Booking.com scam: Tourists descend on north London private home

By Shari Vahl
Reporter, You and Yours

  • Published
booking.com webpageImage source, Booking.com

A woman in north London says she feels victimised after dozens of tourists turned up at her home when her private address was placed on the Booking.com accommodation website.

Travellers from Hong Kong, Saudi Arabia and Los Angeles turned up at the home of Gillian, whose full name is not being given, throughout July.

She had to turn them away and told Booking.com it was a scam.

The firm said her home had now been "completely removed" from its site.

Gillian told BBC Radio 4's You and Yours programme that on 4 July she was surprised by unexpected visitors to her home.

"Someone knocked on my door. I opened it and it was this poor, very tired woman, presumably from Hong Kong, her daughter at the end of the gate, with hundreds of cases, it seemed to me, obviously [they had] just come from the airport.

'Looked aghast'

"They said they'd booked my house with Booking.com.

"I said, 'No you haven't, because it's not on Booking.com'. I've never let this house.

"She looked aghast and I said, 'You'll just have to go back to them. I'm sorry, there's some misunderstanding'.

"A few hours later I had about three or four people visiting knocking on my door saying they'd booked my house with Booking.com.

"They came from all over the world: Australians who'd just arrived, there were some people from Saudi Arabia, some people from the north of England, and I just couldn't believe it."

The pair from Hong Kong were the first of about 100 people who thought they had reserved Gillian's property through the booking website, arriving there between 4 and 29 July.

On 5 July, Gillian reported to Booking.com that droves of people were coming to her house and the listing was eventually pulled six days later.

But Gillian said she had 23 groups of people turn up at her house throughout the month.

'Feel very vulnerable'

"It was obviously a scam, and someone had used my address. I felt so sorry for those tourists knocking on my door. 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."

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Jo Duckenfield had booked Gillian's home as they planned to see Lady Gaga at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium

Gillian found the listing for her address on the website but the pictures were from an entirely different property, in Chelsea, and had been unlawfully copied from a legitimate accommodation site.

Jo Duckenfield and her daughter, Olivia, were two of the tourists who turned up at Gillian's home to stay on a weekend away from their home in Portsmouth.

They had booked on 13 July and were planning to attend the Lady Gaga concert at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

"I started looking around for somewhere to stay [and] found this flat on Booking.com," Ms Duckenfield said.

'Unscrupulous fraudsters'

She said she had queried the status of the property on the morning of arrival with Booking.com, and had been assured it would be fine.

Ms Duckenfield said: "I won't use them again, ever."

Image caption,
Gillian said she had 23 groups of tourists turn up in July to stay in London

A spokesperson for Booking.com 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.

"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 can confirm this property has been completely removed from our site and all customers are being contacted by a member of our customer service team to apologise and offer any support required in relation to refunds, relocations and additional fees, as well as of course extending our apologies to the homeowner."

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