An Australian Airbnb host has been targeted by the guest from hell, who used stolen identities to make a booking at her Brisbane townhouse only to steal A$18,000 (NZ$19,400) worth of her belongings.
Rachel, who has rented out the property for five years and is a superhost on the platform, tearfully told A Current Affair last night she had been "violated, offended, invaded, taken advantage of and abused".
"I opened up my home and my heart to this vile person who indiscriminately chose to destroy, potentially the rest of my life, I've got no idea how long the ramifications will go on," she said.
"I'm so trusting, I'm a trustworthy person, I wouldn't take things from other people and I didn't expect anyone who would take anything from me."
The house – where Rachel lives, and rents out whenever she's house-sitting for other people – was booked by a person who didn't have a profile picture on their account.
Rachel said, however, she trusted Airbnb's identification protocols during the Covid-19 pandemic – during which hosts have been lucky to get even one booking on their properties.
"Remember Airbnb's meant to verify all Airbnb users with three forms of Government ID so, even though there was no photo, I had to assume he had been verified by Airbnb and it wasn't mandatory to have a photo any more," she said.
Having been on Airbnb since 2015 and never dealing with a negative incident, Rachel had no reason to be suspicious of her latest guest, who texted her throughout his five-day booking.
"The next morning, I SMSed him, 'how did you go, how did you sleep?' And he said, 'everything's great thank you', and I'm thinking, sure everything's great [he's] living in a home full of an owner's possessions and got free reign of it all," she said.
But when she returned home after the guest had checked out, the place had been ransacked, her draws upturned and all her valuable items stolen.
"I felt like I was in a dream, I felt this was happening to someone else, this couldn't be real," she said.
Almost $18,000 worth of items – about 170 – were missing, including a sleep apnoea machine and 55-inch television.
But the nightmare didn't end there: the guest had stolen an old laptop as well, granting him access to her identification details and enabling him to purchase a $5000 car on eBay and order a new credit card, which arrived in Rachel's mailbox seven days later.
Rachel said, despite changing hundreds of passwords since the incident, her mother's share portfolio had also been compromised.
"He is not an amateur, he knows exactly what he's doing," she said of the thief.
"I believe he's a sociopath, he has no conscience whatsoever, doesn't give a darn about how the victim will feel."
Queensland Police are investigating the matter and are understood to have a person of interest.
"They believe he is doing this from place to place, identity theft from one place, using that to book the next place," Rachel said.
Airbnb's Million Dollar Host Guarantee is in place as protection for situations like these. Rachel's claim for compensation is pending.
Airbnb's head of public policy, Derek Nolan, said the company "has zero tolerance for such illegal activity and we take reports extremely seriously".
"We were deeply disappointed to hear of this incident and have removed the wrongdoer from our platform," he said.