Safety FAQ

General

  • Is Couchsurfing safe?

    We are a tight-knit community whose participants educate themselves about careful decision-making and share knowledge to help keep everyone safer. The first way that members support safety is by filling out a detailed profile and posting photos, both of which are important sources of information about who they are, how they think, and what their life is like. They can also choose to get verified, a check of their name and location, to help the community see that they're being honest about who they are.

    On the next level, CouchSurfers support each others' safety by sharing information amongst the community. They do this by writing each other references, creating meaningful and detailed friend links, vouching for people they highly trust, and reporting abuse.

    So, when you make a decision about who to meet, you are provided with rich information from a variety of sources. It's actually a lot more information than we generally have about our new friends! And if you'd prefer, you can search for people who already know either your Couchsurfing or Facebook friends.

    Finally, our Member Disputes and Safety Team is here to support all of our members. Please visit our Safety Center for even more information.

  • How can I help support Couchsurfing's safety network?

    There are a lot of ways you can participate! Start with filling out your profile completely. Then, make sure you leave references for the CouchSurfers you meet, which helps other members learn about that person. Finally, by verifying your profile, only vouching for people that you truly trust, and creating friend links only with people you've met in person, you help add to the web of information that CouchSurfers can use to make informed decisions.

  • Profile Privacy and Security

    • How can I change my privacy settings?

      You can review and update your privacy settings here.

    • Why is my login time and location visible on my profile? Can I hide this information?

      You can change your settings so that the time of your last login is not displayed. This will also hide your profile from the People Online Now list and the Friends Online box on your friends' homepages. In order to be sure that members are representing their location honestly, at the moment it is not possible to hide the location of last login.

    • Can I block specific people from viewing my profile or contacting me?

      You can hide your profile from all members by changing your preferences. If there is a specific member who you would like to prevent from contacting you, please contact us and we will work with you to find a solution.

    • I think my profile has been hacked. What should I do?

      First, contact us and give us a direct link to your profile. Once you do this, we will shut down your profile immediately in order to prevent the hacker from accessing it, but all of your data will be preserved. We'll then work with you to help restore your profile.

      Please, always have a unique, strong password and don't share it with anyone. When checking your account from public computers, be sure to sign out before closing the page.

    • Some of my other online accounts have been hacked. How can I protect my Couchsurfing profile?

      If your other online accounts have been hacked, please change your Couchsurfing password immediately if is the same password associated with one of your other accounts.

      If the email address that you used to create your Couchsurfing profile has been hacked, you should also change the email that is associated with your account. If a hacker has access to your Couchsurfing-related email, they can use it to reset your password and gain access to your account.

    Reporting an Issue

  • How do I report a problem?

    Please contact us via this page. We conduct all of our support in writing in order to keep a record of your experience and our response. This allows us to review your interaction with us so that we can ensure the best possible service. Also, over time, this record allows us to evaluate our safety systems and improve them.

  • If I write to Couchsurfing about a problem with another member, will my report be confidential?

    Yes. All member concerns are confidential. We will not discuss your specific issue with anyone outside of the MDST unless we need to work with law enforcement or retain legal advice.

    We will not tell a member that you reported them, but if we need to take action based on your report, the member may make the logical assumption that you have been in contact with us. For example, if we need to flag an inappropriate reference that a member has left for you, the person will be contacted to edit the reference.

    We may choose to share anonymous information from a member report if it can help a group of members protect themselves from a specific risk. For example, on occasion we have notified members in certain regions when we have received evidence of scammers targeting those areas. In these circumstances, we never reveal the name of the person who contacted us or the incident that prompted the report.

  • What happens when I use the Report Abuse button?

    When you use the Report abuse button to report a profile, event, group post, message, etc, this information will be entered into our internal system. If we confirm that the reported content is in fact abusive, we may remove the content or warn the member who created it.

    Only members of the MDST will be able to see your report. All reports are confidential and will not be discussed with anyone outside of the team. For more information about reporting abuse through Couchsurfing, please review this page.

  • Member-to-Member Issues

  • How does Couchsurfing get involved in disputes between members?

    Couchsurfing follows a policy of neutrality. We do our best to support all members involved in a dispute without taking sides. The unfortunate fact is that if we weren’t there and our systems contain no evidence relating to the dispute, we can’t know exactly what happened. Our policies are in place to make sure that we treat all of our members fairly based on the facts that are available to us.

  • I met a CouchSurfer and the experience was negative, what should I do?

    First of all, if you are in any immediate risk, please get yourself to a safe place before anything else. Then, call the local authorities so that people who are local and trained in these situations can help you.

    If you are having a dispute that does not affect your personal safety, then please read on. Negative experiences are very rare, but they're upsetting and stressful. If you would like help related to your experience, we encourage you to contact us.

