VANCOUVER -- Scam artists are trying to take advantage of desperate renters defrauding Canadians across the country.

“My fiancé and I were looking for our first place together,” explained Vanessa Asselstine.

She was looking for a place in Metro Vancouver and landed on an online ad that seemed like the perfect fit – right price, right size, and right location.

“I had really hoped that it was true,” she said.

It wasn’t, but she took the bait.  She sent an email and got an instant response. They were looking for someone responsible who would take good care of the place since they were out of the country on a missionary assignment.

“They kind of tried to buy my trust with like, oh, these must be good people. They must be nice people,” Asselstine said.

She provided her personal details and tried to prove she was a worthy tenant but got suspicious when she couldn’t get inside to see the place; the landlord wanted money up front and then would FedEx the keys.

“I would definitely say that the scammers are extremely sophisticated,” said Karla Davis, Better Business Bureau of Mainland B.C.

The BBB conducted an investigation and discovered that 43 per cent of renters looking online encounter fake ads.

Many times the photos and listing information are lifted from legitimate real estate listings or rentals.

The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre reports that in the first six months of this year Canadians lost $1.4 million to rental scams.

“They’ll give you an excuse either that their work has taken them to another part of the world or that they’re not physically around for several weeks due to an emergency, the stories are endless,” explained Davis.

Fortunately, 87 per cent of renters are able to spot the deception before it’s too late. 

“Just an extra pair of eyes, looking at things, may help you realize that there’s something fishy going on,” said Asselstine.

Just like landlords vet you, you need to vet your landlord. Check with the land titles office to verify the registered owner, meet them in person at the rental property and beware if the price is too good to be true.

You could also go through a property management company. It should have already verified the property and then it will verify you. That way both landlords and renters are protected.

Asselstine is glad she didn’t send money but regrets that a potential scammer now has her personal information.

“I regretted sharing some of the things that I did share about myself.”