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U.S. Tourist Claims To Have Been Scammed By Tulum Airbnb Host In Viral TikTok Videos

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Tennessee Family Go Through Terrifying Ordeal At Cancun Airport After Rental Dispute 

An American mother has left Tulum shocked after she claims to have been scammed out of thousands of dollars by an Airbnb host. The complicated case ended with the woman’s family being detained by military police at the Cancun Airport

downtown tulum area

In a series of videos now gone viral on TikTok, Elizabeth Alvarez explains that she had planned a trip to Tulum for her daughter’s 13th birthday, seeking out an Airbnb with a pool for the family to enjoy in a different area from the typical hotels in the region. She traveled with her other two children and her father to Tulum and had booked a villa.

Prior to the trip, communication with the Airbnb host had been stellar. He offered her plenty of advice on day trips, bike rentals, and other aspects of her trip to make her stay as pleasant as possible. Although she didn’t disclose the amount, she mentioned that it cost “thousands” of dollars.

She claims she did a thorough check of the property online before the trip and that the reviews were all excellent, going as far as to check that each reviewer was a real person with other activity on the app. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary, and the host was mentioned multiple times as being wonderful. 

Upon arrival the host informed her of multiple house rules that were not listed online, Airbnbs typically share any pertinent information about the property in the listing to ensure no one is surprised. For example, some hosts do not allow any outside guests on the property and, prior to the company’s blanket party ban, some hosts would state whether larger gatherings were allowed or not. Although the house rules were not major, things like only being able to run the AC for two hours a day while her eighty-two-year-old father was in the house were a frustration. 

pool in airbnb

The problems began when the host approached her directly, both in person and using WhatsApp, claiming that Airbnb had taken 56% of the payment for taxes and other fees. He offered to take a few hundred dollars off the price if she canceled the reservation and paid in cash.

A back and forth between the two ensued for several hours, where Miss Alvarez checked with Airbnb and found that she would not receive a refund if she canceled. Whatsapp messages between the two show the host offering lies to tell Airbnb that would allow them to receive a refund including that her father struggled with the stairs and that previous guests had Covid.

airbnb app page

Miss Alvarez grew increasingly uncomfortable and was not happy to move forward with the plan. However, when she felt that the discussion was over, the host felt that she had previously agreed and took it into his own hands. When she woke the next morning, Miss Alvarez was shocked to see that the reservation had been canceled and she was receiving a full refund.

Feeling unsettled that he had moved forward without permission and that she now had no legal protection, she quickly moved her family out of the property and into a hotel in the town.

tulum coastline again

At this point, the host grew angry and began to message with veiled threats, suggesting that “Tulum was small” and that she had been reported to the authorities, even suggesting that her passport had been flagged. She reported all of the information to Airbnb but received no apparent assistance at that point.

airbnb app

The family went on with their vacation, enjoying their new hotel, but were terrified to find the military police waiting for them upon their arrival at the Cancun International Airport. Miss Alvarez was separated from her children and father and forced to pay the host using cash app Venmo and Paypal.

According to Miss Alvarez, the amount she ended up paying the host was more than the original amount she had paid him over Airbnb, although this has not been verified. After paying, she was reunited with her daughter and father and allowed to leave the country. 

tulum coastline

Since leaving, the head of safety at Airbnb had been in touch with Miss Alvarez, stating that the host had been removed from the app and that he would be handling the investigation personally.

Those using Airbnb for any stay, in Quintana Roo or elsewhere, should take Miss Alvarez’s experience as a cautionary tale. Always keep communication inside the Airbnb app and don’t take any solicitation to pay in cash The second any business is conducted outside of Airbnb’s official channels, any protections you have as a customer are lost.

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Janet

Saturday 30th of July 2022

I've been following this story since the first TikTok. What this Airbnb host did is 100% inexcusable. Same goes for not disclosing all the rules in his listing. But, this one line in the article seems to be the turning point: "A back and forth between the two ensued for several hours, where Miss Alvarez checked with Airbnb and found that she would not receive a refund if she canceled." - This implies Ms Alvarez was entertaining the idea of canceling her stay in order to save a few hundred dollars. Why any guest would consider canceling their reservation after already checking in, so they could save a few hundred dollars and lose all the protections Airbnb offered is beyond me.

Kendra Gill

Monday 25th of July 2022

This is essentially kidnapping for ransom. I would hope that Cancun tourism board (if there is one) should be concerned since they rely on travelers.

Allie

Sunday 17th of July 2022

Something about Ms. Alavarez's story is 100% not right.

Elizabeth

Sunday 24th of July 2022

@Allie, feel free to reach out if you need more info because it’s 1000000% true. The only miscommunication in m this article is the fact we were at the gate boarding when we were detained by the military, police and airport security. He got past all the places he never should’ve. But feel free to reach out if you have any questions.

Rocky

Thursday 14th of July 2022

We have stayed at several Airbnb's in the states and the Mexican Caribbean as we were looking for a home. We stayed in about 10 of them over a year in Mexico, 3 of them were not satisfactorily. 2 gave us our refunds with no issue, the last one was the worst and told us they did not know how to go about the refund. We documented everything and she asked that we not give her a bad review. We agreed (Very bad on our part) since we were there just for 2 nights. Then, it turned, she said she agreed to nothing and we did all these things to her home charging us $1700 and attempting to charge another $1700. It was a nightmare and we said never again. That's 33% poor representation on the Mexican Airbnb's. Different than the states and overpriced due to tourism. Owning a travel agency, I hopefully can steer some to stay away.