Corcoran agent hit by fake Airbnb listing of her East Hampton home

“It’s terribly upsetting and violating my privacy”

Fake Airbnb Listing Rattles Corcoran Agent
Sarah Stewart and 8 Heller Lane (Corcoran, Getty)

A Corcoran agent’s summer paradise brought her nothing but nightmares this spring.

Sarah Stewart, who sells real estate in New York City, recently got a disturbing call from someone who wanted to rent her home at 8 Heller Lane in East Hampton. They had found her listing on Airbnb and were calling to make sure the request to wire $25,000 outside the listing platform was kosher.

It wasn’t.

The listing was fake. Stewart rents her home out in the spring and summer, for up to $155,000 a month, but she doesn’t use Airbnb. A scammer had taken her listing photos and description from the legitimate page on Corcoran’s site and put them on the short-term rental site. Despite being phony, the scammer had become a verified Airbnb user.

“It’s terribly upsetting and violating my privacy,” said Stewart. “I’m at a loss.”

Although Airbnb initially removed the false listing, the rental site changed its tune when it popped back up a few hours later at a discounted rate. Stewart was told several times her complaint had been passed up the chain of command, according to messages shared with The Real Deal, before Airbnb eventually told her to communicate directly with the fraudulent poster.

“We find that communicating directly with the Host is the simplest way to address these types of complaints,” an Airbnb customer service representative responded to her. “Please reply to this email with a scanned copy of a letter detailing your specific allegation or request, including your contact information. Please note that by providing us with documentation, you are giving Airbnb permission to share it with the Host associated with the listing you identified.”

Stewart found the request absurd. 

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“Who knows what that person or persons will do with my information,” she wrote in an email. 

Airbnb did not respond to a request for comment. 

The scam comes ahead of a summer rental season that figures to thrust short-term rental platforms in the spotlight once again. 

Many villages out East — on both the North Fork and South Fork — have been grappling with ways to rein in Airbnbs and VRBOs that locals say ruin the atmosphere and price out middle-class homeowners. 

Greenport Village last year announced it would use AI to track short-term rentals, while Southold raised the penalty for renting a home out for fewer than 14 days to $5,000 from $500. Suffolk County also announced an AI-led crackdown on short-term rentals last year after a fire in a home that had not undergone safety inspections killed two young women on vacation. 

While scams on the East End seem relatively rare, the local market isn’t immune. Two years ago a Montauk homeowner who listed a property on Douglas Elliman’s site found the luxury beach house listed on Airbnb for $2,500 a night. A homeowner in Springs spent the same summer turning “renters” away from the home, which was legitimately listed on and with Hamptons Realty, after a scammer posted a fake listing on Facebook Marketplace. 

Their trials show that even rentals listed on boutique sites, and which obey all local rental rules, are at risk of causing headaches for homeowners and neighbors. 

In Stewart’s case, Airbnb eventually resolved the issue — but only after Corcoran sent the site a DMCA takedown notice. She fears scam victims would have spent the summer turning up at her property if not for the brokerage’s help.

“If it had just been me as a landlord, I feel like it would have been the same story with that other listing out in Montauk two years ago,” she said. 

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