I admit there are numerous statements across the Airbnb website stating do not book outside the site. Being a new user, when faced with a message on a listing to contact the host directly, I did. In all innocence, I actually thought that the listing had been validated by Airbnb prior to uploading and that no changes could be made once live. Therefore if the listing had a request to contact them directly I would assume that Airbnb had approved it. Logical, not stupid. However, we all know that’s not true. Airbnb has no security measures, procedures, responsibility or morals. Apparently you can easily create a bogus host, draft up something pretty, wait for it to go live, and falsify it as much as you like, including adding and amending details. Then if they are unfortunate to be flagged or worse still, have been successful in their scam (as in my case) they take the listing down and Airbnb has no way of tracking them. It’s an absolute playground for scammers.
So how does Airbnb deal with this? Do they install preventative measures to stop this happening? Scrutinize and have more background checks on hosts before uploading? Do they ensure no changes can be made once the listing is live or they are only managed through administrators at Airbnb?
Don’t be silly. That would be taking responsibility and accepting that when you start a business providing a service you do so accepting an obligation to ensure the security and safety of every single user. But wait: I hear you say they have disclaimers, so this excuses them for not taking responsibility for investing in the site. They can continue to scrape as much profit as possible while hiding behind these warnings. Basically Airbnb are giving scammers carte blanche to take advantage of the site, targeting the vulnerable and naïve.
Can you talk to anyone about this? Absolutely not. I did manage to get a lovely superhost representing Airbnb who was understanding, but in his words:
“I do understand that this does happen often and we do have security measures. For these scam listings, they are fine when they set up their listing but then they change the information or add a picture with a number and then remove it quickly or remove the listing before we can get the ID. I can assure you than once we find these listings; we do notify our Trust and Safety Team to remove the listing and the host.”
I am sure that more can be done as well. So come on, Brian Chesky, be a man and face up to your responsibilities; stop hiding behind disclaimers or warnings. Create a site where every user feels safe and secure using it. Limit the possibility of scamming and fraud. Have some human contact – a customer phone line so if there are any issues they can be resolved quickly, professionally, and without the need to find these websites.