KAMLOOPS — Crammed into a two-bedroom basement apartment with six children, roommates Shasta Mitchell and Patricia Nelson are searching for a larger home, but the single moms were left hung out to dry after a scammer took them for more than $600.
WATCH: Full report by Jill Sperling
Mitchell and Nelson had been searching online for a suitable rental unit, so when a woman texted them about their search they assumed she was a landlord they had already spoken to.
"She wanted to rent to us over these other people she was talking about, which of course hooked us because we're thinking, 'what a nice person'," Mitchell said.
The woman asked for a deposit to hold the unit, saying another couple was interested.
"We sent her money the first day, and then she made a time to meet up with her the next day and she said to meet her at 3 p.m., then it moved to 4, and then 5," Mitchell said. "In the end we ended up e-transferring her a little over $600."
At that point, the roommates decided to check out the home they were trying to rent, a 4-bedroom townhouse located at Braeview Place. No one was home at the time and neighbours couldn't be certain the place was actually for rent.
That's when Mitchell and Nelson knew something was wrong.
"She said I'll send your money back if you send me $200, and we're like, 'we're not sending you anymore money, you got us once, we're not that dumb.'"
Mitchell said the scammer also had several different out-of-province phone numbers.
RCMP were informed of the scam, but according to Cpl. Jodi Shelkie there are some challenges involved in investigating these types of cases.
"We will follow up on the phone number and the names that you have, but they're most often false numbers and false names and the email leads us nowhere," Shelkie said, "so keep all of that evidence that you have and we'll attempt to locate who the person is, and then charges can be laid, but not always will the money get back, even if we do locate the person."
Most importantly, Shelkie said people need to do their homework and investigate the market.
"If it appears that it is too good to be true, the rent is too reasonable for what the market supports, then it probably is not true," Shelkie said. "So investigate what the market is, and then it really pays to investigate who the person is that is renting the location."
That's a lesson Mitchell say she'll take with her as she continues her search for a place to live.
"Well, I'll definitely be talking to the person first on the phone and meeting them in person," she said, "and I don't think it's safe to send anybody money without communicating with them, and texting is not OK."
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