So my brother is looking for a new apartment in the greater NYC area, and comes across a listing on Apartments.com that seems almost too good to be true. The place was a furnished 1 bedroom on the waterfront in Jersey city, with beautiful views of the city, brand new appliances, and parking included – the works – for $1,200/month. A price that is well under market, but not entirely out of reason if someone is looking to get a tenant quick.
Naturally, my brother reached out to the listing agent, who then sent him a link to his “Airbnb” listing for the apartment. He thought it was interesting that they were using Airbnb for a long term lease, so he reached out to me to get my thoughts on the listing.
Here are some screenshots from the page he sent me today:
Seems pretty legit right?? While there are a few more flaws I’ve picked up on after I realized it was bogus, at the time I was deep into some work, and quickly gave the page a glance and thought nothing of it. I told him, I hadn’t seen a long term listing like this – it must be a new feature! But if he wanted some additional assurance, he should give Airbnb a call.
So he searched for Airbnb’s customer service line and rang them up. He asked the rep if it was normal to see long term leases like this – she said yes it happens all the time, and went on to explain that he would need to pay the security deposit and first months rent before seeing the place.
Still a little hesitant to put down $2,400, he waited a while and we took another look later on that day before he made the reservation. This time I noticed that the site was missing the SSL cert next to the domain name (the little green lock you see on many websites that signifies their legitimacy) – something a company like Airbnb would never allow to happen.
Then I noticed the domain name trickery: http://airbnb.com.booking-reservation-online.com/1/listing/15/view-gv3nnap0/4717
They are using airbnb.com as a subdomain on booking-reservation-online.com – easy to miss at a quick glance! Especially in a mobile browser, where only the first part of the domain is visible – which was the case with my brother.
Immediately my heart sank. Earlier that day I gave him the go ahead, and he could have easily booked it right then and there ::grimace::
It seems like they generated the page just for him, on the fly. When I try entering the address without the route path (like http://airbnb.com.booking-reservation-online.com), I get an error.
My brother and I both consider ourselves tech savvy people, so I can imagine many people could easily be falling for this one. The level of attention to detail these scammers have is nothing like I’ve ever seen! The site is a near duplicate of Airbnb’s design.
So please, let’s get the message out. Share this post with your friends so we can out these guys!
As for my brother, he’s still looking for a new place so if you know of a good deal in greater NYC – let us know =/