Airbnb to verify all of its listings after scam emerges.
Image: Cody DeBos / The Burn-In

Late last month, a Vice report emerged that detailed a massive, nationwide network of scammers who were targeting unsuspecting Airbnb travelers. The con artists would cancel a reservation at the last minute then offer to put travelers up for free in a “larger home.” Oftentimes, these turned out to be a rundown, unlivable facility. This left many travelers searching for a refund that, in some cases, never came.

Now, the 11-year-old startup is beginning the process of verifying the seven million listings on its platform in an effort to compensate for the issue.

The company’s CEO Brian Chesky said, “Today, we are making the most significant steps in designing trust on our platform since our original design in 2008.”

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Regaining Trust

While some companies might sit back and claim that there is nothing they can do about scammers (we’re looking at you, Facebook), Airbnb is taking the high road. In a company email on Wednesday, Chesky informed his employees that every single listing on the platform will now go through a verification process. This will entail checks to ensure the accuracy of the listing and to determine if quality standards are met, including “cleanliness, safety, and basic home amenities.”

Although the verification project is a massive undertaking, Chesky has set an ambitious goal for the company. According to his email, all seven million listings will be verified by December 15, 2020. That gives Airbnb just over a year to not only determine how to vet its listings but actually follow through with it.

He goes on to reiterate the importance of trust and its impact on the platform’s success. “Our real innovation is not allowing people to book a home; it’s designing a framework to allow millions of people to trust one another.”

Following the wave of scams, consumers have unsurprisingly lost a good deal of trust in the company. The new verification initiative is Airbnb’s first step towards regaining it.

Genuine Action

Starting this December, Airbnb will now also offer a 100 percent money-back guarantee if a guest feels that a rental does not meet the new listing accuracy standards. While this could be a slippery slope for the company, it believes that it is the best step to show guests that Airbnb “has their back.”

Meanwhile, in response to a shooting at an Airbnb house party that left five people dead, the company will start using a human review process for “high risk” rentals. The new tactic will reinforce Airbnb’s previous move to ban house parties from properties listed on the platform.

Despite the recent speedbumps, Airbnb’s CEO still believes in the platform. With the recent changes in place, it shouldn’t be long before customers start to regain trust in the convenient rental-sharing marketplace as well.

Chesky says, “People are, in fact, fundamentally good, and that we are 99% the same. We still believe this, and with these changes, we hope to continue to demonstrate this to the world.”

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