Is Airbnb safe? New report reveals fraud, insect infestation, discrimination

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According to a sharp new report that analyzed Twitter complaints, a lot can go wrong when staying on an Airbnb. Asher Fergusson, a computer scientist who runs a travel security website, recently partnered with researchers at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and the University of Colorado School of Public Affairs in Colorado Springs to report on the issues that visitors are most likely to encounter. encounter when staying on an Airbnb. Fergusson’s site has previously analyzed topics ranging from the most dangerous places for female travelers to the most dangerous places for gay travelers to the worst places to raise a family.

The Airbnb project received support from ASIS International (the world’s largest member organization for security management professionals) and through a grant from John Jay College. For 2.5 years, the teams used machine learning and natural language processing techniques to analyze Twitter data as a result of guest complaints. “Our first goal when we started this research was to find out what’s most likely going wrong for Airbnb guests,” Fergusson tells Forbes Women.

And it wasn’t just a few Airbnb complaints. The teams analyzed a large dataset of 127,183 tweets, which was sent between January 1, 2015 and September 20, 2020, which contained guest complaints about issues they had encountered during an Airbnb stay, and then broke them down using a combination of human coding, machine learning and natural language. processing techniques.

The report documented many of the circumstances that countless guests have experienced, from the frustrating to the downright dangerous (read on for some examples). “We found thousands of cases of account hacking with holiday dollars that were stolen via fraudulent bookings as well as many other scams,” Fergusson said. “Then there were police interventions, bodily harm, threats, insect attacks, privacy violations via hidden cameras, long-term negative health impacts after the customer checked out of Airbnb and more. Even in 2021, the amount of illegal, unsafe or fake listings is on the platform. dizzying – more than any of us are likely to realize. “

The report also gathered more than 500 examples of photographic evidence of unsafe conditions, including insect infestations, rodents, pests, mold, body fluids, rotting food and other ugly or unsafe problems.

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In total, the report found that 72.2% of Airbnb issues were related to customer service issues, from limited emergency support to unreachable or rude service. The second most common problem: fraud, which accounted for 22.3% of complaints – from fake directories to hacked accounts. After that (10.4%) the host canceled the stay. Next: 6.1% were uncertain conditions, from pest infestations to hidden cameras. And 3.7% of complainants documented discrimination, from racial discrimination to LGBTQ + discrimination.

Fergusson says he was inspired to do the investigation after his family’s own bad Airbnb experience in 2017, when they experienced two back-to-back nightmares that left them stranded on the streets of Paris with their 10-month-old baby. “We had nowhere to stay, and Airbnb support tried to ‘help us’ by proposing a new place that hosted the same scammer who had just taken advantage of us,” Fergusson says. “That experience opened our eyes to the many flaws and loopholes on the Airbnb platform.”