Airbnb, the innovative online marketplace that allows people to rent short-term lodging, has been revolutionizing the hospitality industry over the last few years. However, you may have also seen articles from time to time that serve as warnings to renters—stories about fake postings, false advertising, and phishing scams. These are all valid concerns when it comes to renting through sites like Airbnb, but it’s easy to forget that it’s also just as likely that roles can be reversed and Airbnb hosts can get scammed as well.
Every time a host welcomes a stranger into his or her home, they’re opening themselves up to the possibility of Airbnb identity theft. If you regularly host Airbnb renters in your home, or you’re thinking of becoming a host, here are a few ways to protect yourself from renters with less-than-honorable intentions:
- Get control of your mail – Walking into a rental that is still having mail delivered is like Christmas for identity thieves. It’s so easy for them to intercept your bills, letters, and credit card offers to steal your personal information. If you’re renting out a property that you still live in, be sure to contact the USPS to hold your mail for that period of time (you can do it easily through their website). If you don’t live at the property, be sure all of your mail is forwarded properly to your current address.
- Collect everything you want to protect – Where is your passport? How about your birth certificate, or Social Security card? If they are scattered throughout your home, or filed away in a portable filing cabinet or lockbox, don’t just leave them in your house and hope for the best. Don’t put it past your renters to go digging through your stuff or steal your lockbox to break into later. Get all your important documents together and either take them with you, or keep them in a locked safe that cannot be moved easily.
- Be smart about passwords – Do you leave certain password-protected devices in your home for renters to use? For example, a laptop, iPad, or Netflix account? First, be sure none contain any of your personal information. And second, create a unique password for the devices that is only for the renter’s stay (do not choose a password you use for any of your other personal accounts!). Once the renter is gone, change the password immediately to something completely different for your next renter.
- De-personalize your house – This may be challenging to do, but try to remove any traces of yourself when strangers are staying in your home. Why? You might think your Van Halen poster is harmless and looks pretty awesome, but an identity thief may take note of your favorite band and use that information to answer a security question on one of your accounts. The pile of old mail you’re trying to hide in the corner? Identity thieves see it and will help themselves, so shred and recycle old mail before allowing people into your home.
Airbnb identity theft may seem like one of those things that happens to “other people,” but it can easily happen to you too. Be smart about not just who you rent your house to, but what you’re leaving around and giving them access to.