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Burning Man couple claims housesitter put their apartment on Airbnb

Technically Incorrect: A San Francisco couple get an e-mail from one of their friends to tell them that they've just booked their home on Airbnb. But they say they never put their home on Airbnb.

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.

Airbnb says that it has removed the listing and disabled the lister. CNET

The oddest thing about the so-called sharing economy is how much trust is involved.

Trusting strangers with your car or even your home doesn't come naturally to some. (Me, for one.)

Here, then, is a peculiar story of a San Francisco couple who went to the annual Burning Man festival to commune with the Burners and found themselves getting burned. By a housesitter, that is.

As told to the Guardian, the couple say that they had almost arrived at their desert destination, ready to, who knows, daub themselves with paint and dance around in their underwear, when they were undressed by an email from friends. Very grateful friends, in fact.

These friends wanted to say thank you because they loved the apartment they had rented on Airbnb. Yes, the Burning Man couple's apartment.

The oddest thing about this email was that the couple hadn't put their apartment on Airbnb. The second oddest, to my life-addled eyes, is that the friends didn't ask their supposed friends first before allegedly plonking down $2,000 to rent it for five days.

Still, as so often in stories of woe, the blame has cascaded onto the middleman. The Burning Man couple say they hired a housesitter from the no-doubt deeply reliable TrustedHousesitters.com.

I am patient. You may laugh.

This housesitter had sat in their house before, explained the male Burner, called Ed in the Guardian's story. "We met him in May this year. We used him twice before, but met him in person for the first visit and then got a police check and followed up his references. He seemed a nice enough guy."

Nice enough is rarely enough.

Burner Ed alleges that the housesitter told their friends there'd been a bit of misunderstanding. They say this wasn't the case. But when they went to the police, nothing could be done because they had freely given the housesitter their keys.

TrustedHousesitters wasn't immediately available for comment.

It did tell the Guardian that it had disabled the housesitter's profile, which reportedly claimed he used to work for Google and GE. (Perhaps there's more money in housesitting.)

TrustedHousesitters says that the agreement the couple made with its housesitter wasn't done using the site's own tools.

The San Francisco-based home-sharing site says it has banished the listing.

"We have zero tolerance for this sort of fraudulent activity, and this host and this listing have been permanently removed from Airbnb," an Airbnb representative said. "When we receive complaints about fraudulent activity, our team works quickly to review it. We regret that we did not review this more quickly, and we have reached out to these individuals and apologized."

Burner Ed, though, had indeed complained that the site had been slow to react.

This is an accusation that has been leveled before at Airbnb, in the case of a California woman who rented her Palm Springs apartment for 30 days and discovered the tenants were refusing to leave.

Of course, the same thing might have happened if the housesitter had merely been someone the Burning Man couple actually knew well. You never know people as well as you think.

How, though, could Airbnb allow a home to be displayed, one that the poster didn't actually own? Could the answer be: Easily?