Three years ago, it was Tiger Woods who was undone by technology after being caught cheating through salacious text messages and voicemails he sent to his alleged mistresses. Now the head of the CIA, retired General David Petraeus, and his biographer Paula Broadwell are in the spotlight after their affair was uncovered by the FBI.
To cover their tracks, Petraeus and Broadwell allegedly created a secret email account that both could access. To communicate, one would create a draft message and then the other would log in and comment in the draft. The draft emails were never sent, so there wasn't any evidence in their regular email accounts. However, the FBI was easily able to track the secret account back to Paula Broadwell, along with the incriminating messages, during its investigation of harassing emails she supposedly sent to another female friend of Petraeus.
Of course if you suspect your spouse is cheating on you, it's unlikely you'll have the FBI helping uncover the truth. But, as with Woods and Petraeus, there are many tech clues cheaters leave behind on their cell phones, computers and other electronic gadgets that you can look for on your own.
A word of caution
Before engaging in any electronic snooping, be aware that there are strong federal and state electronic-eavesdropping and hacking laws in place to protect our privacy. It would be wise to consult with an attorney to ensure you don't engage in any activities that are in violation of the law—if you end up in a nasty divorce, being charged with spying crimes is not a good position to be in.
Tech clues to a cheating spouse
1. Calls on your spouse's cell phone
Are there numerous calls to numbers you don’t recognize, especially at odd hours of the day or night? You can often determine who owns a particular landline number simply by entering the number into Google search.
2. Cell phone address book names you don’t recognize
Chances are your spouse won’t take the risk of entering the full name of the person he or she is cheating with, so look for numbers that are identified merely with initials or a first name.
3. Incriminating text messages and emails
Text messages and emails are the modern means of sending love letters, and your spouse may have kept them on his or her phone for ongoing enjoyment. And be sure to check the "deleted items" or "trash" folder. People frequently let their discarded emails linger for weeks before they're permanently erased.
4. Voicemail messages
Perhaps your spouse chose to save a couple of the steamy ones for later playback.
5. A second cell phone or SIM card
If your spouse is clever, he or she will be using a second cell phone—or just a second SIM card—-for communicating with his or her lover. However, people slip up occasionally. If your spouse calls you from a cell phone number you don’t recognize, that may be cause for suspicion. Try calling the other number when your spouse is home and see how they react. If you happen to find an extra SIM card, stick it in a phone and see what phone numbers are stored on it.
6. Hidden messages apps
There are apps available, such as NQ Mobile Vault, that let you store text messages, phone contacts, photos and more in a password-protected, encrypted folder on your smartphone, If you find one of these apps and there's no obvious reason why your spouse would need it, that may be cause for suspicion. And if your spouse chose an app with poor security, accessing the contents can be quite easy.
7. Computer's browsing history
If your spouse is supposed to be on a business trip to Seattle but browsing hotels in New York, this is where the browser history can help you out. Also, the browser history may reveal whether they're visiting email sites (e.g., Gmail, Hotmail) where you didn't know they had an account.
8. Frequent-flier account
Did your spouse purchase an extra ticket with miles or are there frequent-flier miles for a trip to New York when they were supposed to be in Seattle? You may be able to log in to your spouse's account online if their login info is stored in the browser or password bank, otherwise check their email for their monthly statement.
9. Toll pass history
If you use E-ZPass or another toll payment system in your cars, check the online statement. Is there unusual activity showing your spouse driving on the New Jersey Turnpike when they’re supposed to be at work in Westchester?
10. Previous destinations in your spouse’s navigation system
Practically every nav system—built-in, portable and on your phone—has a list of previous destinations. If the No-Tell Motel off the Jersey Turnpike is on there and your spouse doesn’t work in the hospitality business, that’s a sign something may be up.