An incredible AirBnB scam, plans for prosperity, lifetime memberships ended prematurely and more


This week around the web we have a must-read about a huge AirBnB scam that you’ll want to avoid, motivation to make a long-term plan, a head-to-head between Cathay and Alaska and more. Read on for the weekend recap.

I Accidentally Uncovered a Nationwide Scam on Airbnb

Hacked Hyatt Gift Card

Reason #7368 why I’m not a fan of AirBnB. This. is. nuts. This piece from Vice is not short; do not stop reading halfway through thinking you got the idea. It’s worth the 15 minutes of your life it takes to read if for no other reason than to make you aware of how deep the scam is running so you (hopefully) don’t fall prey. That said, while the story is surprising in its scamification and in AirBnB’s lack of interest in stopping it, I am not surprised. I’ve long said that I’m not a big fan of AirBnB. Sure, I’ve had some great experiences. Yes, I get the appeal of “living like a local”. Of course I know that there are gems out there to be found. But the thing that miles and points have spoiled me to expect and value is consistency. I knew that the Residence Inn I stayed at near Times Square last night would have a comfortable bed and a suite-like room with a fridge for my son’s milk and a microwave to heat up leftovers and I wouldn’t have to deal with this kind of shenanigans. Major props to the reported for the tenacity to pursue this one as well as she did. Enjoy.


a hand holding money in the air

I also give a lot of credit this week to Harlan at Out and Out for putting his finances out there for the world to see and laying out a plan to improve his situation over the next five years along with a commitment to offer updates. I’m not a FIRE guy myself, but I can recognize the importance of having a plan of attack and holding yourself to your goals — and I think when Harlan shares this, rather than offering a plan for others to copy, it should be some motivation to put together a goals and plans of your own.

Head-to-Head: Alaska Mileage Plan vs. Cathay Pacific Asia Miles

Alaska Airlines Companion Fare

I’ve really been enjoying Canadian blog Prince of Travel lately, and this week he’s got a post comparing Alaska Mileage Plan and Cathay Pacific Asia Miles. Skip over the stuff about Canadian credit cards at the beginning that likely won’t be relevant for you, but then when you get into the comparison points between programs you’ll see there are quite a few places where these two programs are more comparable than you may expect. Asia Miles is a program that may be worth a look.

Today United Breaks Trust With Customers Who Bought Lifetime Club Memberships

a plane on the tarmac

This read at View from the Wing points to the many reasons why it’s sad to see United decide to change the rules on lifetime memberships that they sold people, but I think the biggest lesson to come from this post is that lifetime doesn’t mean your lifetime. It means until the program decides the fun is over. Personally, I wouldn’t pay for “lifetime” anything these days with the expectation that it’ll last forever. To be clear, that doesn’t make this right — it just seemed worth sharing to remind readers not to get too invested in similar things in the future.

Intriguing new Avios promo – open virtually ANY seat for Avios, on any flight, if you hit a qualifying target

a seat in a passenger seat

Head for Points has the details on a promo that could be really interesting if you are a frequent European traveler and need to force some seats available for peak dates. This is pretty niche, but if you fit the niche it’s worth a look.

That’s it for this week around the web. Check back soon for this week’s last chance deals.

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My family booked an AirBnB for a very good price. Not long before they were to arrive, the owner called to explain that bathroom renovations were going on and it was no longer available. He repeatedly pressed my daughter to cancel the reservation but she insisted he cancel it. He finally gave in and we didn’t lose anything. But, in hindsight, I guess he was wanting her to cancel to receive some kind of cancellation fee??


He probably didn’t want to show “cancelled by host”. That affects their ratings, somehow, or something like that.

Stephanie Woods

This is exactly why I won’t use AirBnB. There are too many stories of people being scammed. You can easily rent apartments from and other reputable sites if you want one. You can also rent rooms at places with a communal kitchen. At least half or more of the AirBnB rentals in Singapore are illegal. I traveled with a woman who was sleeping 5 in a 1 bedroom apartment. Had the housing authorities found out, she would have been thrown out.


I’m not a heavy Uber or Lyft user but some Uber drivers seem to play games as well. I’ve had drivers accept rides and then cancel them. Do they get penalized for that? Other times I see a driver accept my ride but then the car doesn’t move. What was supposed to be a 5 minute wait is much longer. And if I cancel it, Uber implies I may be charged a fee. Lyft seems to handle this much better. When I saw a driver going the wrong direction and showing no intent of turning around, I canceled it and there was no fee.


