Dream vacation turned disaster: man becomes victim of online fraud

It is vacation season, and more and more people are now using online rental services like Airbnb, a website for people to rent their homes to travelers coming into their town.

One man says he tried to use the service, but he was ripped off--to the tune of almost $6,000.

He says he thought he was communicating online with the legitimate host for the house he wanted to rent in Maui, but it was only after he wired the man almost $6,000 that he realized he was the victim of online fraud.

When valley optometrist Dave Thomas was looking to plan a trip to Hawaii this summer, he used the popular website Airbnb to try and find a place for him and his nine friends to stay.

"Yeah, we were looking, planning a trip to Hawaii. I've never been before, so it was a big trip," said Thomas.

He thought he found the perfect home, a large beach front villa. The instructions from the host said, "Do not book before you get in contact with me." Thomas says he did that, and the host told him to send money.

"If you want to rent this property, it can only be done through wire transfer," he recalled.

Thomas said he thought that was strange, but trusted that the person he was talking to on the internet was on the up and up.

"So, I was still a little bit concerned, but I thought I'm talking to a major, secure site like Airbnb, so I decided to take the plunge, pull the trigger, and decided to go to the bank and wire transfer the funds, which I did," said Thomas.

He wired $5,900 to Airbnb Inc. and was given a confirmation number. But, when he went to double check with the website, he was told no reservation was made.

"I realized this was a scam, and that I'd been taken for nearly $6,000," he said.

He filed a police report and hopes to get his money back, but his advice is never to wire money to anyone you don't know.

"You need to be very, very careful. Ask all the right questions, like I thought I was," said Thomas.

Airbnb is investigating the incident and issued the following statement. "Airbnb protects hosts and guests by handling all transactions through our secure payment platform. Guests pay through Airbnb when they book a listing, and hosts don't receive payment until at least 24 hours after guests check-in."
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