Airbnb Hosts Are Secretly Stalking Your Social Media Before Confirming Bookings

When you make a booking for a hotel you get an instant confirmation. Airbnb’s are not so simple. You often request the stay, and the owner has to confirm it. They may reject you for any reason or no reason. And many are searching your social media profiles to see whether they want you, calculating a sort of social credit score.

  • You may not have any reviews of previous stays in your profile, and a host might reject you for this. Of course you can’t get any reviews until you’ve had stays. Catch 22!

  • And they might look at your Facebook to figure out how you’re likely to behave at their property.

    There it was — an advertisement on the woman’s Facebook profile for a party in St Neots. The intention was clear: the party was to take place in Borman’s cottage. She declined the request.

  • They also want to figure out if the person making the booking is really the primary guest, and who else might be staying there?

    Half an hour later, Borman received another booking request through Airbnb, this time from an older woman inquiring on behalf of her son. Suspicions raised, Borman checked out her social media profiles too, and pieced together that the second requestor’s son was friends with the would-be party host Borman had previously declined. She declined this booking too.

There are problem guests out there! “43% of property managers had dealt with noise complaints at their rentals, while 25% have had the police called to a property because of the noise.” As a result, 8% of hosts review social media profiles before accepting a booking.

Borman, however, is part of the 8% who said they look at guests’ social media profiles prior to accepting a booking. It’s a key part of the vetting process for Sebastien Long, CEO of the Texas-based company Lodgeur, which offers short-term, fully furnished apartment rentals across Houston.

“We delve into social media as a more advanced check when we have suspicions about somebody,” he said. “We will look to see if their story matches up to the information that they’re giving us as to why they’re booking with us.”

Long said he also performs an online news search of potential guests to check for negative headlines and even arrests.

Some estimates suggest that about 2% of bookings are rejected on this basis. Other guests ret rejected for having anything other than 5-star reviews of past stays, for instance because they failed to “strip[..] all linen from beds and placing it in the laundry room, or exiting the property by 10am.”

Hotels don’t require you to “strip linen from the beds” and also don’t generally research guests before accepting a booking, though better hotels do sometimes research their guests. Even that is rare! In all my years traveling I’ve only experienced it clearly three times. I’ve written this blog for 22 years, and hotels certainly don’t go out of my way to give me a better stay. If anything I think I’m unlucky in my stays!

I’ve never been rejected by an Airbnb and have only five star reviews, but I’ve learned that those are most appropriate for trips where I need several bedrooms and for staying in places where there just aren’t many hotel options. I’ve used them on Martha’s Vineyard, for instance, and a small beach town outside Gold Coast, Australia. And they just take a lot more work to reserve the right place.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. As they should! Not sure why you think this is odd or have a problem with it. I don’t own AirBNB or VRBO properties (wouldn’t want the hassle) but have owned vacation homes that I rented out through an established agency. They did extensive checks and also didn’t allow people below 25 to rent the units (kids were fine but older adult had to be primary renter). Given the many instances of damage, parties and, in some cases, squatters I would do extensive checks on any potential renters including looking at ratings, reviews and social media posts. Not sure again why you have a problem with this, there is no expectation of privacy when you willing post things to the internet.

  2. As the host you aren’t given any information (or photo) of the guest besides first name and location. Unsure where the data in this article came from? As a 10+ year SuperHost I’m curious how people are finding social media profiles when getting an inquiry with just a first name?

  3. “Not sure again why you have a problem with this…”

    I read the article twice and can’t find anything that would suggest Gary is bothered by this practice. You must be an expert at “reading between the lines”.

  4. Our problem is illegal ab+b’s in our development. The cost of lawsuits makes enforcement very hard. We have people in out neighborhood that we do not want and their bad party behavior etc.
    This company is a disgrace to the United States

  5. They’re basically lending an expensive asset to you for a period of time, so checking your ability to ‘repay’ with an undamaged asset is par for the course.

    A single hotel room usually has less on the line for the owner than a full home.

  6. And then I read Matt’s comment that basic information to do that check isn’t provided by the platform!

  7. I wanted to weigh in on this topic because I can certainly see one thing wrong with this and that is with allowing AirBnB hosts gaining access to a person’s Social media stuff so they can do supposed checks on you- Really ! To me, I would say that, that would be a major red flag right there. No AirBnb hosts should be allowed such access to that kinda personal info at all because that’s pretty much an Invasion of privacy ! There is pretty much stuff on a person’s Social media sites that shouldn’t be looked at or accessed because something could be seen by someone that the user of these Social media sites doesn’t want seen at all. I for one would Never allow any one to access my stuff at all because they have NO business seeing what I post at all-End of story

  8. “I for one would Never allow any one to access my stuff at all because they have NO business seeing what I post at all-End of story”

    If you never allow “any one” (sic) to view your stuff, then what’s the point of posting anything?

