Scam Uses Housing as Hook

Meridian, Miss. Because of the influx of people due to construction at the Kemper County coal plant, it's difficult to find a place to rent right now.

Now, it appears scam artists are using popular websites to take advantage of that fact, and lure people in who are desperate for housing.

"And I don't know why we're being targeted, you know, why this area is being targeted," said Michele Winstead of Winstead Realty. "But a lot of people, they're under the assumption if it's on the Internet, it's true."

Winstead Realty is just one real estate agency that has seen several people fall for the scam. Criminals start by simply pulling a picture of a home that's for sale from a genuine realty website. Then they post it on a website like Craigslist as an available rental.

"Rentals in Meridian have always been in a high demand because of the Navy base that we've had here for a while," said Helen Valentine of Wilson Realty. "Since the coal plant in Kemper County has come in, it's even greater."

No matter your situation, there's one surefire way to check if your rental is fake.

"If you have a question about a house that you see on Craigslist or on Zillow, call a local real estate agent and just ask them if the house is available. It doesn't cost you anything to call us and ask us."

Often these website rentals are legitimate. But you should definitely be concerned when the so-called owners start requesting things like your Social Security number or money before you see the property.