You should be able to determine who the owner is by checking with your county. Most counties have the ownership information online. If you're asking about Baldwin County, for example, here's the link: http://qpublic7.qpublic.net/ga_search.php?county=ga_baldwin Otherwise, do an online search for "[County name] tax assessor."
So if the county records show that "Joe Smith" is the owner and you're talking to Joe Smith, that's a good thing. (Just to be sure, ask Joe for some identification so you can verify his identity.) If you're talking to "Bob Williams," ask Bob if he's the owner. If he says yes, it would appear he's not telling the truth. (Public records do have a time lag, so it's possible that Bob bought the property in the last month.) Now, Bob could be representing Joe. If Bob is a licensed agent, you're very likely safe. But if Bob just says that he's a good friend of Joe's, that a warning sign.
If you're not dealing with the owner in person . . . in today's scam-filled climate, assume it's a scam. Especially if you're just communicating by e-mail. Especially if the "owner" claims he's out of town or out of the country. Especially if the "owner" is offering a really great deal on the rental. Especially if the "owner" says that as soon as you send him the deposit, he'll send you the keys. That scenario screams "SCAM!!"
So: Deal with the person directly, or through a trusted intermediary such as a Realtor. Even if you're dealing with someone directly, face-to-face, make sure he/she is who he/she claims to be. Don't do the deal at your local McDonald's or Starbucks; make sure that the person you're dealing with really has access to the property. And ask for identification. (Embarrassed to? Don't be. Any landlord will ask YOU for YOUR identification.)
you can easily search the Tax assessor website to findout the name of teh buyer. You have to be very careful of internet scams, Many listings are being listed by people claiming to be the owners and they are asking for deposites to be wired to them. we just helped the authority to locate one guy on craig's list doing exactly the same. Be sure to do your homework before you start wiring money.... more