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A con man who hacked into an Australian man’s Airbnb account and spent $1800 to stay at a beachfront villa has been arrested, but only after police initially said they were too busy to go there – despite being only 500 meters from the police station.
The Sydney director, who wanted to be known only as “Andrew,” noticed on Monday that his bank balance was lower than usual and found a credit card transaction for an Airbnb booking in Western Australia that he hadn’t made.
After discovering that the stranger had booked seven nights in a house advertised as a ‘Tropical Retreat Luxury Villa’ in Scarborough in Perth, and would still be there, Andrew contacted the police station in the beach suburban area. .
But Andrew was stunned by the response he got.
The persistence of an Australian businessman upset by police ignoring that his Airbnb account has been hacked has led to the arrest of an alleged identity thief
Andrew, a Sydney businessman, called Scarborough Police on Monday after realizing a stranger had hacked into his Airbnb account and booked seven nights in a ‘tropical resort villa’ in Western Australia
“I called Scarborough Police Station, told them the full story and the fact that the thieves were still on the scene, and gave them the address,” Andrew told the Daily Mail Australia.
‘I googled the station, it was 500 meters from the Scarborough police.
“They said it’s a cybercrime issue, file a case online.”
Police referred him to the Australian Cyber Security website.
Unable to find a way to report the crime on that site, Andrew called the Scarborough Police Department a second time and “begged.”
On the second call, he was told, “I have people at the counter and we don’t have enough cars.”
Then he was hanged by the female officer.
“I felt fobbed off,” he said. “It’s amazing that a crime was committed and it’s still going on and I was powerless to do anything about it,” Andrew said.
On the first of two calls, Andrew made a call to the Scarborough Police – 500 meters from the Scarborough Tropical Retreat Luxury Villa – and was told it was not for them
When Andrew called Scarborough Police Station a second time about the alleged Airbnb scam, they apparently went on an investigation – and made an arrest
But apparently the police recorded what he told them because they found time to get to the scene and then made an arrest.
That then led them to search a house on Westborough Street in Scarborough – which is just 100 yards from the street where the Airbnb property is located.
There, police say they seized 13 fraudulently modified driver’s licenses, seven more WA driver’s licenses, a NSW license, a Medicare card and a debit card — none of the alleged perpetrator’s names.
They arrested and charged a 26-year-old woman from Aubin Grove in southern Perth with possession of stolen goods, drugs and drug paraphernalia.
He noticed Monday that his bank balance was lower than usual and found an $1800 transaction from his credit card for an Airbnb booking, an in-app receipt (pictured) that he had not made.
What Scamwatch Says About Airbnb Scams
The ACCC’s scamwatch told Daily Mail Australia it had received 52 reports of scams mentioning Airbnb this year.
But most of them didn’t involve account takeovers.
So how a customer hacked into Andrew’s Airbnb account is unclear.
Scamwatch said it’s important to turn on all notifications in the Airbnb app, including for logins.
- If you see an unexpected notification, please contact Airbnb
- Contact your bank immediately if you see any unexpected financial activity.
Common scams involving Airbnb lately include:
- Being asked to book and pay for Airbnb accommodation outside the official Airbnb app, through an app such as WhatsApp.
- Consumers should also be on the lookout for websites that look like Airbnb, especially if you’ve been linked to them through social media.
- Beware of a new scam that falsely claims that a payment was made to Airbnb with your card.
In addition to contacting the police, Andrew informed the property owner via the Airbnb in-app messages that the guest who claimed to be him was allegedly a scammer.
A screenshot of the in-app messages shows the alleged scammer telling the host that “he” was on a business trip and will extend “his” stay.
‘We have recently arrived and settled in, the place is beautiful. Thanks for the thoughtful extras.’
Andrew also contacted the host directly via Facebook but received no response. There is no suggestion that the host was at fault.
Andrew complained directly to Airbnb and only received an automatic reply asking to verify his card numbers in an email.
“I’m really dissatisfied with the whole thing, Airbnb and the police let me down when I first spoke to them,” Andrew said.
“I’ve been stressed that my Airbnb in-app messaging system was being used by the thief, they pretended to be me and the fact that it could be accessed by someone else, what the hell?”
On Tuesday morning, he received a report that the mysterious person who claimed to be him had canceled the booking.
He also contacted his Commonwealth bank to refund the transaction.
Scamwatch, part of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, said hacking Airbnb accounts appeared to be another scam.
A screenshot of Andrew’s Airbnb account shows the alleged scammer corresponding with the host before warning them
It urged all Airbnb users to keep a close eye on notifications and banking transactions, especially if they come from outside the official app.
The accused woman is to appear before the Perth Magistrates Court on September 13, 2022.
Daily Mail Australia approached Airbnb and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission for comment.