    To address the situation, we recommend these steps:

    1. Reflect. Before anything else, first consider the experience carefully. Did a difference in culture or personality contribute to the disagreement? Was there a breakdown in communication before or after that could have led to the dispute? What resolution do you hope to achieve?
    2. Communicate. Express your feelings clearly to the other person. For many reasons, including culture, personality, and differences in lifestyle, they may not be aware of how you feel, or may not understand your feelings well, until you discuss the issue directly.
    3. Remove yourself from the situation. If the issue cannot be resolved after a discussion, and you are currently hosting or surfing with the other person, you should end the interaction. If you are the host, it is your right to ask your surfer to leave. If you are the guest, you can leave at any time (it is always important to have a back up plan just in case of a situation like this). If the member with whom you have a conflict is a member of your local community, you may have to agree to avoid one another.
    4. Leave a reference. Leaving a negative or neutral reference is not an act of revenge, and it's not a statement that you think the other member is a “bad person.” It's an act of support for the reputation system that keeps our community safer and helps prevent other people from having negative experiences. Please don't avoid writing a negative reference out of fear of receiving one yourself, or offending the other person -- our community relies on members sharing information openly with one another.
  • I heard of someone charging for their couch. Is that OK?

    No, hospitality on Couchsurfing is free. A host should never ask a guest to pay for their lodging, and a guest should not offer. We do recommend that a guest show their appreciation by cooking a meal, taking the host out, bringing a small gift, or some other gesture.

    Hosts should only offer what they are able to offer freely, and say what those things are clearly in the Couch Information in their profile. If there are some things that can't be offered unless the CouchSurfers agree to share the cost, this should be discussed between the host and surfer (and should never be a requirement for hosting).

    CouchSurfers may use the website to look for roommates (what better way to find someone who won't mind that you host?), and many of the city groups have special subgroups for apartment hunters. Postings from brokers or real estate agents are not allowed.

  • I met or interacted with a CouchSurfer who I think should not be part of our community. Will you remove their profile?

    Couchsurfing is an all-inclusive community, and in the spirit of being a diverse worldwide community, we do not exclude people from membership for controversial views, political activity, personality, communication style, etc.

    We will remove a profile if the member is breaking our Terms of Use, or if we receive information indicating that the person is a scammer or otherwise a danger to the community (such as a police report). On very rare occasions, if we receive multiple complaints about a person's conduct over time, and the person fails to respond to warnings, we may consider removing their profile.

    Our community relies on its reputation system to help members stay safe. If you have had a negative experience with someone, the best thing that you can do is to leave them a reference. It's not the role of Couchsurfing to decide what is and is not acceptable behavior; references allow each individual member of the community to make that decision for themselves.

  • Emergencies

  • I am in a situation with another CouchSurfer where my immediate safety, or the safety of my possessions, is in danger.

    You should immediately remove yourself from the situation and contact the authorities in your current location. They can provide you with immediate help and document the situation. If you are hosting the person, ask them to leave.

    When you are safe and have filed your report with the authorities, please contact us to report the incident. We will need you to provide us with a link to the profile of the other member involved, a description of what happened, and any documentation you can provide (such as a police report) which can allow us to take action against the other member. Also, please leave a reference for the other member so that the community is immediately aware of what occurred. While we will process your report and take action as soon as possible, a reference is an instant warning that can prevent others from being victimized.

    We can also speak with law enforcement directly; please encourage them to contact us if we can be of any help.

  • My family member is missing. They are traveling using Couchsurfing. Can you help?

    If you know your family member's username, or can provide us with a link to their profile, that will help us find information for you faster. If you don't, contact us with their full name, and email addresses of theirs that you know of, and the location(s) that they may have listed as their home. Once we locate their profile, we can check our system to see if they have been in contact with other members or arranged to stay with a host. Due to our privacy policies, we can share this information only with the authorities. Please let us know if there is a police department, or embassy involved when you contact us, so that we can work directly with the authorities.

  • I am expecting a CouchSurfer, but they haven't arrived, contacted me or logged in.

    Contact us and with a link to their profile. Don't panic -- sometimes travelers are delayed and aren't able to access the internet. If it's been longer than 24 hours, we can check to see if they have been in contact with anyone else on the site, but we can only share that information with law enforcement.

  • References

  • What are references?

    References are feedback members write on each other's profiles describing their experiences with one another. A member cannot delete or change any references left for them. References give you insight into a member's actions within the community and are a valuable tool for predicting what they would be like if you met them yourself.

  • Why can someone leave me a reference without having met me?

    Sometimes people, especially newer members, don't understand the reference system. They may confuse references with messages or wall postings. If you receive a reference from someone that you have never interacted with before, then we can remove it.

    If a reference is from someone that you've interacted with online, via message, CouchRequests, or in the groups, then we still consider that to be information that can be relevant to the community. Although we discourage people from leaving references in this case, we do allow it. However, the message will be clearly marked as coming only from an online interaction.

  • Will you delete someone when they receive a negative reference?

    No. Couchsurfing is a self-moderating community, and we believe that each member of our community has the ability and the responsibility to make decisions about who they would like to meet. References, even negative ones, share information with the community for safety reasons. A behavior that one person finds offensive may not bother others, which is why we believe that our role is not to make judgments in the case of disputes but rather to encourage both parties to share information openly with the community.

