This is not a great time to be gullible. People are out to take your money, win your vote, capitalize on your outrage and burnout, and get everyone good and divided so that we can't come together and demand what we deserve.

There's a lot at stake these days, maybe more than ever before, so we have to stay vigilant against attempts to sway us without our knowledge and against our will.

There's a lot at stake these days, maybe more than ever before, so we have to stay vigilant against attempts to sway us without our knowledge and against our will.

Here are the top signs that someone is trying to get you to let your guard down and do something you don't intend to do:

  1. Getting a Rise Out of You

    Doesn't x really make your blood boil? This may be an exaggeration (it definitely is), but aren't you infuriated that y gets away with z? Me too!

    Pathos is one of the three pillars of strong argument, according to Aristotle. Yet those familiar with propaganda know that on its own, it can do some real damage. If someone is hitting the emotions a lot harder than the facts or their own credibility (the other two pillars—logos and ethos), they might be trying to override your logic and good sense, aka manipulate you.

    This is the biggest one. Stay close to factual evidence from sources as impartial as you can find. Find independent fact checking sites. Read up on fallacies. Logic is your friend. And make sure your emotions aren't telling you to ditch the rest of your resources. Emotions are important, but all by themselves, they can lead you far astray.

  2. "Negging"

    Look. Unless you ____, the rest of your life is just gonna be one bleak slog, day in, day out.

    You've probably heard of this in the context of men hitting on women by insulting them and then offering them a compliment. Well, this is a sleazy technique in general that stands a chance of winning people over when they're in a bad place. If someone paints a bleak picture of your life, prospects, or the world in general, and makes it seem like they and they alone have a way out for you, they might be trying to pull the wool over your eyes.

    If you're feeling desperate or down, it may seem like a good time to make a big change, but you are actually very vulnerable in these states, less on guard, off your game, and I guarantee you there are plenty of folks willing to capitalize on that. So try and get to a mentally good place again before you make a big decision based on someone else's advice.

  3. Too Good to be True

    You just won a million dollars—without even entering the lottery! Terrible grades? No problem. Here's a $7000 scholarship to our school, have promise! You could be making six figures a MONTH within the next YEAR!

    Yeah...probably not. Most things that sound too good to be true turn out to be. This is often the second part of the one-two punch that begins with step two. Your life is awful—but I have the solution! Even though we sort of know we're being fooled, it's hard not to get our hopes up. Where there's life, there's hope. But unfortunately, where there's hope, there's often someone ready to take advantage of it.

    When I was growing up I got pretty wise to this after going to a couple of "free vacation" info sessions with my parents and watching them investigate more than one "get rich quick" scheme. There is always some kind of serious catch. I've been to probably five of those kinds of presentations and I've never been on one free vacation. Shortcuts, freebies, and in-no-time-at-all schemes tend to be traps for the hopeful and, yeah, gullible.

  4. Take a Gamble

    Someone has to win, right? Why not you?

    Not long ago, I spent a Saturday morning talking about cars I couldn't afford in a hot parking lot with salespeople who also didn't want to be there. I could have been relaxing by a stream in the woods with my buddies, but my husband got a key in the mail which (the envelope promised) could be the winning key to our very own brand new car. I knew we weren't going to win, but I figured, free food, quick stop, whatever. The stakes were relatively low that day, but the food was bad, our friends were done by the time we arrived, and I think this kind of disillusionment adds up over our lifetimes.

    If you're gambling for the fun of the game, expecting to lose, hey, I've had a good time like that on occasion. But don't sacrifice important things or pin your hopes on a gamble, because almost by definition, you're going to lose. And your personal info will likely end up in some database, giving even more schemers access to you.

  5. Don't Think! Act Now!

    Act in the next five seconds! This deal is selling out quickly! Don't be the only one left behind!

    This one's a classic. If you think a great deal is on the line and never coming back, you're far more likely to make a questionable decision. Be very wary of anyone or anything trying to pressure you out of a thoughtful decision. Chances are, they're hurrying you because they know that given time and space, you won't do what they want.

  6. Don't Worry About the Fine Print

    Oh, It's just the standard terms. You don't need to look it over. Sign here!

    This one's a hard one. User agreements are ridiculously long, many would argue on purpose. Someone did the math on how long it would take us to actually read through ALL of them, from Apple to Facebook to Google etc... and it was something absurd. Whole weeks of reading.

    When it comes to loans in particular, though, it's very important to know exactly what the terms are. Payday loan companies have made an industry preying off people's desperation (see step two) by getting them to sign contracts that "legally" apply absurd, cruel terms when a payment is late or missed. Consumer protection organizations are meant to curb this kind of practice (in Episode 2 of "Dirty Money" on Netflix, an astonished loan shark is brought to justice for the suffering he's caused) but they're not always around to protect you.

  7. Scapegoating

    The real enemy is that person who looks, sounds, or believes differently than you.

    We'd be remiss if we didn't mention one of the most insidious and common deceptions throughout history—the scapegoat.

    It's a tried-and-true tactic for your average King, pirate or oligarch with a mutiny brewing. Are your subjects starting to wise up and demand a fairer share? A startlingly effective way to distract them, or better yet, convert their very logical anger into stupid, blind loyalty: give them someone else to be mad at instead. Give them a whipping boy, a laughing stock, a punching bag.

    The clearest and most tragic example of this is World War II Germany. The country was devastated by war, people were angry, afraid, and desperate, and Hitler looked at this mess and saw an opportunity. He told them that Jewish people were the root of all of their problems, spread crazy lies, and turned an entire nation of "ordinary people" into a genocide machine that wiped out an astonishing number of totally innocent humans in an astonishingly short time.

    Can you imagine? One minute this charismatic leader is pulling the old #3 on you, telling you how great you are, how great things will be...oh and by the way, #7... the next day you wake up and you're torturing little children.

    Let's all be wiser than to fall for such ancient and terrible tricks.