How it works:
- Situation: there are both fake listings on legitimate sites as well as fake sites. Note that listings on Craigslist, Marktplaats and FaceBook ads are not the most reliable.
- A funny case in 2019: on Airbnb, a British tourist booked a room advertised as a “clean room with private bathroom” in Amsterdam. On arrival, he found that the room was a roadside shipping container that he went past in a cab three times because he couldn’t believe it was his apartment. ? That day, the listing was conveniently changed to being advertised as a “container home”.
- Red flags: cheap prices, copy-pasted description, dodgy sounding reviews, difference in photos and Google Street View pictures, payment off platform (bank transfer, Western Union, MoneyGram – these are irreversible), overseas owner, details not forthcoming.
Places to beware:
- Anywhere (e.g. myhouseboatsamsteram.com)
What to do:
- Platform: use one with buyer protection rights: e.g. Booking.com (Frommer’s tests found it to have the best selection and rates ).
- Due diligence: search online reviews and if apartment has listings across other platforms, check if they are consistent. Grill the owner by asking specific details or made-up details to test if he can call your bluff. Test him by requesting a visit by a local friend.
- Payment: do not pay in full upfront and off the platform.