Airbnb Begins To Weed Out Fake Listings

In an attempt to tackle the growing issue of fraudulent listings, Airbnb is set to roll out a  verification programme in its top five markets: the United States, Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, and France. The company is using advanced technology and human review processes to ensure the authenticity of listings.


Rolling Out Enhanced Verification Schemes


Airbnb’s new verification programme marks a significant step forward in combating fake listings. This involves a 360 approach, requiring hosts to provide information and evidence of their listings’ legitimacy. The company aims to begin implementing this programme in its top markets later this year, with plans to expand it to 30 additional countries by the following autumn.

Brian Chesky, Airbnb’s CEO, revealed that verified symbols will soon be displayed next to listings starting in February. This mark will serve as a testament to the platform’s commitment to ensuring the trustworthiness of its offerings.


Addressing Fake Listings


Fake listings have plagued Airbnb for years, undermining trust and causing inconvenience for users. These fraudulent listings range from non-existent properties to those with misleading information or owners who differ from the stated hosts. Scammers have often employed real property photos to deceive users into making reservations.

Airbnb’s crackdown on fake listings gained momentum in 2019 following a tragic incident where five people lost their lives at a Halloween party hosted in an Airbnb rental. In response, the company initiated measures to curb such incidents and began verifying information on all its listings.

Now, Airbnb is intensifying its verification efforts by requesting hosts to provide more detailed information about their listings.



The Verification Process


Airbnb is relying on a combination of its anti-fraud technology, artificial intelligence, and human review processes to verify listings. For new properties, hosts must upload photos with GPS data through the Airbnb app. For existing listings, the company will scrutinise booking history, reviews, and details provided by the host.

Crucially, Airbnb expects hosts to accurately list their properties’ locations and have legitimate access to them. The company has not provided a specific timeline for this process but has assured existing hosts that they will be given “sufficient time” to comply. Non-compliant hosts could face account limitations, though Airbnb has not explicitly stated if unverified properties will be removed from the platform in the future.


Identifying Fraudulent Listings


To detect listings that might belong to someone other than the host, Airbnb looks for various red flags, including host reputation, template messaging, duplicate photos, and inconsistencies in information.

Airbnb is emphatic about its commitment to a fake-free platform, stressing that fake content has “no place” on its platform. However, an intriguing question arises concerning properties where hosts have appointed caretakers to manage listings, which warrants closer attention.


Results So Far


In 2023, Airbnb has already made significant strides in blocking fraudulent listings. The company reported preventing 157,000 fake listings from joining the platform and removing 59,000 fraudulent listings.

Recent changes in short-term rental rules in New York City have also had an impact on Airbnb’s operations. Hosts are now required to register with the city, and for rentals of less than 30 days, hosts must be physically present on the premises. This has led to a dramatic 77% drop in Airbnb listings in the city, according to travel website Skift.

Airbnb has not yet clarified if it plans to use registration data from these regulations to further enhance the verification process for listings in the city.

In conclusion, Airbnb’s new verification programme represents a robust response to the ongoing issue of fake listings. With a combination of technology, human review, and stricter requirements for hosts, the platform aims to provide users with a more secure and trustworthy booking experience. It remains to be seen how these changes will impact both hosts and guests in the evolving landscape of short-term rentals.