Why is Justin Brog banned from Airbnb? He’s been a model guest and receives excellent reviews from Airbnb hosts, so there’s no reason Airbnb would disable his account.
And yet it did.
Brog recently received an email from the vacation rental site saying it was done with him, and that its decision was final. Then he appealed. And then he found out the bizarre truth about how you can get banned from Airbnb.
And let me tell you, I thought I had seen it all until I started digging into Brog’s case.
Before we get to the unlikely resolution, let’s ask a few questions about Airbnb:
- How does Airbnb determine who gets banned?
- What’s the Airbnb appeals process in 2024?
- What if Airbnb rejects an appeal?
I never expected to find what I did. But if you read until the end, you’ll find that your enemies could really sabotage your Airbnb account — if you have any enemies.
“We’ve determined that your account should be removed from the Airbnb platform”
This odd case started when Brog received an email out of the blue from Airbnb.
After reviewing the available information, we’ve determined that your account should be removed from the Airbnb platform. Removal means that your account will no longer be accessible, and you won’t be able to create another one.
In this case, you haven’t followed our policy on representing yourself authentically. We weren’t able to confirm your identity using the documents you added, or they appear to be falsified or otherwise invalid.
If you have new information you believe would lead us to reconsider, you’ll need to submit a request to our Appeals team.
Brog says he had not violated Airbnb’s terms in any way. The timing was also bad for him. He had several Airbnb bookings for 2024, and the deactivation automatically canceled all of his reservations.
An appeal to Airbnb: This is “very confusing”
Brog crafted a careful appeal. He says he wasn’t sure how to defend himself, since Airbnb hadn’t made any specific accusation.
I am willing to provide any and all information/documentation that will help get my account reinstated, but how can I know what to provide if I am given no details on my removal? I have been a long-time user of the platform and have stellar reviews from hosts.
This sudden removal is very confusing and somewhat worrisome as I had my bookings canceled without warning and wasn’t given any constructive feedback/instructions on how to correct what is most certainly an error on Airbnb’s part. In addition, there is no direct phone number where I can speak to someone on the matter.
Please provide details of what caused this removal and what you need from me and I will provide. It is plainly incorrect to say that I “haven’t followed your policy on representing myself authentically” and I am willing to confirm my identity by any means possible.
Please urgently assist and let me know if there is someone I can call directly to discuss.
Airbnb: “We consider this decision final”
But Airbnb would have none of it. Here’s the response he got:
We wanted to let you know that your Airbnb account has been deactivated.
This means you can no longer use Airbnb to make any future reservations or create a listing.
This happened because your account was flagged during one of our standard security reviews. It turned out that information in your account was linked to activity that goes against the Authenticity section of the Airbnb Community Standards.
Specifically, there consistently has been misleading or inaccurate information provided about your profile’s verification details.
We reserve the right to make these kinds of decisions when we believe it’s best for the Airbnb community. For more information about our Community Standards visit: airbnb.com/standards
We consider this decision final.
This is a form response, obviously. It may be generated and sent by an AI. I know this because if a real person had looked at the case the response would never have been sent.
“I’m very frustrated,” he told me. Finally, an Airbnb representative called him to say there was “no recourse.”
There’s more to this story
My advocacy team and I have handled hundreds of Airbnb ban cases, and there’s usually more to the story.
I remember one case involving a young schoolteacher from Texas who was banned from Airbnb. She said it was all a big misunderstanding, and as proof of her innocence, she sent me an email that included her picture and CV. (Related: Blacklisted by a travel company? Here’s how to avoid it — and what to do if you’re banned.)
She sure looked innocent — until I asked Airbnb about her. A representative told me there was no way she would get her account back. Airbnb had compelling evidence that the teacher was using her home to participate in the oldest profession on Earth.
I didn’t pursue that one. Some cases are too hot even for this advocacy organization.
Needless to say, I had questions for Brog.
Me: Justin, it looks like Airbnb gave a specific reason for closing your account. Did you provide an incorrect or falsified ID?
Brog: Nope, never, which is why I am very confused.
Me: Have you changed your name recently? Received a new passport or driver’s license?
Brog: I have not changed my name nor received a new license recently. I did receive a new passport a couple of months ago, but I’m not sure how that would impact my Airbnb profile.
It wouldn’t. Something was going on here, but I wasn’t quite sure what.
How does Airbnb determine who gets banned?
Airbnb’s process of banning guests is a black box. Officially, we know that guests can have their accounts deactivated for violating Airbnb’s terms of service. However, those terms are vague and subject to interpretation.
Airbnb has a dedicated department that handles customer bannings in at least two ways.
