My Airbnb account was deactivated twice in one week, both because of mistakes by Airbnb and their awful background checker, Inflection Risk Solutions, LLC. Both times I had an active reservation booked, and subsequently canceled, because they deactivated my account. I was refunded for both, but I was livid each time, as it was a huge inconvenience and their reasons for deactivating me were wrong.
The first one last week was because they had claimed I did not complete their “account verification” procedures, which I actually had done prior to making the active reservation I had at the time of deactivation. In fact, their app would not allow me to book without completing the account verification. It was simply uploading a picture of my driver’s license.
It took two days of silence before I heard back from them with a very short email stating they made a mistake and my account had been reactivated. The following day, their Love Team (that’s what it’s called), sent me a much nicer email along with a $100 coupon to use in the future for being inconvenienced. That was a nice thing to do as I had not asked for any compensation.
Cut to this week. I had made another reservation for a business trip. Yesterday I got emails from Airbnb stating my account was being permanently deactivated because a background check found a criminal history and my reservation had been canceled.
I was shocked. I have never been arrested in my life, let alone convicted of any crimes. I wondered if speeding tickets could get me kicked off of Airbnb. They had a link to my report from the awful background check company, which I looked at and listed in the report were three speeding tickets, all valid but expunged from my record. And one entry for a robbery committed in Baltimore in 1999 by someone with my same first and last name and birth date.
Keep in mind I have a very common name. This wasn’t me, but now I had to prove it. I have never been in Baltimore. I was living and working in California at the time this happened. But how do you prove you were not in a place on a specific date? Think about that for a minute. It’s not going to be easy proving you were not somewhere 20 years ago.
Luckily my wife had her wits about her (I was livid) and suggested I call the police department in Baltimore and maybe they have a mug shot or something that would show it’s not me. Maybe he’s a different race and the difference would be obvious. Great idea.
I couldn’t reach the police very easily, and so I called the courthouse where it showed he was convicted. A very nice woman answered and when I told her my dilemma she was very understanding and started to look for the record. She first said I think records that old were destroyed, which made my heart sink. Then she said she found it and listed the guy’s height and weight and eye color (different than me) and race, but we are the same race.
And then….his middle name. Bingo. Different middle name. She asked me to wait a couple minutes while she went to the basement to pull the report and then emailed me a full copy of the court record and police report. She was my angel.
I had emailed three executives based on email addresses someone had posted on Google, as well as the Love Team about my plight. I also messaged their Facebook account and opened a complaint with the BBB. I sent the proof showing this person who only matched my first and last name and birthday was not me. It’s appalling that only that level of match is enough to be accused of being a felon.
To my surprise, later that day I received two messages from Airbnb, one on my reinstated account apologizing and offering to help resolve the issue. Another from the Love Team with a similar message. They also reactivated my coupon and upped it to $200. Okay. I had hoped they would have rebooked my reservation and not charged me for it, but wishful thinking.
I don’t know if the amazing Inflection Risk Solutions, LLC background checking company has reviewed my evidence yet. I originally filled out their dispute form saying I wasn’t ever in Baltimore and had never been arrested in my life. That’s really all I could say at the immediate time of the dispute because I hadn’t discovered the irrefutable evidence until later in the day.
I was not allowed to modify my dispute, but I was able to upload documents, which I did and a text file as well explaining the evidence. They have 30 days, according to their response, to get back to me.
I am hoping Airbnb helps to clear the record. I am unsure whether to book again on Airbnb. I know that will surprise people, but I love the app. Their bookings are so much less expensive than VRBO, which I ended up using last week since I didn’t know if I would get my account reinstated. And their review requirements are by far superior.
I won’t use them for the business trip I have coming up because I cannot risk them deactivating me again a few days before the actual trip. I will likely use them for personal trips only. If they do it to me again, I will be done. But ultimately, they did hear me and reinstate me both times, so maybe that’s a little bit of progress.
Communicating with them is rough. Their phone customer service people are completely useless. Only after complaining loudly to the executives and the FB site did I get any results. And I have no idea if any executives actually received or read my emails.
Think hard about what happened to me and if the records for that guy’s arrest and conviction had been destroyed, how would I prove I wasn’t him and in Baltimore in August of 1999, 20 years ago. I don’t keep records that old. It is frightening thinking I would have to prove my innocence when falsely accused of something.
Background checks should never be half-assed and not use something that uniquely identifies someone, like a SSN. This company is making money using what amounts to a scraping algorithm to declare someone a felon. That should be illegal.