Travel website scam saw 100 tourists show up at woman’s home

In July, a London homeowner opened the door to about 100 travelers who insisted they had booked her accommodation on the popular travel site Booking.com. But it turned out they were all ripped off.

In a recent conversation with the BBC, the homeowner, Gillian, explained that the bizarre episode started when a couple of travelers from Asia knocked on her door on July 4.

The couple said they had rented their home in North London through Booking.com, to which Gillian replied: “No, you haven’t, because it’s not on Booking.com.”

But it didn’t stop there. A few hours later, more weary travelers arrived at her home, forcing Gillian to explain again that she had never put her home on the site.

After searching Booking.com herself, she found her address listed, but it was next to photos of another property taken from another travel site. It was then that she realized that she had become entangled in a scam where someone had made a false listing in an attempt to trick tourists.

Despite informing the travel site on July 5 — the day after the first groups of people knocked on her door — about 100 additional travelers arrived in the following weeks from places as far afield as the US, Saudi Arabia and Australia.

“I felt so sorry for those tourists who knocked on my door,” Gillian told the BBC. “All I could do was send them away. I feel very concerned about it. They are very nice people. But maybe one day we’ll get people at the door who are actually quite aggressive. I feel very vulnerable.”

In a much-discussed 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: “Scam is unfortunately a battle many industries face against unscrupulous fraudsters who want to take advantage and it is something we are tackling directly. We have some robust security measures in place, but in the very rare event that there is a problem with a specific property, we always investigate immediately.”

The company added that Gillian’s property has been taken off its site and customers who have booked it will receive support regarding refunds, moves and additional costs.

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