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Journalist uncovers hosts pulling Airbnb scams in Milwaukee

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Milwaukee has been named Airbnb’s top destination for 2020, but some recent visitors to the city say their hosts scammed them.

Ahead of next summer’s Democratic National Convention when many visitors are likely to turn to short-term rentals, the Better Business Bureau of Wisconsin is concerned.

“Fraud, lies, scams – the potential is out there for sure,” said Jim Temmer, the BBB’s President and CEO.

A journalist named Allie Conti published an investigation last week about people exploited on Airbnb, including herself.

"I took a trip to Chicago in September and fell victim to a kind of bait and switch," she said.

Conti says the host called her ten minutes before checking in to tell her he had to move her to a different property.

The same thing happened in Milwaukee to Juan David Garrido, a student highlighted in Conti’s article.

“This seems to be enormously widespread,” Conti said. "One common refrain is that Airbnb is not sympathetic or helpful in getting these people their money back."

Brian Chesky, Airbnb’s CEO, tweeted this weekend in response to a deadly shooting at an Airbnb in California.

He wrote in part, “We are expanding manual screening of high-risk reservations flagged by our risk detection technology…We must do better, and we will.”

Temmer with the BBB advises to never let a host take you offline.

"Pay through Airbnb,” he said. “You do not pay the owner or supposed owner directly."

A bad experience can hurt Milwaukee’s image, but tourism leaders are focused on the opportunity the DNC presents.

“This is our shot,” said Kristin Settle with Visit Milwaukee. “Our chance to brand the city internationally for people who have never been here before.”

An Airbnb spokesperson says the company will be holding multiple seminars in Milwaukee before the convention to help people rent out their homes and host safely.

For more on Airbnb safety, click here.

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