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A Singapore permanent resident was scammed out of $51,600 after paying for a fake Airbnb listing in Paris.
Ms April Cho, 41, had registered for a seven-month pastry-making course at culinary and hospitality school Le Cordon Bleu, after 14 years of being a housewife.
She and her husband subsequently found a listing for an apartment next to the culinary school and paid $51,600 for a seven-month stay.
However, it turned out to be a scam.
After finding the listing last month, Ms Cho had immediately messaged the Airbnb ‘host’ and was told to send an email so she could sign a rental agreement, among other things.
Said Ms Cho:
"I know that France is quite bureaucratic so I thought it was natural.”
After that, Ms Cho received an email from the host where she could make payment.
The link, however, directed Ms Cho to a fake website which looked exactly like the Airbnb site.
Ms Cho said that it even had a ‘live-chat service’.
According to The Straits Times, Ms Cho’s husband had sent the money through DBS bank to an account named "Airbnb Euro Trans" in Poland.
The fake site also showed that her booking was successful.
Ms Cho only became suspicious after the original Airbnb site did not show her trip.
She messaged the ‘host’ multiple times and realised that she had been scammed.
To ensure that she would have a place to lodge, Ms Cho and her husband had to book last-minute accommodation at a hotel and search for a new apartment.
Despite the couple contacting their bank, they have been unable to retrieve any money.
In response to media queries, the Singapore Police Force said that a report had been lodged.
The fraudulent listing and user have since been removed from Airbnb, and a spokesman from the company said:
“Fake or misrepresented listings have no place in our community.
"Our team is constantly working hard to strengthen our defences and stay ahead of fraudsters.
“We recently introduced new security tools to help tackle fake listings and educate our community about staying safe online, including more education to users on how to book safely."
The spokesman added that such experiences are ‘extremely rare’, and that Airbnb displays messages to warn users not to go off the platform.
He also said the site has several features against scammers.
Ms Cho and her husband said that they were unaware and did not see any of the warnings.
For now, she had found a new apartment about a 10-minute walk from school, although she could only secure it for four months.
Ms Cho insisted that she will not use Airbnb again, and intends to focus on her course.
“I want to either have my own cafe or work in a hotel first to learn management.
“I can't linger too much on a past I can't help or change.”
She also wanted to talk about her experience, so that others would not end up falling prey to such scams.
“I don't want this to happen to other people."