Throughout July, a London homeowner answered the door to around 100 travelers who insisted they’d booked her property on the popular travel site Booking.com. But it turned out they’d all been caught up in a scam.
Speaking to the BBC recently, the homeowner, Gillian, explained that the bizarre episode began when a couple of travelers from Asia knocked on her door on July 4.
The pair said they’d rented her north London property via Booking.com, prompting Gillian to respond: “No you haven’t, because it’s not on Booking.com.”
But that wasn’t the end of it. A few hours later, several more weary travelers showed up at her house, leaving Gillian to explain again that she’d never put her home on the site.
After searching Booking.com for herself, she found her address listed, but it was alongside photos of a different property that had been lifted from another travel site. It was then that she realized she was caught up in a scam in which someone had created a fake listing in a bid to fleece tourists.
Despite informing the travel site on July 5 — the day after the first groups of people had knocked on her door — around 100 additional travelers turned up in the following weeks from places as far away as the U.S., Saudi Arabia, and Australia.
“I felt so sorry for those tourists knocking on my,” Gillian told the BBC. “All I could do was send them away. I feel very worried about it. They’re very nice people. But perhaps one day we might get some people knocking on the door who actually are quite aggressive. I feel very vulnerable.”
In a widely reported statement, a spokesperson for the travel site said: “We take safety and security very seriously, and every week we facilitate millions of stays with the vast majority taking place with absolutely no problems.”
The spokesperson added: “Scams are unfortunately a battle many industries are facing against unscrupulous fraudsters looking to take advantage and it is something we are tackling head on. We have a number of robust security measures in place, but in the very rare instance there may be an issue with a specific property, we always investigate immediately.”
The company added that Gillian’s property has been taken off its site and that customers who booked it are being offered support regarding refunds, relocations, and additional fees.