Why You Should Be Asking for Guest ID After Booking
Requesting an ID from guests is actually quite easy, and one of the many benefits of booking travelers directly. Remember, this is your business and you have every right to know who is renting your vacation rental property.
First, let's clear up a common misconception hosts have in regards to verifying IDs.
I Will Scare Away the Traveler
This is a marketing tactic (an ingenious one at that) used by short term rental listing sites as a means for you to pay them commissions. Until recent years, travelers and hosts transacted directly all of the time, without seeking a 3rd party's protection.
Keep some of the below best practices in mind when booking guests directly:
- Keep your reviews up to date on Houfy. If you haven't done so, import your reviews from Airbnb and VRBO/Homeaway, and show them to travelers. Directing travelers to other sites to read your reviews is making those brands even stronger. It only perpetuates an endless cycle of trying to gain direct bookings, while simultaneously advertising the very brands that strive to keep you from booking direct.
- Sometimes travelers just need a gentle reminder that their credit card already provides fraud protection. If they have any questions, point out you have been verified by Houfy and remind them of their bank's protection policies.
- Finally, some loyal Airbnb followers will only book through Airbnb. Do not take this personally! If you've already mentioned the above, just accept the booking and be a great host as usual. Then thank the guest for staying, and remind them of saving through Houfy for their next vacation.
Personally, I have never had an issue of a guest refusing to send me a copy of their ID. Remember, social security numbers no longer appear on driver's licenses.
Asking for ID Helps to Prevent Fraud
One of the best ways to prevent scammers and the use of stolen credit cards, is to ask for ID of the credit card holder. It's especially important for new hosts to do this, as scammers often view them as easy prey.
Hosts with little to no reviews, and properties priced below market, are common targets for scammers. It's assumed new hosts are inexperienced and more likely to accept a booking with no questions asked. Fraudsters realize new hosts are eager to get those initial reviews under their belt.
Another scenario to be alert of is last minute bookings, and especially those from the same city as your rental. People using a stolen credit card tend to book very last minute, as the real card holder may not immediately notice the fraudulent activity. By the time the card is reported stolen, the scammer has already fulfilled their stay and left the property.
One caveat: Do not assume all last minute bookings are a red flag, as I often receive bookings just one day before arrival. This is why it's important to ask for a signed rental agreement: you need to match the agreement signature against the one on the ID.
How Do I Ask for ID?
Ask for the ID of the credit card holder and don't assume it is the person who made the reservation. In my case, it's usually the same person anyway. The reason you want to ask for the credit card holder's ID, is in case of a chargeback dispute. The credit card company is going to ask you to produce a signed rental agreement with the card holder's signature.
Feel free to use any parts of this:
I've attached the rental agreement, departure checklist, and house notes. Please read through all docs and print, manually sign, and scan back the rental agreement.
- Initial anywhere on the 1st page
- On the 2nd page be sure to sign both the cancellation policy, and the bottom right side of the agreement. Please fill out only the right side of the agreement.
- Along with the agreement, I will need a scanned govt ID of the credit card holder
Let me know if you have any questions. I am sending you all the local information and house details from Houfy shortly.
But What If I Don't Want to Ask for ID?
You don't have to of course. Do whatever makes you feel comfortable. Maybe you are an onsite host who accepts mostly one night bookings. You're more than welcome to never request an ID from anyone.
If you currently rely on Airbnb for verification, they don't share the guest's ID with you anyway. Even if you need to press charges with the police, Airbnb will not provide you with "real" ID information. In essence, by not asking for ID–it's the same as accepting an Airbnb reservation and not really knowing who your guest is anyway.
If a chargeback on a one night stay, or stolen credit cards is not a concern, then by all means don't feel guilty if you don't ask for ID. Just be sure it's not required in your area. In some areas, hosts are required to keep guest IDs on file for a certain period of time.
Be Aware of Friendly Fraud
Keep in mind "friendly fraud" has been on the rise. This is where someone in the group makes the reservation but uses another group member's credit card. After the stay, the card holder claims to not "recognize" or have "authorized" the transaction. Technically, this group just received a free stay at your property. As long as you understand the pros and cons of asking for ID, then you are good to go.
Overall, most scammers don't have the time nor interest to produce fake IDs. It's easier to target those who do not require the information. I'm not saying scammer "over achievers" don't exist, as some may go through the trouble of producing these documents–it's just that the chances are small. Just decide what feels right and makes the most sense for both you, and your vacation rental business.
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