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Bonnie Williams of Fundacion Bid 4 Bouquete – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
In addition to the suggestions that already have been made, I would add that it is very risky to rent a property sight unseen. You need to be satisfied with the location, and you need to personally check the property's amenities before entering into a rental contract. Once a contract is signed, you are stuck with living there until the terms of the contract are fulfilled. It is well worth the price of a hotel to be on site while you are exploring the rental market.
Lourdes Townshend of Multimodal  & Logistic Transports Magazine – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account

First of all, it is advisable not to rent  from abroad.  Wait to get into the country you want to visit; and the best idea is to stay at a reputable hotel the first night.   That way, you see and experience the area and verify that it meets your requirements, including for safety.  After that, you can start your process of renting, but not before you have specific references from the owner or the authorized person, such as the owner's real estate salesperson, relative, friend, attorney, or even, your hotel. 

Get additional references from the police department, your embassy, and any other contact you have that knows the area.

On your visit to the site you want to rent, it is best to go and check every room, the electrical connections, the plumbing, A/C units and every detail, and make a checklist of any problems or irregularities, signed by the authorized person.

It´s also a good idea to verify the neighborhood and check if it meets your standards of cleanliness, if there are dogs walking on the street, noise, and other considerations.  Ask around.  Unfortunately information regarding who owns the property you're considering renting cannot be obtained on-line unless you are registered, but a well-established law office, real estate agent or notary public can verify this information for you.  There is an office to call: ACODECO  (Autoridad de Protección al Consumidor; "consumer affairs") from which  you can get information as well.

Make sure you understand everything you sign.  If you do not speak the language fluently, to avoid any future misunderstandings, ask for a competent translator you trust.

Today, Panamá offers several resorts for vacations in the "interior" (countryside) as well as the city of Panamá.  Hotels are already checked and of prime quality.  There are also some that offer "time sharing", like the Gamboa Resort, which is a very nice place for vacationing surrounded by nature and with special tours, situated approximately one hour (depending on traffic) from the city, but the peace, quiet and nature are beautiful.

Gonzalo de la Guardia of DENFAB Law Firm – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
When renting a property, it is important to make sure that the person renting it out to you is the actual owner of the property or is legally authorized by the owner of the property to do so. On the Public Registry website, the information regarding who the owner of the property is available, the information is public and free to access, a reputable realtor should be able to assist you to conduct the transaction in a safe manner. Also make sure to inspect the property before signing a contract and making deposits.
Wee-Yiong Fung of Prestige Panama Realty – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
The best way to avoid scam on rentals in Panama is to use a Real Estate Company. If the Real Estate Company has the rental in their listing it means they had to follow a process where they know for sure the house is ready!
 
If you are hunting for a rental yourself, then you must find the finca number of the property; search in "public registry" who is the owner of the house or apartment. So when you are signing the contract, the name of the person you found in public registry must sign in the contract with you.
 
If someone else is signing, they must show you a document where they are allowed to sign for real owner. 
 
All major documents need to be signed and sealed by a notary. Otherwise it could be a scam!
Ivan Marquez of Manglar lodge – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
One good way to determine if your rental in Panama is a scam is to take a look at the company website to see if it is a real company.  Try to find some info about the company on the web.  Call them on an office line, not cell phone and visit the place.
 
In the year 2013 any decent real state company should have a website.

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