Airbnb is having one hell of a week. A few days after the company announced a ban on party houses following a tragic shooting on Halloween that left five people dead, the short-term rental platform continues the damage control tour, this time in response to a nationwide scam involving fake listings. Now the company will seek to reauthenticate all seven million listings on Airbnb to ensure they are accurately advertised and meet the company’s standards, the most significant redesign since the brand first started in 2008.
Allie Conti, in a report published by Vice, experienced first-hand an extensive and quite complicated Airbnb scam that left her, and others using the platform, out of a significant amount of money and forced to relocate to expensive hotels on short notice.
Here’s the long and short of it: Minutes before Conti was set to check-in to an apartment she rented on the platform she received a call from the host alerting her that sudden plumbing issues made it so that staying at the listing would be impossible. Luckily, the host had another listing she could stay at that was bigger and wouldn’t cost her anything extra. Unfortunately, the house ended up being a flophouse with a hole punched wall, eerily arranged furniture, and a few other gritty elements that prompted Conti to check-in to a nearby hotel. But because she’d agreed to the change of venue and stayed for a night, she was only able to recoup just $399 of the $1,221.20 she spent.
After Conti returned home, she went over the events surrounding her loss and started to see the red flags surrounding the situation. With some digging, she uncovered a deep web of deception that involves fake companies, fake names, stock photos, and intimidation — the whole thing is a fascinating and disturbing read. In response to the controversies, Airbnb CEO and co-founder Brian Chesky wrote in a company email sent out on November 6th, “Starting now, verification of all seven million listings on Airbnb will commence… We believe that trust on the Internet begins with verifying the accuracy of the information on Internet platforms, and we believe that this is an important step for our industry.”
It’s a process Chesky hopes the company can get done by December 15th, 2020, and he laid out a four-part plan that begins with re-verification and includes a new guest guarantee that provides a full refund for any listing that doesn’t meet accuracy standards, a 24/7 rapid response team that can address any listing at any time, and stricter standards for “high-risk” listings that can lead to unauthorized partying.
In the company email, Chesky also said “Today, we are making the most significant steps in designing trust on our platform since our original design in 2008.” With 12 years under its belt, Airbnb was well overdue for an overhaul as the platform is no stranger to scams — there’s even a website dedicated to Airbnb scams and horror stories. Scary as the prospect of being caught up in a scam is, these sweeping changes to Airbnb’s platform are only a good thing for all potential travelers.