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Fraudulent travel listing leads visitors to wrong house in Cleveland

Three weeks passed before post was removed by national company
Ohio house.jpg
Posted at 10:18 PM, Aug 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-23 13:08:17-04

CLEVELAND — Three weeks after a Cleveland woman found her address in a fake post on a national travel site, the company took the post down.

Linda Butts has been in her upstairs apartment of a house on E. 147th Street for five years.

She lives there with her daughter and grandkids.

"For me, home is -- that's your safe haven," she said sitting on the front steps of the white house with green awnings Sunday night.

It was cooler outside the apartment than inside so on hot summer days, they aren't home much but when they are "that's what home is. It's your space."

But recently, after a man showed up at her door, her idea of home changed.

Two weeks ago, an innocuous-looking piece of mail arrived.

"It does not have a return address on it," she said holding up the envelope. She thought it was junk mail but kept it around. She wasn't sure why at the time, she said she's glad she did.

The letter was from Booking.com, the travel and hotel website.

It said her house on E. 147th Street was about to be listed and ready for people to come to stay.

"I didn't think anything of it until somebody showed up at my house," she said.

A man arrived at her side door on Friday, Aug. 13, about 48 hours after the letter arrived. Butts told him he was mistaken, and he left without any issue.

When she remembered the letter, she started a Google search and found the fraudulent listing on Booking.com.

News 5 reached out to the company about the listing but did not respond before the initial story on Sunday night.

On Monday, Aug. 23rd, a company representative told News 5 the post was removed. A web link to the original post leads to a search page on booking.com instead of the fake post.

In a written statement, the company said: "This is a very rare circumstance, but if there is ever doubt or cause for concern with a specific property, we investigate immediately and will remove it from our platform if necessary, just as we have done in this instance."

In the listing, Butts found her address with photos from an apartment that were not hers. Calling itself "Ohio City Modern Loft Apartment," the listing boasts amenities Butts does not have like a pool or "garden views". At the bottom of the description, the page shows the listing has been "welcoming Booking.com guests since July 28, 2021."

"People need to use Google," Butts said. She thinks, if people did their research, they would see the images on the listing don't match up with her house.

But people have been booking and showing up. Three times Butts or her downstairs neighbor answered the door to find people who showed up after booking a room.

"People spend money and they want what they spend their money on," she said.

Sometime on Aug. 22, the website put a red disclaimer at the top of the misleading listing which read "We’re sorry, but this property isn’t taking reservations on our site right now."

Booking with Disclaimer

For Butts, it isn't enough.

"They need to say this is not one of our listings," she said. She hopes it means no one else shows up at her door because the house on E. 147th Street, the one with her family inside, feels different now.

"It's making me uneasy because I don't know if I need to be on guard to protect myself," she said.