My AirBnB Account was HACKED!

My AirBnB account was HACKED!

AirBnB is one of those luxuries in life that we take for granted in today’s age of car-sharing and home-sharing and the sharing-economy and things that start with the word sharing but actually involve an exchange of money and people’s actual stuff. We take it for granted that anywhere we go, we’ll be able to just pay someone to sleep in their home, with all of the comforts that you’d expect from a house rather than a hotel: a couch, a kitchen, freedom from having to awkwardly interact with anyone at all…. So when we attempted to log into our beloved, trusty AirBnB account one day only to find that our password didn’t work and the email on the account had been changed, our entire worlds were rocked. Had we lost our entire AirBnB account?! 5 years worth of reviews?!?! Our “saved” lists?! Then it hit us: our credit cards are all saved in my account! Cue panic. Our AirBnB, along with our saved credit card information and – oh my god, didn’t I have to upload a drivers license at some point too?! – a bunch of other personal information was totally vulnerable to the sticky claws of some evil tech genius. My AirBnB was HACKED!

Is my AirBnB account hacked, or did we drunk-book?

The first hint that something might be amiss was an email from AirBnB… in Chinese.

It was a reminder to rate our last AirBnB stay, I think. This took some deductive reasoning, because the entire email was entirely in Chinese. Why did AirBnB think we wanted to receive an email in Chinese?

Before jumping to the conclusion that my account had been hacked, we did a little bit of soul-searching. Was there the tiniest, most remote possibility that we’d somehow booked a trip to China on AirBnB and then, like, forgotten about it? 

Our first clue that our AirBnB account might have been hacked was receiving this email ... in Chinese.
Our first clue that our AirBnB account might have been hacked was receiving this email … in Chinese.

Drunk AirBnB-ing, much like drunk shopping, is one of those things that feels like a lot of fun in the moment and a whole lot of expensive regret the day after. But neither of us remembered any kind of AirBnB sprees in China. We’d never been to China. We’d never even considered going to China. Nor do either of us speak Chinese. There wasn’t any reason to be receiving emails from AirBnB in Chinese.

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When we went to log into my account and figure out why we were suddenly receiving emails in Chinese, we couldn’t log in. Our password didn’t work. Neither did our email. And what’s even more strange, when we entered in our email, AirBnB’s login page would change it to some weird email address that we didn’t recognize.

That’s when it hit us: had our account been hacked?

Dear AirBnB: Please Help. Thanks, xoxo

Our first instinct was to send AirBnB an angrily worded, panicky email. So we mustered up our courage and sent an email like:

“um, excuse me, sorry to bother you, but could you please help us to understand this email? From China? Which we’re not? Ok, thanksssss”

Yeah, rightful indignation isn’t exactly our strong suit. I guess we were still half hoping that it was all just some kind of mistake with a reasonable explanation that could be helpfully and quickly sorted out. How wrong we were.

Our AirBnB account was hacked by someone in China!
We’re definitely NOT going to Hangzhou.

Shortly after our way-too-polite email, we got an email back from AirBnB like “our automated response system took one look at your pathetic email and deleted it. Try again.”  Damn you, sassy auto responders. It was clear we were going to have to take this to the next level: the phone.

Ugh. I hate calling people on the phone. It’s this whole awkward thing where you have to interact with people and it’s just my least favorite.

But you know what? I pulled on my grown-up pants and practiced my phone voice and Googled for a good hour to figure out the right number to call, like a real f***king boss.

That Time AirBnB Didn’t Care that My Account was Hacked

So we call AirBnB and politely explain what’s going on. And they’re like, super friendly, but also they can’t do anything to help us at this time. They’ll pass our information onto the correct department, who will get back to us very soon, oh and is there anything else that we needed help with today?

Like … no, just that one thing that you didn’t help with at all, but thanks, I guess.

For some reason I accepted this response, and we cheerfully hung up the phone thinking things would get resolved shortly. And then we waited.

And waited.

And waited.

