Officials in Sweden say there are a growing number of property owners who have rented homes on Airbnb only to find that pimps and prostitutes are using the spaces to ply the world’s oldest profession.
Police in Stockholm, Sweden are warning unsuspecting Airbnb hosts that guests renting lodging through the popular travel accommodations site might not be exactly who they claim to be. Officials cite an increasing number of complaints that Airbnb guests are, in some cases, actually using the short-term rentals as temporary brothels.
Sex workers are going to great lengths to hide their intentions from property owners, creating detailed fake profiles on the site, often posing as couples simply looking for a romantic getaway. The Daily Mail reports that many of these schemes are believed to be tied to larger organized crime syndicates.
Renting an apartment from a private owner through Airbnb has certain obvious advantages over traditional hotel rooms for those in the sex trade. House detectives and staff members trained to spot illicit activity are less likely to be nosing around a short-term rental at a private residence. Using a short-term rental as a pop-up brothel also has the advantage of allowing the operation to frequently relocate before drawing the attention of law enforcement, but at considerably less expense than comparable hotel rooms.
It turns out, however, that neighbors are the fly in the ointment when it comes to attempting to operate a busy Airbnb brothel under the radar. Police in Stockholm say that reports of Airbnb rentals being used for the sex trade generally come from neighbors concerned about an unusual number of strange men visiting the properties in question.
The cases of criminals using Airbnb properties for illicit activities aren’t limited to Sweden. An Australian woman who rented out a property through the website was surprised to learn that she had fallen victim to a similar scheme in 2015 when police called to question her about reports of prostitution at her residence. Reports of Manhattan sex workers using Airbnb rentals as a refuge from notoriously high New York City hotel prices go back as far as 2014.
“We have a zero-tolerance policy for issues like these,” an Airbnb spokesperson told the Daily Mail. “Over 70 million guests have stayed on Airbnb and issues for hosts and guests are incredibly rare. When we are made aware of issues, we work fast to help take care of hosts and guests and permanently remove bad actors from our community.”
[Photo: Getty Images]