Friday, November 1, 2019

"I Accidentally Uncovered a Nationwide Scam on Airbnb"

Allie Conti for Vice:

I had unknowingly stumbled into a nationwide web of deception that appeared to span eight cities and nearly 100 property listings—an undetected scam created by some person or organization that had figured out just how easy it is to exploit Airbnb’s poorly written rules in order to collect thousands of dollars through phony listings, fake reviews, and, when necessary, intimidation.


Airbnb, which plans to go public next year, seemed to have little interest in rooting out the rot from within its own platform. When I didn’t hear back from the company after a few days, and saw that the suspicious accounts were still active, I took it upon myself to figure out who exactly had ruined my vacation.


Airbnb uses a rating system in which both the host and tenant can publicly provide feedback to one another, which both parties then use to prove their credibility in the future. Because of that, there is a built-in incentive to avoid confrontation, which helps explain why Airbnb hosts consistently receive higher ratings than hotels reviewed on TripAdvisor, according to research out of Boston University and the University of Southern California. If a customer has a negative experience on Airbnb, they might be better off just moving on instead of leaving a negative review. Choose the latter option, and you could come across as too demanding by other prospective hosts, or, in extreme cases, even receive a retaliatory review.


This was it. I was convinced I had found the scammer.