While we waited for AirBnB to help us regain control of our hacked account, the Chinese supervillians got ready for their 6-night sleepover in a swanky Chinese villa.
While we waited for AirBnB to help us regain control of our hacked account, the Chinese supervillians prepared for their 6-night sleepover in a swanky Chinese villa.

That Other Time AirBnB Didn’t Care that My Account was Hacked

After 24 hours passed, I was less confident in AirBnB’s “helping customers who have had their accounts hacked” team. Did they just not care that my account was in the hands of nefarious Chinese supervillians?! I willed myself to call AirBnB again (or, more accurately, I got my husband to do it for me #thanksbae). 

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Our second phone call was much the same as the first: “Sorry, I’m totally incapable of doing absolutely anything to help you or anyone else, but someone on our payroll is probably in charge of this, so I’ll pass your information along in a series of forwarded emails until the correct person magically finds your information and solves all of your problems.”

Uhhhhh …. thanks?



“Um.. excuse me … could you just … excuse us … sorry but my account has been hacked … hello?”

At this point, we’re peeved. AirBnB is giving us the damn run-around while we politely twiddle our thumbs. Meanwhile, nefarious Chinese supervillians throw sleepovers in fancy Chinese villas using MY AirBnB account.

Thankfully, we’d checked our credit cards and hadn’t noticed any kind of weird activity on them, so at least it seemed like the Chinese supervillians were paying for their schemes on their own dollar (or yen).

That Time That AirBnB Still Didn’t Care that My Account was Hacked

By day 3 of my account being hacked and AirBnB still not doing a thing to help us, I’ve HAD it. What kind of incompetent, inconsiderate POS organization doesn’t give a s**t when their customers – frequent customers for over 5 YEARS, I might add – get their accounts f**king HACKED?!? We needed a strategy change.

At this point, Ms. Sorrytobotheryou flew out the damn window and was replaced with Ms. Howf**kingdareyou.


Emails hadn’t worked.

Phone calls hadn’t worked.

I don’t have the “may I speak to your manager” haircut, so instead, I did what any enraged millennial would do: I took the fight to Twitter.

 

 

After a few pissed off tweets, AirBnB decided that I was actually worth acknowledging. I got a canned response asking me to send them the same information I’d already given to 2 different people on the phone, which I let them know, in the most huffy way I could muster via Twitter DM.

Still, I kept getting the same bulls**t response: “I’m so sorry to hear about this, and personally I can’t help you, but someone will definitely help you at some point soon, probably.”

Words cannot describe how fed up we were at this point. It had been 3 days, 2 phone calls, several angry tweets, and a bunch of huffy Twitter DM’s, and still our hacked AirBnB account was being used by nefarious Chinese supervillians. So we called again. And again. And tweeted. And called.


And we kept calling and tweeting …. until someone finally agreed to help us.

Y’all, seriously though. The amount of time it took to get someone on the phone who could read through an instruction manual on un-hacking someone’s account was f***king embarrassing. Get your shit together, AirBnB.

Taking Back my Hacked AirBnB Account, Finally

At long last, we were let into my account. Only it didn’t look like my account at all. It had been totally changed – all of my old reservations were there, but everything else was different.

Honestly, it was a little bit heartbreaking seeing my beloved AirBnB account used like that. Staring into the duck-face, selfie’d eyes of the teenager who had supposedly hacked my account, I felt like she had punched me in the gut.

My AirBnB account was hacked, supposedly by this pre-teen?
This may or may not be the face of the criminal mastermind behind my hacked AirBnB account.

As the only useful member of AirBnB’s support team walked us through re-claiming my account, we discovered more and more totally foreign information inserted into my account.  The perps had changed the email address, phone number, credit card information, and even the language on our AirBnB account.

Remarkably, they hadn’t hacked our AirBnB account and used our credit cards to book trips: they’d added their own. Which makes me think that the purpose of the hacking wasn’t to legitimately use my account for stays, but more likely to build up “authentic” seeming reviews for some other AirBnB host account. It scares me to think of what kind of scheme our poor AirBnB account may have been a part of. I have no idea if AirBnB flagged the places that our hacked account “stayed” at as suspicious, but I sure hope so.