1. A terms violation
If a host reports a guest for clear terms violations, like destroying furniture or throwing a loud party, the case will get flagged for review. It has become increasingly clear, given the number of guests using Airbnb, that a significant portion of this process is automated. An algorithm may be determining the seriousness of the infraction and recommending a course of action — either a warning or a ban.
2. A criminal record search
If a user’s name matches a criminal records search, that can trigger a similar review. However, this process appears to be far more automated than the host flaggings. My advocacy team has seen a lot — and I mean, a lot — of of users being banned after being falsely accused of a crime. Sometimes it’s a case of mistaken identity. Sometimes the records are inaccurate.
Regardless of the type of account deactivation, there’s a relatively new element, which is Airbnb’s formal appeal process. In the past, Airbnb didn’t even offer a way to appeal a ban. (Related: I’ve been banned by Airbnb, but no one will tell me why.)
However, it is unclear if the appeal is sent to another algorithm for review or if a human agent sees it. Our best guess is that an algorithm assists in some way during the appeals process, perhaps assigning a score to each appeal. In that way, an Airbnb employee can process thousands of appeals an hour.
You wouldn’t even have to read the appeal. Just follow the algorithm’s recommendation and dismiss the appeal. Which may have been what happened to Brog.
What’s the Airbnb appeals process in 2024?
The Airbnb appeals process is relatively new, and the company has told me that it is evolving. At the moment, an appeal of an account deactivation involves sending Airbnb information that proves you didn’t violate its terms of service.
That information may include:
Photographic evidence of the rental taken before you checked out.
An ID that establishes you are who you say you are.
What if Airbnb rejects my appeal?
There is no formal way to appeal a rejected appeal. Which is to say, when an Airbnb employee swipes right on your appeal, the system sends you a message that your claim has been rejected. “We consider this decision final” means there’s no way to appeal the decision. You’re off the platform
Or maybe not. We publish the names, numbers and email addresses of key Airbnb managers on this site. No doubt, these email addresses are being monitored by an escalation department, which means they will see your appeal and may act on it.
Why? Usually, innocent guests don’t take the process to an executive. Airbnb also knows that the next stop for these aggrieved customers is an appeal to an outside advocate or media organization. And that’s something Airbnb wants to avoid.
Turns out this was just a misunderstanding
Our advocacy team saw no reason to kick this back to Brog. Airbnb needed to review this one more time. So we asked.
And sure enough …
Airbnb support just reached out to me. Apparently, someone else opened an account in my name and this was the cause of shutting down my account (a very drastic action without any investigation, in my opinion).
I confirmed the other account was fake and they immediately gave me back access to the platform.
This positive response was shocking since my appeal was immediately declined and was stated the decision was “final,” so their remediation procedures seem out of order.
Although I received a positive outcome, this is a major flaw in their system and I hope they fix this issue so less people suffer the same.
Warning: Someone may be sabotaging your Airbnb account
So now we have another potential vulnerability, when it comes to an Airbnb account. A bad actor can create a fake account in your name, triggering a review by Airbnb, which would be understandably concerned to have two accounts in the same name. That would trigger a review by Airbnb’s heavily automated security department, with virtually no possibility of a successful appeal.
It’s a heck of a way to exact revenge on your enemies.
How to avoid getting banned because of a fake account
You may be able to avert a ban. Here are a few possible strategies:
Monitor your email closely. If you get a notification welcoming you to Airbnb, someone may be trying to set up a fake account. Don’t delete the email. You may need to keep it as evidence during your appeal. (Related: How to fix your own consumer problem.)
Watch your social media accounts for other fake-account activity. Chances are, if they’re setting up fake Airbnb accounts in your name, they’re also trying to do it for other social media accounts, such as Facebook, LinkedIn or X.
If you think Airbnb has banned you because of a fake account, say something. This is where you’ll submit the evidence. (Here’s our guide to contacting the CEO directly.)
There’s no easy way to stop a fraudster from sabotaging your Airbnb account. That is up to Airbnb. It needs to carefully vet each banning to ensure it doesn’t flag users like Brog for a violation that they didn’t commit.
About this story
Fear of artificial intelligence and a post-apocalyptic future inspired today’s illustration by Aren Elliott. Then again, maybe it was the movie Oppenheimer. Either way, I’m deeply troubled that an outside party could sabotage your Airbnb account and that the platform’s AI customer service could allow it to happen. I hope Airbnb closes this loophole before it loses more customers. My thanks to our advocacy team, including Will Leeper and his group on Facebook, Mel Smith and Dwayne Coward in advocacy and Andy Smith and his editing group. You guys are the best.