family.”
The dad-of-one spent weeks searching online for a “perfect” property to stay in for a week and stumbled across a four-bedroom villa called “Super Villa One” in Quarteira, Portugal.
He clicked on “contact the host” and was told he could get a discount for the week’s stay in August if he messaged their personal address and wired the cash to a separate account.
Mr Walker then received an invoice with the Airbnb logo on and sent him the money after contacting Barclays.
But he failed to hear back from the fraudster and his heart sank when he contacted Airbnb who had no order confirmation or any information about him.
Mr Walker, a build coordinator at Land Rover, said: “I had been looking for a really special villa that me and my family could visit so that my eldest stepson could propose to his now fiancee.
“I had been trolling the pages for days trying to find somewhere as it had to be perfect for everyone, then I found it.
He then said if I emailed him on a different address he would sort out a discount, I didn’t think anything of it
“I went onto the Airbnb site and clicked on ‘contact host’ for the villa and was politely greeted with a reply from Luis (Villa Manager).
“He then said if I emailed him on a different address he would sort out a discount, I didn’t think anything of it and he got straight back to with an invoice for £4,001 on an identical Airbnb form.”
The “villa manager” told Mr Walker to send the money by a bank transfer so he contacted Barclays.
He added: “I spoke to an adviser and stated the issue I had that my card would not work and I needed to do a direct bank transfer to pay for an Airbnb villa.
“The adviser said that it was not a problem and it would be a lot quicker if he gave me my online details and I did it there.
“I was surprised that the money went straight from my account with no checks but I felt safe as I was sure Airbnb held the money until the account was verified.
I felt sick, I just wanted to curl up and die. How could I tell my wife that I had just lost all of our money to a scam when usually I am so on the ball with everything?
“I didn’t think for one second that it was a scam as I thought it was all done through Airbnb.
“The following day I still had not had any confirmation so I rang Airbnb and it was then that I heard the sickening news that they had no knowledge of my transaction.
“I felt sick, I just wanted to curl up and die. How could I tell my wife that I had just lost all of our money to a scam when usually I am so on the ball with everything?”
He desperately tried to get the money back from Barclays but was told they couldn’t do anything because the money had already been removed from the conman’s account.
Barclays then launched an investigation and found they were not at fault and credited his account with £150 to apologise their investigation had taken 50 days.
He added: “I think it is absolutely disgusting that my bank has just brushed me off and that Airbnb take no liability for any of this.”
An Airbnb spokesman told The Sun Online: “As soon as we were made aware of this issue, we removed the host from the platform and reached out to the guest to offer our support and help make things right.
“Fake or misrepresented listings have no place in our community and our team works tirelessly to strengthen our defences, stay ahead of bad actors and educate users about staying safe online.
“With over half a billion guest arrivals on Airbnb to date and two million guests checking into an Airbnb every single night, issues like this are incredibly rare. When they do happen, we act quickly to make things right.”
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A Barclays spokesperson added: “This scam is a tragic case of criminal theft by a fraudster impersonating an Airbnb host and advising payments should be made outside Airbnb’s protected payment method.
“When customers are tricked into paying their money to a criminal, the bank has no way of intervening in advance, and therefore we urge people to check payment details very carefully and to call the relevant provider should they be approached to make payments outside the agreed payment process.
“No bank does more than Barclays to protect our customers and their funds and we hope that the police urgently investigate this matter and bring the criminal to justice.
“If customers are concerned that they are a victim of a scam or have noticed suspicious activity on their account, we urge them to report this to the Bank as soon as possible – either by calling our Fraud team directly or visiting their local branch.”
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