Every day, you put your trust in people. It’s impossible to go through life without some degree of trust in faith in our fellow humans, especially those whom we are closest to. From the babysitter that you leave our kids with, to that special someone whom you think you might be falling for, the world is full of people whom we believe in.

Unfortunately, the world is also full of dangerous people: Liars, con artists, and sick individuals. And while we might like to believe that we are capable of seeing them as they really are, these sorts of people can sometimes slip past our defenses and become a part of our lives.

Dangerous secrets

The terrible truth is that we can’t know for sure if the people we meet are who they say they are. That’s especially true in the world of online dating. Take Natasha Aponte, who got thousands of men she met on Tinder to show up for what they thought was a date, only to find they were part of a viral stunt. The stunt wasn’t quite as amusing as Aponte might have hoped it would be — many of the men involved felt tricked, betrayed, and embarrassed. But at least Aponte didn’t scam the men out of money, which is what con artist Daylon Pierce did to women he met online. Pierce made off with $1.8 million of his victims’ money. The victims thought they had found love, but they had only found a con man.

It’s not just online dating, of course. There are con artists all over, and modern apps make it all too easy for these sketchy characters to drift into your life under the guide of being a babysitter, dog-walker, or even professional contact. Thanks to apps, we meet strangers all the time — and, all too often, put them in positions of trust too soon.

Protecting yourself

Are the people in your life really who they say they are? You shouldn’t go through life paranoid, but neither should you be naive. You need to protect yourself, particularly as you get to know potential romantic partners and others who you hope to come to trust. Trust must be earned, and you must be protected.

Use common sense. The first time you meet someone, make sure that it’s in a public place. If you’re hiring a dog walker or babysitter, stick around to watch them work the first time through — don’t just hand them your keys! Use smart home security devices like cameras to keep track of what goes on when you’re not there, too. Try a reverse image search with their profile photos, too; you may find that your Romeo (or your would-be dog walker) is actually a creep hiding behind a stock photo or a stolen image.

Even if all goes well, don’t necessarily assume that everyone you meet is who they are pretending to be. Be sure to do an online search of your dates, just to check for any unsavory headlines or obvious red flags.

You may also want to turn to experts for professional background checks, reverse phone lookups, arrest record checks, and other services to make sure that everything you were told lines up with reality.

Be safe, be smart, and be happy

Suspicion can be an exhausting thing. Even with all of the creeps in the world, you shouldn’t wake up every morning feeling terrified or upset. That’s no way to go through life! Instead, just be smart: Check people out before you trust them or rely on them, and then go about your day confident that you have done all that you can to protect yourself. When it is placed in the right person, trust is a beautiful thing.

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