Auckland woman feeling 'vulnerable' after fake accommodation listing attracts strangers to her home

The listing has now been taken down.
The listing has now been taken down. Photo credit: Booking.com

A woman living on Auckland's Waiheke Island says she feels vulnerable after a fake listing of her home was posted on an online accommodation booking website.

Tessa King became aware of the listing when a couple turned up at her house over the weekend ready to check in. 

The only catch was, King had never advertised the property anywhere, and she says the experience has left her a little shaken. 

"I came home to a rental car in the driveway and a really confused guy with a phone," King told Newshub. "And I probably looked just as confused to see them."

The man said he had booked the house on Booking.com.

"He showed me the listing on his phone and sure enough it was our house."

King says she directed the couple to another place where they could stay but the situation was unsettling.

"It was only after I got inside the house that I began to feel a little bit sick about it and a little bit vulnerable."

Since the incident, removing the fake ad has been anything but easy.

She initially called the site's New Zealand-listed number but couldn't speak to anyone without a booking number. Emails to the company and an online chat feature also failed to elicit a response from anyone.

Finally, after reaching out to her community on Facebook, King says she managed to track down a phone number from a friend who works in the travel industry.

"I did eventually get through to someone after about an hour on hold," she said.

She was then instructed to take a screenshot of the fake listing and email it to the company. 

"I still haven't heard anything back."

A screenshot of the listing before it was taken down.
A screenshot of the listing before it was taken down. Photo credit: Booking.com

King also contacted the local police but was told there was nothing they could do about the matter.

It appears whoever posted the listing used information and photos from when the house was advertised for sale on a real estate website a year ago.

As long as the listing remains online, King says she feels uncomfortable.

"It's at the back of my mind that at any time I could have someone turn up expecting that they've got a week's holiday booked."

King says the ordeal is a "cautionary tale" for people using accommodation booking sites.

But she is also unsure what she could have done differently. 

"All we did was buy a house that was listed online last year and somebody's obviously taken the address and the photos from that real estate listing to create this listing. And it seems that they haven't needed anything more than that to create a listing and to scam people out of money."

Booking.com confirmed to Newshub on Wednesday they removed the listing on Tuesday night and that the company was investigating.

In a statement, a spokesperson said Booking.com took the process of verifying listing "very seriously" and had "robust security measures" in place to protect its customers.

"In the very rare instance that there might be some cause for doubt or concern with a specific property, we investigate and act immediately, closing the property on our site if necessary, just as we have done in this case." 

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