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Booker beware: Accommodation scams to avoid this Easter

Planning a holiday? Watch out for these scams on sites such as and Airbnb.

Last updated: 05 March 2024


Checked for accuracy by our qualified fact-checkers and verifiers. Find out more about fact-checking at CHOICE.

Need to know

  • and Airbnb are two of the most popular platforms Australians will be using to book accommodation this Easter
  • Be aware that scammers can use platforms like these to fleece you of your holiday money
  • We share some of the common cons and how you can avoid them

Planning a quick break over the Easter holidays? You're not alone. 

Roy Morgan and the Australian Retailers Association were predicting 4.6 million Australians would take a break over Easter in 2023 and many of us will likely be travelling again this year.

That could mean logging on to or a holiday rental platform like Airbnb, both of which are among Australia's favourite travel sites.

Unfortunately, users of both of these popular platforms have been targeted by scammers in recent years, and it pays to be aware of potential dodgy dealings when booking and paying for accommodation online.

Here are some common cons to look out for and tips to follow so you can crack a scam-free break this Easter.


Many of us will be logging onto booking sites ahead of Easter, but scammers could be lurking on these platforms.

Have you been affected by a scam or seen one you think people should know about? Contact

Booking site scams

According to the ACCC's Scamwatch, reports of scams involving increased from 53 in 2022 to 363 last year – a jump of over 580%. These criminal schemes also took over $337,000 from Australian consumers in 2023.

Asha Rao, professor of cybersecurity and mathematics at RMIT, says a common scam involves criminals gaining access to a hotel's profile on and extracting money from its guests.

"The hotel portal may have been taken over," she says. "There could be what is called a 'man-in-the-middle attack', where somebody is intercepting the communication that goes from to the hotel."

This scam, which has been reported on by the ABC, sees scammers impersonating the accommodation provider through its account and communicating with guests.

In some cases victims are sent messages or links to impersonation websites where they're asked to provide or update their payment details. confirmed to CHOICE that scammers had been able to communicate with guests after gaining access to the profiles of a 'small number' of accommodation providers

"[The links] usually take them to what we call a malware site where something has been spoofed," Rao explains. "The link will pretend to be either from or the hotel."

Victims have gone on to lose money and sensitive personal information after clicking on these links, the ABC says. confirmed to CHOICE that scammers had been able to communicate with guests after gaining access to the profiles of a "small number" of accommodation providers on its platform via phishing emails.

The company is advising its booking partners on ways to spot these emails, some of which pretend to come from itself, and seek to steal details hotels use to access their profiles on the service.

How to avoid scams on

If you've used or another reservation platform for your holiday, the ACCC says to look out for emails or messages with links and or attachments, or any communications asking you to enter personal or financial information.

If you receive these sorts of messages, independently verify what you're being asked to do by contacting the accommodation provider you've made a booking with using contact details you've found yourself.


Contact your accommodation provider directly if you believe its account has been hacked. tells CHOICE no legitimate transaction on its platform will ever require you to share sensitive information like credit card details via email, chat or text message or over the phone.

The company says users should report suspect communication to its customer service team or by clicking on the 'report an issue' option in the site's messaging function.

Fake holiday rental cons

Scams have also been known to occur on short-term rental platforms like Airbnb.

"Criminals have used Airbnb and other sites to put up fake rentals and fake holiday rentals," says Monica Whitty, professor and head of the department of software systems and cybersecurity at Monash University.

"So people have turned up thinking they've moved into a new home or come for a holiday to a rental and the reality is someone's living there."

Whitty says there are ways holidaymakers can avoid falling foul of this type of scam, starting with not getting caught up getting a good accommodation deal as quickly as possible.

"I empathise with the customer who's trying to get it sorted so that they have a nice holiday, but just putting that extra bit of time in is really worthwhile," she advises.

A key sign you're up against a fake listing scam is if the host tries to get you to pay outside the methods offered by the rental platform.

A key sign you're up against a fake listing scam is if the host tries to get you to pay outside the methods offered by the rental platform

"That would be a worry," Whitty says. "They might try to take you off the site to get you to pay, and that way it's far less likely to be detected [by the rental platform]."

If you're being encouraged to do this, Whitty suggests, it can be a good idea to look at how recently the property was made available for renting.

"How long has it been there for? If it's been there for a short period of time, one might be a bit suspicious, because criminals bring these things up and down very quickly," she explains.

If you are suspicious a rental may not be legitimate, it can be useful to do a reverse image search on the pictures of the property to see if it's previously been reported as being involved in a scam.


Criminals have been setting up scam listings on short-term rental sites.

CHOICE calls for more responsibility from platforms

CHOICE welcomes new rules requiring companies to do more to combat scams recently proposed by the federal government, but says all involved have more to do.

"Digital platforms must do more to protect users from scams, instead of allowing scammers to use their platforms to steal money from consumers," says CHOICE senior campaigns and policy adviser Alex Söderlund.

"These big tech companies have the means and expertise to protect people from scams, but they won't do more without the government making them."

Airbnb tells CHOICE scams involving its platform aren't common.

"Issues like this are rare, but when they do happen, we take them seriously," says Susan Wheeldon, country manager for Airbnb Australia and New Zealand.

The company says scams such as fake listings can only succeed if guests are convinced to communicate with and pay a scammer off its website.

"Provided guests stay, pay and communicate only on Airbnb, they will be using our secure processes and be covered under our refund and support policies," Wheeldon adds.

The company says it has measures in place to block suspect communications in its messaging function and, in 2023, removed 59,000 suspicious listings from its platform and blocked an additional 157,000 from being posted.

Fake accommodation refunds

A very different type of scam involving Airbnb has also recently led the ACCC to issue a warning to consumers.

Late last year, Airbnb agreed to refund $15 million to about 63,000 Australian customers and pay millions more in penalties after it misled Aussies about its prices and suggested they were in local currency when they were actually in US dollars.

The consumer watchdog has warned consumers that scammers are capitalising on this development, calling people and falsely claiming to help them get a refund.

The ACCC says you should hang up on anyone cold calling with offers to help with an Airbnb refund.

"Never give personal information to anyone calling you out of the blue and never give access to your computer or bank account," the regulator says in a statement.

Customers affected by the initial Airbnb breach should have already been contacted by the company and Deloitte Australia and directed to a claims portal via a link in their Airbnb account to get a refund.

We care about accuracy. See something that's not quite right in this article? Let us know or read more about fact-checking at CHOICE.

Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.