Montreal police are warning people who use Airbnb to be vigilant after dozens of reports of vandalism and theft in downtown properties.

Det. Ann Hackett said officers are getting calls weekly from property owners whose homes were trashed after offering them on the online rental site. There have been 50 reports in all, she said, which is an unprecedented amount.

Typically these incidents come after last-minute rentals, said Hackett. The owner returns to find their property damaged: from holes in walls to blocked toilets and messy homes, as well as expensive items missing, including electronics, clothing and other valuables.

There is evidence in some of the cases files that existing Airbnb accounts with a good history are being hacked to make the online booking – then someone else shows up for the stay.

The last-minute booking also often means there is not enough time for credit card verifications.

Police have the following advice for users:

  • take reservations in advance
  • be sure not only to meet guests face to face when exchanging keys, but also check their ID
  • take a picture of their credit card or ID for proof
  • if possible, advise the neighbours and give them contact information in case there’s a problem

Some of the suspects have been caught on cameras set up in homes, but police are so far unsure whether it's one group or many that are behind this string of incidents.