At this point, though, I’m not sure how much faith I really have in the investigative powers of AirBnB…

Hacked AirBnB account with confirmed Chinese phone numbers, WTF!
Guess which of these phone numbers are ours and which aren’t? Hint: we don’t live in China…

Step by step, we removed Chinese phone numbers, weird sketchy email addresses, awkward teenaged selfies, and credit cards from my account. Our helpful AirBnB customer service representative cancelled our upcoming trip to Hangzou for us.

And like … that was kind of it. That was the end of that. …Right?

HELL no. I wasn’t getting off the phone with the only person in the entirety of AirBnB willing to talk to us without making sure that I would never have to do this s**t again.

How can we make sure that our AirBnB account doesn’t get hacked again??

Our customer service representative couldn’t answer any of our questions about how or why our AirBnB account had been hacked. I’m pretty saavy when it comes to phishing scams, and I don’t recall clicking on any weird emails  or links – nor did I find any suspicious emails from AirBnB in my email account when I searched back. All I found was a regular stream of emails from AirBnB about upcoming trips and past trips, which all seemed perfectly normal. So … how did this happen?

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Honestly, we still don’t know. Maybe we did click on an email at some point and it was so well-crafted that we didn’t even notice. I’m skeptical, but maybe.

According to AirBnB, there had been no security breaches lately (or at least, they weren’t admitting any to us). But when I Googled to see if anyone had experienced something similiar, we found the all-too-familiar story  of a recently hacked AirBnB account. And AirBnB’s response had been just as abysmal.

So we weren’t alone, but that wasn’t super reassuring, either.

This is our AirBnB "security log," where you can clearly see that someone was randomly logging into our account from China. Creepy!
This is our AirBnB “security log,” where you can clearly see that someone was randomly logging into my account from China. Creepy!

How AirBnB Handled my Account’s Hacking

During the course of my AirBnB account being hacked and then recovered, AirBnB took no responsibility whatsoever for the hacking event. What’s more, beyond a “doesn’t seem like your credit card was used” and “your drivers license isn’t kept on file,” there wasn’t a whole lot of concern for the security of my account & our personal information, either.

It was just sort of like “Well, these things happen. It’s probably your fault. Sucks, though!”

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Oh, and if you’re wondering how much apology money AirBnB shelled out to make up for the hacking of an account that has been used regularly for over 5 years: the answer is none.

That’s right. AirBnB didn’t give us a single apology credit. Not even an apology discount code. Nothing.

Reservation made from our hacked AirBnB account has been cancelled.
Party’s over, Chinese hackers.

Considering that we regularly use AirBnB for bookings in the several-thousands range (3 weeks here, 2 weeks there, a giant cabin for 10 of our friends, that sort of thing) it was kind of insulting.

This wasn’t the first time we’ve taken an issue up with AirBnB. If you stay at enough AirBnB bookings, eventually you’ll find yourself in need of  their help: from the time that we showed up to our booking only to immediately turn around and leave because it was actually just a stretcher hanging from a tree to the time that our AirBnB host screamed at us and accused us of ruining his couch, we’ve actually recieved assistance and apology credits from AirBnB for way less critical issues over the years. And there was never a time that AirBnB didn’t help us out.

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In fact, this was the first time that I felt that AirBnB hadn’t done much of anything to demonstrate that they valued my business.

It kind of hurt. Like when an old friend suddenly ignores your texts. What happened to us, AirBnB?

How to prevent your AirBnB account from getting hacked

Even though AirBnB handled our hacking poorly – actually, poorly is the nice way of saying it- we still wanted to protect my account from future hacking. So after much back & forth and dropping of security buzzwords with our increasingly unhelpful AirBnB customer service representative, we were finally set up with 2-factor authentication to hopefully prevent my account from being hacked (again). What this means is that whenever we log into our AirBnB account from a new or unrecognized device, AirBnB will send us an email or text to make sure it’s us before letting us into the account.