I read the Air BnB article the day it came out. Even after reading it I still didn’t understand the exact nature of the scam. Sure, you can post a dishonest listing but there seemed to be something else going on here — “moving” people from one location to another. What’s the reason for that?

One thing people need to understand is that Air BnB’s customers are not the guests. Their customers are the hosts — in this case, technically, the scammer was the customer. Of coursea situation like this isn’t going help Air BnB in the long term and it’s still pretty surprising just how unconcerned they seen to be.

My wife and I list our basement apartment on HomeAway. Every booking we do (about 40 a year) involves some back-and-forth emailing with the potential guest. I do think that’s done potential protection for both parties over the more-common-on-Air BnB method of instant confirmation.


I am guessing the host did not have access to the original listing or just a bait. Before the guest checked in, the host called and enticed you to switch to an “upgrade” (so you do not request the host to cancel because it is the host who claimed to have the toilet issue and cannot host you at the original listing). Instead, it is a run down apartment that the host actually has access. At that point partial refund seems to be the best result you can get, so the host comes out ahead. The author did not get $800 back. The only person got full refund because she did not stay at the “upgrade” at all and being persistence as an attorney. If nothing put in writing, the host may charge you more on the upgrade/cancellation fee.


Wondering if there will be more update on the airbnb story since FBI contacted the author at the end.

Dick Bupkiss

Don’t hold your breath waiting.

Dick Bupkiss

Not surprised at all about this particular AirBnB scam. If you read travel boards much, you will see about countless high-figure AirBnB scams that so many people have fallen for. In virtually all cases, AirBnB is either indifferent, late to do anything, and just not all that involved. It’s the wild west. People seem to have some completely unjustified faith that AirBnB will be on their side and protect them. Those people could not be more wrong.


In my experience AirBnB could give a rats a$$ about the paying customers. The real kicker here is that when these sorts of issues arise is when travelers are extremely vulnerable. Finding yourself basically homeless in an unfamiliar place is a very stressful situation. In our case we showed up At 8pm on a Saturday night and upon inspection found bed bugs in the bed (very first thing my wife does when we walk into new lodging). Call AirBnB and they basically just tell us that we can cancel for a refund or deal with it. We obviously took the refund but its now closer to 10pm and we have nowhere to stay. It was a smaller town with only a few hotels and something was going on so they were all full, we ended up having to drive almost an hour and pay close to double what we thought we were going to. From now on AirBnB is our very last resort


I am curious what you would have expected Airbnb to do? You found out yourself that there was no other place for them to put you. They couldn’t make the bed bugs disappear. They could not have known that there were bed bugs before you found them. What resolution were you looking for from them?
If this had been a hotel in the same small town and there was no other room for you to stay in, what would you have expected a hotel to do?
There are situations that have no good answer. I have issues with Airbnb, but this does not sound like there was much more they could do than refund your money.


I would expect a hotel to put me up in another property for no extra cost.


But Matt said “It was a smaller town with only a few hotels and something was going on so they were all full”. A hotel can’t put you up in another property if there is no other property


But Matt said “we ended up having to drive almost an hour and pay close to double what we thought we were going to.” I would expect them to put me up in the hour away, more expensive hotel.


That was more of the point i was trying to make. Yes Abnb did refund us after a prolonged back and forth, which is about all they can do or are willing to do. A hotel on the other hand would have probably been able to actually find some sort of remedy to the situation. My point was just that Abnb’s policy seems to be “good luck out there” when things turn south at the last minute, and when it does happen you are all but screwed. That is exactly how this scam worked, it relied on pinning people into a dire situation where they have no where to go, and trying to find or book something last minute is either not possible financially or highly implausible because of timing. A hotel while 99.99% of the time be able to help you figure things out even if it costs them, i’m sure there were other Abnb units around if i was willing to shell out $500 a night but no way Abnb was going to comp that


Yup airbnb is shit. Like most of the people airbnb is two faced. They pretend publicly to be very customer focused but when shit hits the fan they don’t give shit.

It’s ac great concept. Wish there was more competition in the space.

Paul Brunner

4 out of 10, and I would be extremely reluctant. Even if there is a scam, it does not sound like Air BnB cares about their customers.

I have to wonder don’t you have the ability to enforce remedies with your credit card? I would have with help payment for breach or tried calling he travel insurance.