November Merchant Spotlight: Airbnb


October 27, 2016


Brad Bonney
Trust and Safety, Airbnb

What consumer benefits do you offer that set you apart from your competitors?

Airbnb helps people from all over the world belong anywhere. More than 100 million guest arrivals have had safe, positive experiences. With nearly 3 million homes in 190+ countries and 34,000+ cities, Airbnb lets you experience life like a local anywhere in the world. Our global community is built on trust, and the safety of our hosts and guests is the most important thing we work on every day.

To help our hosts and guests build trust and establish their identity we built a product for users to connect their government ID with their Airbnb profile. We built a review system users can trust because it is double-blind and only available to hosts and guests after their reservation ends. To help protect our users' money, our guests always pay through our PCI-compliant payments system -- money is never exchanged in person. And in the rare event of an accident, Airbnb is there to assist. In addition to highly trained 24/7 support teams, we help give our hosts peace of mind by including a $1,000,000 Host Guarantee on every booking. In many countries, we also include $1,000,000 worth of protection for our hosts in the event a guest is accidentally injured on the property during their stay.

What processes do you have in place that protect against fraud, account takeovers, etc.?

The safety and security of our users is the most important thing we work on every day. The security of our user accounts is no exception. First, we invest heavily in building a world-class risk engineering team, including multiple PhD data scientists dedicated to fighting fraud. Next, we partner with numerous globally trusted and recognized leaders in risk mitigation and cyber security. We incorporate their data into our sophisticated machine learning models to help mitigate risks like payment fraud, account takeovers, spam, phishing, and more. We proactively seek out and block risky users, content, and payments. Finally, we have an incredible Trust and Safety team that reviews suspicious activity and takes steps to prevent bad actors from actively engaging with our community. Our globally distributed team helps protect our community around the clock so that hosts and guests can use Airbnb with peace of mind. While you will likely never interact with them, they're there to help keep you safe and secure.

Which regions do you experience the highest and lowest fraud rates?

Our community is global, our product is global, and our risks are global. Organized, professional fraud networks exist in every geography, and we aggressively work to identify and neutralize these groups. Regions in which local governments do not actively prosecute online fraud tend to have higher concentrations of organized fraud networks.

What is the most common type of attempted online fraud you see at Airbnb?

While fraud is rare, some bad actors attempt to do harm. By posting fake or fraudulent listings, fraudsters attempt to lure unsuspecting guests away from Airbnb in attempts to have the guest wire money directly to them. Airbnb will never ask a user to wire money. We designed a global payment system that works to enables local currency payments for our hosts. By booking with Airbnb, guests know that their payment is safe and won't be released to the host until after their reservation begins.

We have built sophisticated machine learning models to identify potentially fraudulent listings, and aggressively work to keep ahead of bad actors. Our 24/7 global Trust and Safety team reviews questionable listings and removes suspicious properties proactively from our platform.

How do you benefit from MRC membership? What MRC resources do you rely on?

Our MRC membership provides a valuable outlet to engage with a community of like-minded individuals and companies dedicated to fighting online fraud and abuse. We do not believe that risk mitigation should be a competitive advantage. We should all work together to stop organized criminal behavior and protect our users. In addition to networking with industry peers at conferences, MRC's educational material is particularly valuable. Webinars help our product and operations teams remain aware of industry trends so that we can stay ahead of would-be fraudsters.

Operating in eCommerce hospitality, what are your strengths?

With a global community built on trust, our hosts feel a calling to embody hospitality for their guests. They welcome strangers into their homes, they talk together, they laugh together, they explore together, and they depart as friends. Through the unique experiences enabled by Airbnb and our global community of hosts, anyone can travel the world and -- for the first time in history -- truly belong anywhere.

According to your website, you operate in 190 different countries. Which regions do you hope to expand to in the future that you don't already serve?

Airbnb is available everywhere in the world except where limited by US sanctions. We were the first major US company to enter Cuba in early 2016 after President Obama lifted the Cuban sanctions. Since our initial entry into Cuba, we have enabled more than 12,000 Cubans to share their home and host global travelers, some of whom had been unable to visit the amazing country in over 50 years.

Serving so many different countries, what type of payment authentication methods do you have in place at checkout? What are your cross-border payment capabilities?

Payments plays a large part in establishing trust with our global community. For our guests, we built an extensive network of processors in an effort to provide local payments that use the guest's home currency. The same goes for our hosts. We built an extensive network of disbursement providers to send money to our hosts on time, when expected, and in their local currency when possible. Since the majority of our volume is cross border, we've also designed our payment services and programs to be compliant with money transmission regulations in several jurisdictions.

For many payment methods such as credit cards, we often have multiple choices for the combination of gateway, processor, and acquirer we use. These decisions can affect transaction risk, acceptance rates, and processing costs. By leveraging machine learning and consuming signals from both our production system and our processors, we can make dynamic decisions about how to route a transaction, optimizing for cost, acceptance, or speed.