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Airbnb Scammer Arrested for $7m Theft Scheme

In the United States, a fraud suspect has been arrested for allegedly obtaining nearly $7 million through deception of Airbnb customers between January 2018 and November 2019.

According to the arrest order obtained, Shrey Goel and his accomplices used various identities to book properties twice and deny clients refunds when canceling reservations. The scheme involved almost 100 real estate properties in different states across the U.S., allowing the fraudsters to make over 10,000 bookings on Airbnb, reported by The Independent.

According to the investigation, the criminals listed the same property on Airbnb multiple times and then favored the client offering the highest rental amount. Other applicants were denied pre-paid accommodations under pretenses, such as citing a force majeure situation. They were offered to stay in a less desirable property for the same amount. If the client disagreed, they were still denied a refund.

Additionally, Goel concealed negative reviews by repeatedly removing and re-listing properties on the site. He also posted false positive reviews. To execute this scheme, he used fictitious host identities and non-existent real estate properties.

Furthermore, he falsely notified the Airbnb rental platform that a guest had stayed at a property, depriving the genuine host of the right to a full refund according to Airbnb’s policies.

Shrey Goel came under the scrutiny of law enforcement in 2019 when the media company Vice launched an investigation against him. This occurred after one of the publication’s authors raised suspicions about a seemingly dubious property substitution, claiming the previous rental had been water-damaged.

After the Vice story went viral, the FBI contacted the journalists, and Airbnb pledged to reevaluate all properties on the platform, removing accounts associated with Goel. According to Fox News, the arrest warrant for Goel was issued on December 28. He was subsequently arrested and released on bail. The court date is yet to be determined as the prosecution is still investigating. Presently, he faces charges of electronic fraud and aggravated identity theft.

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