Total Frustration Uploading Photo IDs on Airbnb

Talk about total frustration. I tried the night before at least 15 times to upload a passport photo using Airbnb’s interface and taking a snapshot of the photo using my computer. The photo image uploaded came out nearly perfect. However I got a message stating the picture was not clear. I tried taking a picture of my passport photo using a cell phone and then uploading that picture to my desktop and from there uploading it to their system. It uploaded correctly each time however I kept getting a message stating that it was not clear. We tried repeatedly and then we got a completed transaction notice from PayPal.

We thought all was good until I woke up the next day and there was a message stating the photo was not clear. Really… what does a photo have to do with making a transaction or trying to get some rental property? The airlines don’t do that much checking; they would be broke if they did. I made a call to Airbnb, talked to a representative and then a supervisor. The last guy said my picture was verified and good. He gave me some coupons and I asked him if he expected me to do this all over again. I tried again and again and this time PayPay charged me twice. This time I got a receipt from the Airbnb system showing the charges. I was thinking I was good to go, but one hour later, I received another email saying the picture was not clear. Why in the world are they so hooked on pictures? If you want lots of pain then you should use Airbnb.

Airbnb Does Not Care if Criminals Want to Rent your House

Airbnb is a giant scam. Beware. Their customer service sucks (both as a host and as a guest). But that is only the tip of their iceberg. Hosts (especially) should use VRBO or other vacation rental resources, and travelers and guests are advised to do likewise. Airbnb claims to verify their renting guests, and puts many hurdles in the way of hosts trying to require potential guests to fully identify themselves. Only owners or hosts who own fleabag properties would allow any Joe Schmoe to take possession of their property without providing full ID – SSN, Drivers License, DOB, full name, mailing address, etc. – and permission to run a credit check. Maybe that is why so many Airbnb properties are fleabags.

We have properties worth over $1 Million with valuable furnishings and artwork and there’s no way are we going to give the keys to someone Airbnb will not let us verify. I am a realtor and attorney, and I can tell you horror stories when owners do not fully vet guests themselves.

We recently tried to check on one “verified” guest, only to find that their cell phone was really someone else’s (same first name, but different last name and no idea who the “guest” was). No other information Airbnb gave us access to checked out either. We tried several ways of contacting the booking guest but only got one reply – through Airbnb’s anonymous contact email, which was clearly written by a non-native English speaker (even though their name was listed as “John Smith”; I am using a pseudonym here, do not want to implicate anyone directly).

I am guessing they were Eastern Bloc scammers who had cased our Airbnb listing through the pictures, booked for a weekend, and planned to simply rob the entire place during their stay. When I called Airbnb to report my reasons for thinking this was a scam and cancelling the reservation, they penalized me and said I was being unreasonable in the information I was requesting from the guest even though my listing clearly stated what I require prior to a stay.

VRBO has no problem with me getting full verification and ID from guests. Airbnb claims they have a $1 million dollar insurance policy on each rental. When the bandits steal all my valuables, I then get to argue with a third party insurer who has no relationship or loyalty to me (only to Airbnb, their real client), prove my losses to their satisfaction, and hope that I am ultimately made whole (of course, after paying out of pocket for six to twelve months to refurnish the property, not to mention trying to replace irreplaceable artworks, which I enjoy sharing with my otherwise respectable, and fully vetted, guests).

Any legitimate business model would give paramount importance to securing the person and property of the owners and hosts. Any hotel around the world will make you show authorized IDs (passport, credit card, etc.) for every guest before renting you a room. Only Airbnb thinks it can bully owners (increasingly sleazy slumlords and fly-by-night “re-renters” who have no real connection to the properties or neighborhoods they have on offer) into rolling the dice on any jackass who can present a credit card with a limit equal to a few nights’ rent. They then might steal or cause damages worth 5, 10 or 100 times that amount.

Good Enough for Secret Service, Not for Airbnb Verification

I signed up for Airbnb because I did not wish to stay in your average hotel; I wanted to rent a house. I guess you can say I am not your Average Joe, and have been quite blessed in my life and career. I am friends with former President George W. Bush, and even attended his daughter Jenna’s wedding in 2008. I was with Vice President Mike Pence on November 10th, 2016 in Indianapolis and then went on the air with Jason Fechner, news anchor of NBC Affiliate RTV6 in Indy, right after my meeting with the Vice President. The only reason I “name drop” is to prove a point. I am not overly wealthy, but am a well-respected businessman in my community and am a man of high morals and integrity.

I booked a home for the first part of our stay with no issue. The next day I attempted to book another home for the next half of the month, on a different island. This is when the hell started. I have never been through more hell trying to get “verified” in my life. The Secret Service never treated me like this, regardless of which President or Vice President I met with. After ten days of calls, poor customer service, and no emails, I received a notification informing me of my account cancellation and refund. It seems that Airbnb uses a flawed service to check “criminal records”. First off, I never gave them enough information to pull a proper background check, so they must deny someone if there is a close name match. If I can meet with leaders of America, why can’t I book a room through Airbnb? I own one of the largest computer-consulting firms in Texas and deal in top security issues on a daily basis. I pull background checks on my employees, and employees for my clients. Airbnb never acquired enough information from me to do a proper check. Do yourself a favor and do not waste your time with Airbnb. Use HomeAway or VRBO. I did and have two nice homes for our month in Hawaii.

Giving up on Airbnb Verification Process to Book Bungalow

I registered with Airbnb, as there was one property in particular that we just had to have: this really beautiful seaside bungalow with views to die for. I made a booking and the owner accepted it, but in order to finish the booking I needed to get verified. I thought that would be no problem. I got my email and phone number verified, and then they asked me for my passport. Last time I checked, only border authorities have the right to check passport, but I just wanted to book my holiday so I went ahead and sent it in. I made a photo of my passport and waited. The website said there was a problem. Then I made another photo, this time with perfect lighting conditions and saved it in the highest resolution; Airbnb gave the same response. I held up my own passport in my webcam (a real person, with real documents) crossing my fingers that a computer would recognize me as a real person with a real document; nothing happened.

Normally this would have already been a few too many steps for me, but my girlfriend and I were just in love with this bungalow, so following all the guidelines and help desk information (which was not a lot, considering they are massively invading my privacy with this verification process) I linked my Google account so they could cross reference my name. I still had no luck, just a lot of frustration. At this point it wasn’t just coming from losing our dream holiday. The frustration was also coming from realizing what I have just done, allowing some website (and whatever 3rd and 4th parties behind them) to go through my personal emails, including my PayPal information, and have a perfect high resolution photo of my passport.

Needless to say I have deleted my account and will never return to this website. The keen traveler I am, with 80+ nights booked with my Expedia account, I will finish my experience at Airbnb with zero nights and actually quite a bit of fear and frustration that I had to go through using personal documents and still not getting recognized as a human being. I will never return to this website, unless in the following years I ever end up being a victim of some identity theft.

I did respect the fact that it’s because of Airbnb that I found this bungalow, so I never wanted to cut them off, and was more than happy paying their share. They cut me off with their ridiculously faulty (and arguably dodgy) verification system. After that I had no other choice but to Google the name of the property, and after a little research, I ended up with a direct contact to the owner. I do not encourage anyone to do this; it is against to policies and also not a “nice” thing to do. However, it was literally the only choice they left me with. Ironically, it saved around 100 bucks, shared between the owner and myself.