Excellent question. I wish the answer could be as excellent, but unfortunately not.
I have come across multiple instances of bogus rental listings on Craigslist, Trulia and Zillow during the past 2 years. Anyone can take pictures, their own, or in some cases lifted from legitimate listings, and portray them as a rental listing. As a real estate agent, I have reported these instances when I find them, and they are eventually taken down. I have heard from consumers who have tried to rent bogus listings, and some were dangerously close to being scammed. I recommend that you find a good licensed rental agent, in an area that you are interested in, and have them help you to determine that you are actually dealing with a landlord and rightful homeowner, prior to writing any checks or exchanging any money. I wish that my answer were different. You are very wise to cautious. Feel free to contact me anytime, for more advice or information, with no obligation. Best Regards,
Century 21 Commonwealth