Which is super helpful. And also … why isn’t that already standard on all AirBnB accounts?!

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This wasn’t a solution that was offered to us, either. I had to say the words “2-factor authentication” about 5 times, and then explain what I was talking about, before our customer service associate was like “oh yeah, we can do that, I guess.”

I asked if 2-factor authentication was available to all users, and apparently it is … but you can’t enable it yourself. Which is idiotic. But it’s the only solution or suggestion that AirBnB was able to offer us to prevent future hacking of my account.

So, dear readers, if you’re concerned about your AirBnB account getting hacked, here’s what to do:

Call AirBnB at +1-415-800-5959 or +1-855-424-7262 (toll-free) and ask them to set up 2-factor authentication on your account.

Do it. Seriously!
If they don’t know what you’re talking about, just explain that you want to add a layer of protection to your AirBnB account that makes it more difficult for random teenagers from China to hack into your account and book sleepover parties.

And of course, don’t click on any emails from AirBnB if they seem suspicious –  always log in to your account directly from airbnb.com.  I don’t have to tell you that, right?

So … is AirBnB safe?

We certainly wouldn’t discourage anyone from using AirBnB. The vast majority of our experience with AirBnB over the past 5+ years has been overwhelmingly positive. From incredibly welcoming hosts to bargain deals to one-of-a-kind experiences, we’ve had a fantastic time overall using AirBnB and would recommend it to anyone (speaking of which, you can sign up with our referral link and get $40 off if you’re a new user!) 

That said … we’re starting to branch out and explore some alternatives to AirBnB these days.

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Like, emember actual BnB’s? You know, Bed & Breakfasts? They still exist, and a lot of them are just as inexpensive as AirBnB, and just as cute! There are also some unique accommodations on HostelWorld. We also found this for comprehensive list of AirBnB Alternatives from fellow travel blogger The Sweetest Way.

Have you ever had a bad experience with AirBnB? Or have you had nothing but excellent experiences with AirBnB? Tell us your story in the comments!


Did this post make you laugh, cry, or desperately check your AirBnB account for evidence of hacking? Share it on Pinterest! Full sized image can be found by clicking the Pin It button.

My AirBnB account got HACKED! The full story of our AirBnB hacking & account recovery, plus how you can help prevent your AirBnB account from being HACKED!

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Hey, I'm Lia! I'm a Kentucky native living in San Francisco. I'm extremely practical and also entirely addicted to travel, which I'm forever trying to reconcile. If I had a patronus, it would a spreadsheet. Or a llama. Possibly a llama creating a spreadsheet. I'm married to Jeremy and I'm obsessed with him and it's super gross, unless you're us, in which case it's the best.

32 Comment

  1. Oh. My. Goodness!! I didn’t even know this could happen and to hear about their response is crazy. I’ve only ever used AirBnB once- booked through someone else- and enjoyed it, but this makes me a little nervous to download my own account. Glad you ultimately got it figured out though!

    1. Lia says: Reply

      I mean, to be fair, it’s been 5+ years WITHOUT being hacked, so maybe we’re just unlucky. Or maybe they were targeting well-used accounts. But if you do sign up, make sure you enable 2-factor authentication!

    2. Mel says: Reply

      This happened to me today! I started getting a bunch of chinese emails from [email protected] (?) and then I also started get text messages. Tried to log into my air bnb account and couldn’t identify myself (which I later found out was because, like you, they changed information on my account). I went into the app version which thankfully I was still logged into and somehow got into the ‘my account’ section and saw that there was about 8 different log ons currently happening in china (i’m in Australia). I logged them all out and then changed my password. However, I got super paranoid and decided that screw you Air BnB: I cancelled my whole account. I don’t want to be registered with an organisation that is so vulnerable. Then as I did some googling I stumbled across your blog and am glad I did what I did.

