Report of nationwide bait-and-switch scheme on calls into question company’s ability to protect its travelling users


Washington (November 19, 2019) - Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), members of the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, today wrote to Airbnb in response to a recent report that the company has failed to protect consumers from fraud on its platform. A recent Vice story described customers’ experiences with a bait-and-switch scheme involving fake property profiles and pressure on vulnerable guests to accept different, inferior properties minutes before check-in. The victims found it nearly impossible to obtain full reimbursement from Airbnb, and despite substantial evidence of fraud, Airbnb allowed those responsible to continue posting fake property profiles and engaging in this bait-and-switch. In their letter, the Senators highlight Airbnb’s poorly written rules, weak verification process, practice of ignoring red flags, and stonewalling the resolution of complaints that made it impossible for guests to receive full refunds for property they had rented. In response to the media report, Airbnb announced new safeguards for the seven million listings on its platform. But Airbnb has not taken responsibility for the harm done to consumers on its platform and offered few details on its ambitious plan to protect its users.


“Airbnb must immediately address both the apparently fraudulent activity on its platform and the company’s policies and practices that allowed it to occur, and ensure that scammers cannot continue to use Airbnb to rip-off vulnerable consumers,” write the Senators to Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky.


A copy of the letter to Airbnb can be found HERE.


In their letter, the Senators ask for responses to questions that include:

  • What is Airbnb’s current verification process to ensure hosts are legitimate and their postings are genuine and accurate?
  • How many individuals contacted Airbnb with concerns about the legitimacy of the postings involved in the scam or negative experiences they had with the rentals?
  • How did Airbnb act on these red flags and complaints?
  • With respect to the changes Airbnb announced on November 6, 2019, how will Airbnb verify every listing for accuracy and quality standards by December 15, 2020?