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Man Arrested for Selling Someone Else's Home on Craigslist

By Aditi Mukherji, JD on October 24, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

An Arizona tenant has been arrested for allegedly selling someone else's home on Craigslist.

We all know about sketchy real estate moves -- like using a fish-eye lens in photos to make rooms look more, shall we say, luxuriant. But "selling" the house you're actually only renting? That takes housing scams to a whole new level.

John David Seiberling, the audacious alleged scammer, is being held on suspicion of fraudulent schemes and theft. But did the couple who bought into the alleged scam miss any common-sense warning signs?

Recognizing Craigslist Scams

Housing scams on Craigslist and other websites are becoming a serious problem. But in almost every case, there are telltale signs of a scam.

According to Craigslist, most scams involve one or more of the following:

  • Inquiry from someone far away, often in another country;
  • A requirement to pay by Western Union, MoneyGram, cashier's check, or money order; and
  • An inability or refusal to meet face-to-face before consummating the transaction.

Tips to Thwart Craigslist Housing Scams

Before you unwittingly try to buy some poor random stranger's house, follow these Craigslist housing scam tips:

  • Deal locally with people you can meet in person. According to Craigslist, "follow this one rule and avoid 99 percent of scam attempts."
  • Don't rent or purchase housing sight-unseen. Sadly, that ridiculously awesome property may not exist.
  • Never wire funds via Western Union, MoneyGram or other wire service. Anyone who asks you to do so is likely a scammer.
  • Don't submit to credit or background checks remotely. Wait until you have met the landlord or agent in person.
  • Find out who owns the property. Always carefully inspect the property deed -- y'know, to make sure it's not someone else's house...

Alas, the couple in this case committed cardinal Craigslist sins when they reportedly had relatives check out the premises instead of themselves. They also paid before seeing the property and never met the "seller" face-to-face, according to The Associated Press.

For crying out loud: Never give money up-front without meeting in-person first and inspecting the property.

Sidenote: It's slightly ironic that the alleged scammer accepted a cashier's check from the victims. Sending a fake cashier check or money order is a common scam on Craigslist, since banks will hold the recipient responsible when the fake is discovered weeks later.

Maybe he knew his victims were trustworthy folks. Sad face.

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