      1. Wow, you got so lucky to catch it early! Quick thinking!

  2. Kendal says: Reply

    Honestly, this isn’t the first horror story I’ve heard from AirBnB. As much as the concept intrigues me, I’m not willing to use their company as is. Thankfully I’ve found equally priced or cheaper accommodations with other sites! I’m deeply sorry this happened to y’all. Hackers suck. Playing one-way phone tag with unresponsive companies sucks. All the time and energy spent fixing your account was probably draining. I’m glad everything is straightened out now!

    1. Lia says: Reply

      Thanks Kendal! We’re definitely using it less and less these days … from their abysmal customer service to the shady effect that they seem to be having on rent prices around the world, there are lot of reasons not to use AirBnB these days.

  3. That’s a bit scary, although a little comforting that at least they offer two-factor. It’s sad that Airbnb didn’t respond better though.

    1. Lia says: Reply

      Yeah, we’re glad that we’re protected in the future but sooo disappointed in AirBnB’s response 🙁

  4. lincalinca says: Reply

    One would think that their purpose was credit card data, but it is scary if they are able to do this, they can get money too… But does seem kind of a lot of effort for getting positive reviews.
    But regarding airBnB policies, I remember making my first ever booking for it to be cancelled just two weeks before the trip. at that time they gave me $100 credit for this, so in the end I booked a 5! room apartment for my parents, as they really wanted Sagrada Familia view (which the original apartment had), for less. I’m hearing now they are not so generous in the case of cancellations.

    1. Lia says: Reply

      They do seem to be getting less and less generous, in general. I would certainly not say that customer service is one of their strong suits, that’s for sure.

  5. Omg what the heck! I didn’t even know AirBNB hacking was a thing. Thank goodness they didn’t use your credit card and stuff but geez, the lack of response from AirBNB is seriously appalling and pretty shocking (cuz I use them all the time). On the bright side, I laughed, cried and everything in between while reading this 😉 At least you were able to eloquently (and hilariously) describe your experience haha. A great warning story for us all!

    1. Lia says: Reply

      Thanks Christina! We had no idea it was a thing either, until it happened to us. We’ve heard some suggestions by people far more knowledgeable than we are that they may have gotten our account information – or enough to hack into our accounts – from OTHER data breaches, like at Yahoo or Target. Scary to think what else is vulnerable, right?!

  6. It’s so bad to read Airbnb is so neglectful if it comes to hacked accounts. It’s almost a miracle they did not use your creditcard information. It seems all very weird. Good to read about the two step identification. They should definetly allow all members to put this on in their settings.

    1. Lia says: Reply

      We totally agree! We definitely got lucky with the credit card thing. I don’t know what kind of hackers stop before stealing someone else’s money (possibly teenagers? That seems to be a good moral line to draw for yourself at age 15 or whatever, right?), but we’re counting our lucky stars for sure.

  7. I actually had the very same thing happen to my Airbnb account just a couple of weeks ago too. The email address you show in your photo looks similar (ending in @163.com) and two phone numbers from China on my account (thankfully neither of them confirmed) and my phone number had been removed.

    I first thought something was odd when I tried to log in to my account and thought I had forgotten the password (although that would have been odd since I use it all the time) and then I couldn’t get my referral link to work properly for a friend. I then called them and when the phone prompt asked for my phone number to direct my call it kept telling me that no such number was on file and I knew something was up.

    By this time I logged in to my account via Facebook instead and when the person answered the phone I had the screen pulled up and it looked like the ones you show with China phone numbers, odd email address, and log in attempts from China and two other cities in the US that I haven’t been to. It was a weird feeling to see all that for sure.

    I was able to get everything all reset with the lady on the phone, two factor authentication set up (although in my case she offered it), and I have checked my credit cards and thankfully no odd charges. I hope everything is secure again but I’ll be keeping a closer eye on it from now on for sure.