  9. I’m glad that the hosts are weeding out the bad apples as it helps keep the pricing in check. Checks for employment can be more invasive (I am glad that I am no longer pursuing a job).

  10. People who pay attention know that there is discrimination that takes place on the basis of names alone even with regard to employment searches. I wouldn’t be surprised if that happens with AirBNBs too.

    But most AirBNB hosts seem so into the money that they will take what they can get as long as the prospective guests don’t have a trash rating on the platform. Also, the platform seems to provide some kind of insurance to at least some hosts for damages caused by guests — but given the war of words I’ve observed go on between some hosts and some guests, there can be a lot of fussing over for financial reasons of one sort or the other when there are damages or complaints from either side about things not going well.

  11. AirBNB guests often put their picture in the profiles. But that’s not all that some hosts can go on to look up prospective or current/previous guests. But let’s take photos.

    From such photos, it’s possible to run a search to try to identify the person and then harvest more about a person from various platforms.

    A couple of years ago we did just this for demonstration purposes to make a point, and it was way too easy to do so for a lot of people across the US, Canada, and Europe.

  12. I agree with Matt. We have a vacation rental and list on VRBO and not Airbnb, but we too are not given the guest’s info (which only consists of name, email and phone number, no photo) until after we have accepted a booking. So there is no good way to search a potential guest’s social media profile and then reject a booking prior to accepting it. And if you reject it after accepting, VRBO dings your search rating, so as a host, it’s not a good thing to do.

  13. If you know the person’s name and email, a search will typically turn up their social media profiles unless they are using multiple emails.

  14. @ Gary

    Are posting to this website available for search as we do provide our e-mail addresses when we post a comment???

  15. If they showed the guest’s full name before accepting the booking, what would stop the host from reaching out via social media and negotiating a rate with the guest that cuts out the AirBnb fees? Websites like AirBnb or Ebay that work on commission/percentage of revenue are very careful about things like this. Providing an easy way to contact someone off-website would mean tons of lost revenue for these companies.

  16. I only take requests on Airbnb. The only info available to “lookup” a guest on social is first name and city where they live. No picture, last name, email or phone.

    I clearly state that I take a security/damage deposit after accepting booking. This scares away 99% of problem guests. I chose to waive the deposit if the guest has great reviews to avoid the extra work. (Yes, Airbnb terms allow this if API connected. Which all hosts should be IMO)

    In the article example, looking up guest’s social probably saved the host from a massive headache with a guest trying to have a party which is against Airbnb terms of service. And the parent booking on behalf of kid is not allowed either.

    Airbnb also bans guest from the system who have booked or stayed at a party house \ problem Airbnb in the past.

    We also require guest ID at check in to match Airbnb guest name. Professional STR managers know how to make Airbnb system conform to our normal safeguards of doing business.

  17. I like renting homes/TS. I prefer to build a railing with other travelers and rent off them. I can trust them. Post pandemic I rent less via VRBO/type sites. I prefer to go through a property managing place is not going through a third party person. I prefer to rent from another fellow travelers. I find VRBO/etc type agencies means of renting tiring, time consuming, and as days go by higher risk. Probably these days via airline itself can be stressful given the constant delays and Airline issues adding a logic problem not worth it I don’t like the idea of having a rental that doesn’t match what they were selling and then VRBO or similar to not stepping into it Making it daunting and expecting us the tenant to do so much to prove that Rental is not as promised yet they charge a high fee. Over the last 10 years, they changed a lot and the last 5 a LOT. I look forward to the day will be no longer exist. I also feel hotels have stepped up their game post and are improving yearly. If sorting isn’t right at a name brand chain (you can go from BW to Marriott a 3 stars to 5) the point is you can hold them accountable and get a better room /suite If it’s not what they advertised. More are offering TS type renting I like that and they clean the space. I like that service. I keep my house tidy it’s nice when I’m on holiday and that’s taken care of. I appreciate it.

  18. There are too many reasons I am avoiding AirBnB: no certainty after booking since a host can even cancel the accommodation the minute you show up, lack of standard across properties, lack of loyalty program, hosts are sometimes spying you under hidden camera, too much hidden fees etc etc…

    In some metros it’s just getting more and more expensive and sometimes even pricier than hotels.

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