    If you would like to make a formal complaint against another member, please contact us directly.

  • Can you remove a reference from my profile?

    We rarely remove references; they are one of the most important aspects of our community's safety and we do not consider it appropriate for us to intervene in member's description of their experience. Without free information flow between members, our reputation system wouldn't work. The most common instance in which we will completely remove a reference is if it is clearly from someone whom you have never met or interacted with.

    We will, however, flag a reference if it is outside of our guidelines. A flagged reference is hidden from view and will not be visible again until the member who left it has edited it to meet them.

    If you are concerned about a negative or neutral reference on your profile that does not break our guidelines, please remember that anyone who reads it will also be able to read your response. In your reference for that person, clearly and calmly explain your side of the story. People who visit your profile will be able to read both references and decide for themselves what they think.

  • You flagged my reference. I have updated it, but it still isn't visible.

    Thank you for editing your reference. Before it can be displayed, you need to contact us so that a member of the MDST can review it to make sure it's now within the reference guidelines. If it is, then we will unflag the reference. If it's not, we'll contact you and let you know what further changes are necessary.

    Keep in mind that every time you update your reference to a member, they will receive an automated message from the system with the text of the new reference, even when it is flagged. To avoid accidentally escalating the issue, we suggest you create a draft of what you'd like to write and send it to us before you add it to their profile.

  • Messages

  • Do I need to reply to every message?

    It's up to you! But the community is more for everyone when people are friendly and participative. Even if you're busy, sending a quick message in response is a nice gesture.

  • I received what I think is a spam message.

    Please use the “Report Abuse” button on the message to report it to us. Your report will help us take appropriate action in this particular case, as well as prevent spam in the future.

  • I received an offensive message from another member.

    Please use the “Report Abuse” button on the message to report it to us. As well as alerting us to this particular message, using this system helps us investigate whether this member has a tendency towards offensive messages so that we can take appropriate action.

  • I'm having a dispute with another member. Can you verify this by checking my messages?

    If you receive a message that is outside of our Terms of Use, use the “Report Abuse” button to alert us to it and we will read it to determine if it is in fact against our guidelines.

    In the case of disputes between members, we generally will not read messages. On very rare occasions we may check messages on request if we believe that by doing so we can prevent a crime or otherwise protect the safety of the community.

  • Groups

  • What are groups?

    Couchsurfing has hundreds of online discussion groups to help members connect with one another and share ideas. You can join a city group to talk about the location and arrange to meet new people, or you can join a group based on a topic you find interesting to share tips, travel advice, and more.

  • Does Couchsurfing ever delete group posts? If so, when and why?

    Couchsurfing tries to not censor members, and we believe that people should stand behind the statements that they make on the website. If a person is being offensive or distasteful in a group, we think that removing the posts only allows them to behave badly without taking ownership for their words (and all of the people who will read them and form judgment on that person).

    However, content that breaks our Terms of Use is eligible to be removed. For example, items that are commercial spam, threats of violence against members, and revealing of people's private or personal information can be deleted.

  • Someone is bothering me or trolling in the groups. Can you stop them?

    If any posts are outside of the Terms of Use, please use the “Report Abuse” button to report it for review. If it is abusive, we may either warn the member or remove the content.

    If you are in a dispute with someone in a group, we recommend trying to resolve the issue privately, or simply ignoring their posts. If they are starting arguments just for the sake of it, ignoring them is frequently the only way to get them to stop.

  • The moderator removed me from a group.

    Groups on Couchsurfing often have guidelines, and moderators may remove you if you break them. Couchsurfing supports the right for group moderators, especially those in the locations groups, to enforce the group guidelines by removing members.

    If you don't know why you were removed from the group, you should contact the moderator directly (and politely) to ask.

  • Can I warn other members in a group post about a problem I've been having with another member?

    We recommend that members do not post warnings about other members in groups. There are several reasons for this. First, a group post is not a formal complaint, so the MDST may not see it and won't be able to help you resolve the issue. Second, you may spread panic or concern before Couchsurfing is able to address the issue and take appropriate action. Third, in the case of simple disputes, this may only escalate the problem, and may make it more difficult for us to help you if you do contact us. Fourth, you may inadvertently give the person the information that they need to change their story and continue their efforts to scam members.

  • Warnings and content removal

  • I was sent a message warning me about my content

    If you have been sent a warning about specific content that you posted, it is simply to inform you that what you have posted is very close to being against the Terms of Use. We have not removed it and it is still visible on the site. Members will not be able to see that you have been warned.

    You aren't in trouble, but we are letting you know so that you can be aware of the potential of Terms breaches. We ask that if you receive a warning, that you stop posting the kind of content that got reported.

  • I was sent a message telling me my content was removed.

    Whenever we remove content for being against our Terms of Use, we notify the member who posted it so that they can avoid posting similar content in the future.