11 Ways (or Signs) to Tell if a Stranger is Dangerous (Street Smart)

Last Updated on February 14, 2024 by Lifevif Team and JC Franco

Unknown stranger
Shutterstock.com

We all know the little catch term “stranger danger”, but do we really pay any attention to it? Psychologically speaking, we could say that humans tend to view strangers positively because of our desire to make friends, good acquaintances, or even meet life partners. But what happens if we give a stranger too much credit and they end up being dangerous? Being able to sense or tell that someone is dangerous could help you stay out of unnecessary danger. The question begs to be answered; how can you tell if a stranger is dangerous?

You need to be able to tell if someone is dangerous so that you can protect yourself and your loved ones. The more people know about reading others, the better it is for their safety. By paying attention to the people around you, you can get a better sense of what kind of people they are. Of course, using your own sound judgment comes into play. The pointers below are to help you to determine if someone you have encountered may be dangerous. Pay close attention.

These are 11 ways to tell if a stranger is dangerous:

1. Keep an eye out for micro-expressions.

Micro-expressions can actually tell you a lot about the stranger who is trying to communicate with you. Little facial expressions flash across our faces throughout the day. This takes just a second or two, and most people don’t catch them at all. However brief these expressions are (called micro-expressions), they are a glimpse into the true feelings someone is experiencing. Watch the facial expressions of a stranger talking to you or approaching you. If you start to catch a few unexpected expressions, rather be wary.

2. Requests for unnecessary assistance.

When someone asks for your help, always give it some thought before you commit to helping. If you encounter a stranger who is requesting your assistance in a place where it doesn’t seem likely that your assistance is required, rather keep your distance because they could be dangerous. 

For instance, a man approaches you and asks you for assistance with his vehicle while you are right by a train station or in a busy shopping mall where there are many telephones available for him to make a call to a family member or friend. Be aware of strange instances like this.

3. Ongoing insistence for assistance.

How does the stranger react if you say no or turn them down? Is it accepting and mature, or a bit of an unexpected fly-off-the-handle reaction? If you decline to assist a stranger and they start to get pushy about it and insist that you help them, big red flags should be flapping in your mind. Someone who doesn’t have an agenda would rather leave you alone and seek help elsewhere. If someone is insistent on your specific help, that can be classified as rather strange or bizarre.

4. They provide TMI (too much information).

Has a stranger ever approached and just started telling you way too much about themselves? They may tell you their full name, where they are from, what they are doing there, and so on. What does this mean? Of course, this could be completely harmless. You might have a regular chatterbox on your hands, but to a dangerous person, this is a key way of trying to get a victim to feel obligated to reciprocate with too much information. This information can be used, putting you at risk. 

5. Watch for eye movements – is the stranger’s eye a bit shifty?

How comfortable do you think the stranger is with making solid eye contact for several seconds? It’s a common understanding that a reliable and trustworthy person will easily maintain eye contact without becoming uncomfortable – within reason, of course. You cannot expect to stare someone down without them getting a bit uncomfortable. 

Man stalking
Shutterstock.com

Someone who is being dishonest will often avoid eye contact or look a little “shifty”. You can catch someone with this by trying to make direct eye contact with them. See how they respond to it. 

6. They seem hyper-aware of how they appear.

Does the stranger seem as if they are more than just a regular amount of self-aware? Someone who is dangerous is always trying to ensure that the outside world doesn’t see who they really are. They may be conscious of how they look and sound or want to ensure that not a lot of people see them while they are talking to you and other people. Take note of how self-aware a stranger is around you and make the determination for yourself. 

7. They try to get you on your own, away from other people.

Is the stranger talking to you openly where you are, or are they trying to relocate you in some way? Someone who is potentially dangerous and sees you as a possible victim will not want other people to witness the exchanges between you and them. Instead, they will try to lure you away from the general crowd. They will try to speak to you alone or show you something that is just out of sight or earshot. 

If someone seems to be trying to separate you from a main body of people and you don’t know who they are, avoid them.  

8. What they say seems outrageous or unbelievable.

Always pay attention to what someone is saying and apply context. Someone who is dangerous might have a delusional outlook or view on life. They might believe unreal things and will expect you to take an interest in them. If a complete stranger approaches you and starts saying things that are unbelievable, it is best to walk away. Don’t engage. 

9. They make you doubt yourself or feel silly.

Kidnapping, mugging, or assault would never happen to you, right? That’s exactly what a dangerous person would like you to think. 

If a dangerous stranger talks to you and they can see that you start to doubt them or start to notice that they aren’t quite what they say they are, they will try to make you feel silly for having that thought in the first place. They might claim that they are “not a scammer” or “not going to kidnap you” when in fact, that is just a ploy to make you feel silly and doubt yourself for thinking that. If someone does make you feel vaguely silly for being worried, rather avoid them anyway…it’s in your best interests. 

10. They display signs of anger or being upset if you don’t respond as expected.

If a stranger approaches you and asks for help or just tries to converse with you and you don’t respond in a reciprocating manner, be aware of how they respond. If the stranger becomes angry or upset, take heed. This can be a big red flag to be wary of this person. 

stranger
Shutterstock.com

11. People watch whenever you can.

People watching is a good way to train the eye to tell between a calm person and an aggressive person, a person who is upset and a person who is sad. The more you people watch, the more attuned you will become to reading body language. Keep in mind that people-watching is not a case of staring. Learn the art of merely peeking at people while sitting in a restaurant, standing in a queue, or riding public transport.

All in all

It’s quite tricky to tell if someone is dangerous, but even if you are wrong, it’s better to get to a place of safety than to stick around to find out. If someone makes you feel uncomfortable, it’s not really worth investigating whether they are dangerous or not, is it?

If you want to ensure that you are safe out there when dealing with strangers, keep the above pointers in the back of your mind and call on them when it’s needed. Don’t just assume that everyone is a decent person because the stark reality is that many people just aren’t!

+ posts

This article was co-authored by our team of in-house and freelance writers, and reviewed by our editors, who share their experiences and knowledge about the "Seven F's of Life".

JC Franco
Editor | + posts

JC Franco is a New York-based editor for Lifevif. He mainly focuses on content about faith, spirituality, personal growth, finance, and sports. He graduated from Mercyhurst University with a Bachelor’s degree in Business, majoring in Marketing. He is a certified tennis instructor who teaches in the New York City Metropolitan area. In terms of finance, he has passed the Level I exam of the CFA program.