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.

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