Victoria police have sent out a warning to the public to be vigilant after Airbnb rentals were used to run a prostitution ring.
Police said major crime investigators are working with several agencies to identify all the people involved.
They said they have noticed key similarities in these types of investigations including:
- The owner does not meet the renter to check them into the suite in the first instance;
- Renters’ identifications are not verified through government ID or other verification systems in place through Airbnb;
- The Airbnb app had been set to “Instant Booking”. This allows renters to book the suite at any time without verification from the owner. It is recommended to turn this feature off;
- The owner has set the rental to be available immediately;
- The owner has set the rental to be available short-term, without a minimum stay or with a very short minimum stay; and
- In some cases, the owner is using a third-party service to rent their space on their behalf.
Victoria police also said they are investigating another incident where a suspect rented an Airbnb space then allegedly trashed the suite and stole thousands of dollars’ worth of furnishings.
Victoria police recommend everyone renting out spaces on Airbnb to do the following:
- Do not rent your Airbnb without meeting all renters at check-in;
- Verify your renters through government ID or other verification systems in place through Airbnb;
- Do not set your rental to be available immediately;
- Consider setting a minimum stay at your property;
- If you are using a third-party service to rent your space on your behalf, talk with them to ensure that they are verifying renters and not opening you and your property up to risk;
- Do not rent without taking payment in advance or via systems in place like those available through Airbnb or other, similar vendors; and
- Read renters’ reviews and ensure they have a positive history of renting from other hosts.
No dates for the incidents were provided but anyone with information is asked to call 250-995-7654 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.