“Russian crime forums have been using the home-sharing service to shuffle around cash under the table, sometimes with the help of legitimate Airbnb hosts.” (11.22.17 / The Daily Beast. Free image).
Wikipedia: “Airbnb is an American company which hosts an online marketplace and hospitality service, for people to lease or rent short-term lodging including vacation rentals, apartment rentals, homestays, hostel beds, or hotel rooms. The company does not own any lodging; it is a broker which receives percentage service fees from both guests and hosts in conjunction with every booking. In January 2018 the company had over 3,000,000 lodging listings in 65,000 cities and 191 countries.”
Once again, according to The Daily Beast, “Russian crime forums have been using the home-sharing service to shuffle around cash under the table, sometimes with the help of legitimate Airbnb hosts…It provides criminals with a seemingly straightforward way to turn dirty money into seemingly clean money.”
The way it works is pretty simple.
Criminals using legitimate or stolen Airbnb accounts request a booking and make short-term rental payments to their collaborating Airbnb host. The host then sends back up to 50% percentage of the profits, despite no one staying in the property.
Normally, when a customer stays at a host’s property, the customer is encouraged to leave a review, so other potential vacationers, and perhaps Airbnb, can know if the host is legitimate. The scammers appear to circumvent that protection by, in some cases, using real but corrupt hosts.
Guess who was indicted for Airbnb money laundering?
According to Section 34 of the 10.27.2017 Criminal Indictment: “In 2012, MANAFORT, through a corporate vehicle called MC Soho Holdings, LLC owned by him and his family, bought a condominium on Howard Street in the Soho neighborhood in Manhattan, New York. He paid approximately $2,850,000. All the money used to purchase the condominium came from MANAFORT entities in Cyprus. MANAFORT used the property from at least January 2015 through 2016 as an income-generating rental property, charging thousands dollars a week on Airbnb, among other places. In his tax returns, MANAFORT took advantage of the beneficial tax consequences.”
Scammers are leveraging Airbnb to launder dirty cash from stolen credit cards, according to posts on underground forums and cybersecurity researchers consulted by The Daily Beast.
After creating or purchasing the Airbnb accounts, the scammers use them to request bookings from colluding hosts, who then send back a cut of the profits despite no one staying at the property, cybersecurity expert Rick Holland told The Daily Beast.
The Daily Beast found a number of recent posts on several Russian-language crime forums, in which users were looking for people to collaborate with them to abuse Airbnb’s service. According to Rick Holland, VP of strategy from cybersecurity firm Digital Shadows, these operations rely on owning this rental property.
Airbnb itself is not being targeted. Instead, the platform itself is being leveraged and misused to facilitate a wider card-fraud operation
Now why could there be Airbnb Money Laundering in Indian River County, FL?
Because HomeAway, Inc., another vacation rental marketplace lists 372 rentals in IRC and Airbnb lists 221. That is approximately 600 vaction rentals.
Yet less than 50 IRC licenses have been issue according to a Public Records Request from IRC Code Enforcement.
How could the IRC Sheriff’s Department ever begin to track down those rentals not licensed? Especially since the Indian River County Commissioners will not provide the financial resources to do so. See related article below.
Airbnb Short-Term Rentals / South Beach, Indian River County