Widespread Travel Scams Targeting Booking.com and AirBnB Customers

How do you know you're booking the real thing?

Simon Mustoe

Simon Mustoe

Writer, photographer and founder of Wildiaries


Just this week, the ABC reported widespread travel scams targeting Booking.com customers. This is nothing new. Scams have always been a part of life, it's just now, they are delivered in a very sophisticated way to everyone, ever day.

Worse still, you don't even spot the worst ones that are happening. Even some of the largest online booking companies like Booking.com and AirBnB can't fix this. The Australian Tax Office isn't immune either. Last year the AFR reported they'd paid out $1.6BN in GST payments to fake companies.

It's been suggested that you call the hotels up direct, or 'try to independently verify any emails or messages ... ask for personal or banking information ... contact the accommodation provider directly' etc.

OR - you could simply ask us, a travel specialist. We can book almost anything you can find online, for the same or less. We have systems in place to guarantee your money and trusted associations.

Travel is highly aspirational and people are prone to making impulsive purchases for 'special offers' and 'deals'. We often get calls from people who've paid upfront for travel with companies they have never heard of before. While some of these are legitimate, they offer no travel service or advice. What happens when something goes wrong?

Here are some of the simple ways Australians are losing money in travel scams, and it's only getting worse.

Fake Websites

You can click on a link and a piece of software is installed quietly on your browser. This is a legitimate practice by some businesses but a privacy loophole that is easily exploited by criminals.

Each time you visit a 'trusted' website, you're now directed to an identical clone website, where all the contact details and bank transfers might be going to a criminal organisation. Some individuals who've lost money have reported even speaking to one of these criminals on the phone.

Your details are almost certainly being sold on the black market – if you enter a password, that can be used to hack other accounts and steal money from you.

Fake Listings

The website you visit might be completely legitimate but someone has signed up and created a false account. This is how the ATO has been defrauded using MyGov.

One of our customers recently booked accommodation in Victoria (Aus) on AirBnB which turned out to be fake. Their money went to a criminal. Fake listings are a big problem on AirBnB. We contacted AirBnB and while they refunded the money, the fake listing was still online a month later.

How do you avoid incredibly difficult-to-spot scams?

We can't tell you what to do.

What we can tell you, is that in 30 years of managing travel for customers, we've never bought one fake listing. But we see them all of the time. We also hear your stories.

So please, contact us.

 ⚠️ Before you buy - PAUSE - and take advice ⚠️

Here are a couple of suggestions of websites to check to see if your emails and passwords have been compromised. If they have, make sure you change them quickly and never use the same password more than once.

  • If you want to see if your email or passwords have been hacked at all, enter them here https://haveibeenpwned.com/
  • If you're concerned about online security, you might want to sign up for 1Password or use a similar system, to protect your identify

About the Author
Simon Mustoe

Simon Mustoe

Writer, photographer and founder of Wildiaries


Simon is CEO of DeluxeLife. He is also an ardent conservationist and has been studying and observing wildlife for over 40 years. He's written a book called Wildlife in the Balance. He loves taking his worldwide travel experience to help people discover new and exciting places to visit,as well as contributing to science and conservation.

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