When people began booking Airbnb rentals in Ukraine to get money into the hands of the embattled country's citizens, it seemed like a good idea — even to Airbnb, which waived its 20% booking fee for Ukrainian properties.
The effort raised plenty of cash quickly. Over 434,000 nights have been booked with $15 million going to hosts in the country. But now, it appears scammers have crashed the party.
Airbnb, suspecting some of the listings to be fraudulent, has started canceling some bookings — and is no longer allowing new hosts in Ukraine to create listings at all.
While Airbnb is making an effort to eliminate so-called "ghost listings" that link to nonexistent Ukrainian rentals, the company says people who still want to help can donate directly to Airbnb.org. Airbnb will be providing free short-term housing for 100,000 refugees fleeing Ukraine.
This isn't the first hiccup that the effort has encountered. Even legitimate Airbnb listings don't indicate whether a host is an individual or a professional renter. The latter can host dozens of properties and may actually be employed by a large corporation. There is no way of knowing anything about that corporation — including where it's located. In fact, some people may have actually sent money to a Russian corporation when booking a Ukrainian Airbnb.
Vetted charities provide more opportunities for people to help Ukrainians. Organizations providing support in the country include the following:
- Doctors Without Borders, providing medical humanitarian assistance in Ukraine
- The U.N. Refugee Agency, providing help to people forced to flee Ukraine, including monetary and resettlement assistance
- World Central Kitchen, serving hundreds of thousands of free meals in Ukraine
- Save the Children, providing children and families in Ukraine with immediate aid