I had been booking accommodations with Airbnb throughout New Zealand and Australia until one day, Airbnb would not let me make any new bookings until I complied with their ID verification process. I began the process and became very alarmed: I was being asked for a ton of personal data, with questions referring to my former spouse (from whom I have been divorced for twenty years), an address I had 60 years ago – where did Airbnb find this? – and past places of employment. The clincher came when they asked for my social security number, a scan of my passport, and access to my Facebook account. Smelling a scam, I Googled “ID verification” and found out this was indeed a legitimate Airbnb process. Then I phoned them and actually got through. No matter how much personal data I provided, they kept asking for more, assuring me all the while that my information was secure.
…secure until someone hacks Airbnb and has access to enough information to steal my identity and ruin my life, a situation simply not worth this risk. So now I am unable to book any future accommodations on Airbnb. I understand that a host needs to feel confident about strangers staying with them, but this verification process goes way too far and clearly exposes travelers to the risk of identity theft. I am a 70-year-old woman, retired from working in healthcare, with no criminal record who has been a pillar of my community for decades. I am not a threat to anyone. Furthermore, someone who really is up to no good could most likely obtain false documents and still get through their ID process. I am angry and upset that I can no longer use Airbnb, despite the fact that I am a totally honest, harmless and ethical person. My message to Airbnb: you need to figure out a better way to vet travelers. If an honest, harmless retired senior can’t use your site without divulging a ton of personal data, something is amiss with your process.