    1. Lia says: Reply

      That’s so crazy! It all makes me think this is a much more common issue than AirBnB is letting on …

  8. Oh my gosh I can’t believe that happened! I’ve always heard such amazing things about airbnb customer service like when things go wrong at stays etc, but I thought they’d be a bit better at dealing with account hackings than that! That’s so bad! Though, at least it all got sorted in the end!
    xo April

    1. Lia says: Reply

      Yeah it’s super weird because we’ve had pretty good experiences with them in the past for other issues! I was really taken aback at how they handled this …

  9. Lori says: Reply

    I found this while googling air bnb account hacked. Im going through the same thing. I only used air bnb once about 3 years ago. Someone got into my account from Brazil and air bnb refuses to close my account without me uploading my id. Sooo frustrating!

    1. Lia says: Reply

      That’s so frustrating, Lori! I’m so sick of AirBnB’s aloof attitude towards its customers. It’s definitely my last resort for booking travel accommodations these days. I hope you get your account sorted out!

  10. Joellen says: Reply

    Unfortunately for me the hacker DID use my Paypal Attached account in the amount of $400 for a one night stay in Fortaleza. Obviously I’m not in Fortaleza – and I’m now trying to get my $400 back. There was originally some sort of “well you probably clicked it in error” and I was like WHAT? No man. I have never searched for Fortaleza ever. The guy was new at AirBnB and he was awfully nice and tried to be helpful — so there’s that. Let’s see if they come through with a fix.

    1. Lia says: Reply

      Ahhh! I’m so sorry to hear that! There shouldn’t even be a question. Take it up with Paypal for SURE to get your money back and keep pressuring AirBnB to fix it and make your account secure!

  11. Claudia says: Reply

    The exact same thing happened to me. Unfortunately I dont use airbnb enough to spot it right away. They did an un autorhized charge to one of my credit cards with fortunately is helping me out. I cant even get into my arbnb account because is in chinese. I cant change password and i cant see my info. I am so pissed off and I dont have the time to make more phone calls. Im glad I came through your article though. I am NEVER using airbnb ever again.

    1. Lia says: Reply

      Ugh that’s so frustrating, I’m so sorry to hear that! Try sending them angry tweets, that worked for me (ish)…

  12. Claudia says: Reply

    We are still fighting over the 3,000+ Dlls they fraudulently charged into my account sigh!. Thank you for your support!

    1. Lia says: Reply

      Ughhh I’m crossing my fingers for you!

  13. Thanks for your blog and humor. I wish I could be as funny as you when I get angry. Instead I’m just a poet. Oh well. Two questions – will you maintain this blog even though you are traveling less now? Do you have other blogs? You write beautifully.

    1. Lia says: Reply

      You’re so sweet! Thank you 🙂 I will be maintaining this blog even though we’re travelling less, absolutely. In fact I need to make a post about that, thank you for reminding me! I do not have any other blogs right now, this is bae <3

  14. Lisa says: Reply

    My Airbnb account got hacked this week and the criminals managed to collect over Euro 1500 rental income that should have come to me :(. Like you i called and reported it to Airbnb immediately and they escalated it to the correct department and sent me an email confirming this action. I am very careful with my login and password details and now i have lost all confidence in the security of Airbnb for my personal data and my rental bookings. Having read your case I don’t expect to see any of the lost rental funds!

    1. Lia says: Reply

      Yikes!! That’s terrible. I really hope AirBnB does the right thing and reimburses you!

  15. Marie says: Reply

    Hi
    I am a host and recently had 2 girls turn up saying they had booked my apartment which we were staying in at the time.. I had no message and it did not show on my calendar , I have also received no money in my account, I have been receiving messages for dates that are booked and blocked off in my calendar.. I have tried for 3 days to get Airbnb to look into this. I found the 2 girls alternative accommodation and not sure what they would have done had we not been here to assist.
    I delisted my apartment because I do not want people turning up with no where to stay but it is still showing on the Airbnb site, not sure if it has been cloned that is the only explanation I can think ., hopefully I get some response from Airbnb soon, but lost all faith to stressfull thinking people will be knocking on my door when the place is booked,

    1. Lia says: Reply

      Thats nuts!! I really hope you’re able to contact AirBnb! I would totally freak out 😡 ahh!

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