Have a real estate agent or a local friend drive by the property address, and check public records to determine who actually owns the property. There have been reported cases where a con artist promises accommodations that they do not own, and the renter arrives to discover the property is already occupied or otherwise not available. Also, the BBB recommends that renters pay with a credit card when booking accommodations. That way, if there's a problem, the renter can dispute the transaction.
“You need to be careful that you’re not wiring cash to somebody in TX without knowing what’s going in. Because when you do that it’s literally the equivalent of walking up to someone on the street and just handing them cash out of your pocket,” said Thetford.
Another option is for the transaction to be handled through a third party escrow agent. Various title companies and real estate rental brokers offer either a full service rental assistance program, or a limited service escrow arrangement to at least protect the funds for both landlord and tenant until the rental completes.