Travel news: Airbnb scam warning 

Airbnb

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has issued a scam warning about its recent ruling over Airbnb compensation.

In December last year, the Federal Court ordered Airbnb to pay $15 million in penalties, and Airbnb will offer up to $15 million in compensation to eligible consumers after Airbnb admitted it misled consumers about the currency of the prices on its accommodation platform.

Airbnb admitted making false or misleading representations to Australian users between January 2018 and August 2021 that prices for Australian accommodation were in Australian dollars, when in fact for about 70,000 consumers the prices were in US dollars.

However, since then the ACCC has discovered scammers have been calling people and falsely claiming to help them get a refund.

The ACCC recommends that anyone receiving such a call to hang up immediately.

The ACCC also advises:

  • never give personal information to anyone calling you out of the blue
  • never give access to your computer or bank account
  • never click on a link in a text message or open an attachment in an email if you were not expecting the text or email.
  • if you have given information or lost money to a scammer, contact your bank immediately.
  • report scams to Scamwatch.

Airbnb has agreed to offer compensation to about 63,000 affected consumers. 

Affected consumers will be contacted by Airbnb and by Deloitte Australia, which is administering the compensation claims program on behalf of Airbnb.

Consumers will receive an initial communication from Airbnb via email and text message, inviting them to log on to their Airbnb account, where further information will be available about how they can lodge a claim. Airbnb will contact affected consumers with information about the consumer redress scheme by Monday 5 February 2024.

Travel warning

The Australian government travel service Smartraveller has issued two travel warnings.

Smartraveller has advised travellers to exercise a high degree of caution in Papua New Guinea and Ecuador.

Ecuador has declared a 60-day nationwide state of emergency and curfew. Travellers and citizens must remain indoors between 11pm and 5am. You must always carry ID and follow instructions from authorities.

Travel to and from airports during the curfew period is permitted for passengers travelling on scheduled flights. If you’re entering via land borders from Peru or Colombia, you’re required to present an apostille police check covering the previous five years.

“The security situation in Ecuador could deteriorate with little notice. In the past, the government has used the military to maintain law and order,” the service warned.

“You should be extra vigilant. Avoid demonstrations. Monitor local media and follow official government instructions.”

The country is experiencing episodes of public violence after a shocking prison riot.

Smartraveller has issued a similar warning for Papua New Guinea and advises visitors to avoid areas where violence occurs and monitor local media for updates. 

There’s a 14-day state of emergency in place for Port Moresby’s national capital district following the civil disorder, violence and looting that broke out in Port Moresby on 10 January and spread to other parts of the country.

Smartraveller says the risk of violent crime and sexual assault in PNG is high. Criminals often use ‘bush knives’ (machetes) and guns (including homemade ones). Visitors are advised to be alert to their surroundings and avoid going out after dark.

“Civil disorder and criminal activity have occurred at tourist resorts. Keep doors and windows locked, including when travelling by vehicle. Consider using private security,” Smartraveller says. 

Brazilian visa changes

Brazil has launched a new eVisa system for citizens of Australia, the US and Canada. 

The new service costs $127.67 per person, will allow multiple entries and will be valid for five years for Australian citizens.

As of 10 April, citizens from Australia, Canada and the United States will need a visa to enter Brazil. If you already have a valid physical visa on your passport, you do not need to apply for a new eVisa.

For more information contact a Brazilian embassy or consulate. You can find them here.

Were you affected by the Airbnb price deception? Why not share your experience in the comments section below?

Also read: Hard or soft, what’s the best luggage for your next trip?

Written by Jan Fisher

Accomplished journalist, feature writer and sub-editor with impressive knowledge of the retirement landscape, including retirement income, issues that affect Australians planning and living in retirement, and answering YLC members' Age Pension and Centrelink questions. She has also developed a passion for travel and lifestyle writing and is fast becoming a supermarket savings 'guru'.

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