A wave of online scams involving the short-term rental company Airbnb has hit Limassol, according to Limassol CID chief Ioannis Sotiriadis.
Eleven cases of online fraud are currently being investigated, Sotiriadis told the Cyprus Mail on Wednesday. He explained that scammers set up fake profiles on the Airbnb website and accept payments for stays at the properties but then disappear.
He said that both Cypriots and tourists have reported being victims of the scam to police.
There are various scams involving Airbnb but one of the most common is people advertising real properties which are not their own to rent out, he said. Once the payment has been made the person behind the fake profile stops communicating. Scammers either create a fake profile and promote a property which does not exist or advertise a property which they do not own. In such cases, tourists arrive at residential homes to the confusion of those who answer the door.
Sotiriadis explained that most payments went to bank accounts located in Spain, Italy and Portugal. He emphasised that as an EU member, Cyprus is working with authorities abroad and European investigation orders have been issued. He seemed confident that arrest warrants will soon follow.
Sotiriadis said people should be wary if the person seeking to rent out a property refuses to speak on the phone. Contact through emails only does not necessarily mean they are scammers, but it is easier for victims to be deceived.
The Airbnb website hosts over 10,000 guest reviews for places to stay in Limassol.
Limassol residents have expressed frustration at the increased shortage of housing and that Airbnb properties add to the problem. Airbnb has been used by some as a buy-to-let programme as there are fewer commitments to tenants and those renting can make more money from short-term stays.
Airbnb has about 150 million users and covers more than 65,000 cities. While thousands of daily users enjoy the service without issue, Airbnb has faced criticism for not being strict enough over monitoring how their services are used. Some users complain of minimal refunds and a lack of help from the company.