It's a big world out there, and it's full of strangers. Most people are fundamentally good (or so, at least, we'd like to think), but that doesn't mean that you can go through life trusting everyone that you meet or otherwise interact with. Trusting and relying on the wrong person can be a devastating mistake.

Should we trust nobody? Of course not—that's no way to go through life. But neither should we be naive. We should recognize that we don't know everything about everyone that we meet—and we should remember that what we don't know can hurt us. With this in mind, we need to find ways to protect ourselves from the strangers and secrets that populate our world.

The Challenges of the Modern Age

Exercising a little caution around one's fellow man has always been a good idea. But, in some ways, things have gotten tougher for us out there. Years ago, communities were more connected within each other and more isolated from forces outside of themselves. People were more likely to know their neighbors, their mail carrier, and their local police officers. They were less likely to run into strangers, and far less likely to find themselves placing strangers in positions of trust. Today, by contrast, strangers are everywhere. Food delivery apps send strangers to our houses. We meet and date strangers using online dating apps. It would be hard to get by in a world like this without interacting with strangers regularly.

Being Smarter and Safer

The challenges of our modern world require us to make smarter and more careful decisions. Protecting yourself starts with common sense, advice experts in security and privacy. If you're on an online dating app, for example, you should be picking public places for first dates. Don't assume that the people that you meet online are telling you the truth about themselves and their pasts.

You don't have to be completely cynical, of course. You can live by the old saying: Trust, but verify. In practice, this means that you should be performing online searches of the names of people you meet online before you connect with them in real life—and that's at a bare minimum.

A simple Google search has its limitations, though. For a more complete picture, you should use public records searches and background checks, advise the experts at Go Look Up. A Google search may lead you to a social media profile or a resume, but a public records search will reliably turn up things like arrest records, criminal convictions, divorce settlements, and other important details. Most likely, a search like this will reassure you that you can safely meet, hire, or communicate with a given person. You'll only find something upsetting every once in a while—but when you do, you'll be very glad that you took the right steps to protect yourself.

You should use resources like these to protect yourself in personal relationships, and you should be sure to do the same with your business interests. Never hire someone without a background check, especially if you're going to rely on them to handle money.

When you're the customer, consider how much checking you need to do yourself. Some businesses are very careful about their hiring practices, explains a provider of in-home hospice care in Hanover, PA—a professional calling that requires extremely careful hiring practices. You'll see the fruits of business' diligence in their online reviews and through resources like the Better Business Bureau. If you have any reason to suspect that a business is not hiring properly, then don't give them your business. And if you're considering working with an individual rather than dealing with a business, remember that you'll want to perform these sorts of checks yourself.

Trust is a wonderful thing, but it needs to be earned. If you don't know that someone you trust is a criminal or a liar, then that could hurt you. Find out what you don't know, and protect yourself!