By Sarah P.
Take your power back with this handy guide on how you can use technology to your advantage to catch a cheater in the act…
The technology boom that has happened in the last ten years is a paradox because it is a blessing and a curse. This boom has blessed society in too many ways to mention, but it has also proved itself to be a curse to marriage. The bad news is, now it’s easier than ever to commit infidelity because there are more opportunistic ways to connect and ways to cheat through the use of apps.
To put it into context, in the past, spouses used to meet affair partners through extended circles of friends or at work; but now there is so much more opportunity. Spouses can meet strangers online, communicate with ex-lovers online and rekindle a romance, or take an office friendship that may not have turned into more to the next level. It can all go down under the other spouse’s nose without them knowing. The ability to have emotional and/or physical affairs is as accessible as clicking a button or swiping a screen.
Think that it couldn’t happen to you? Think again. “Over half of all U.S. households have Internet access, making the 40 million sexually explicit Web sites, chat rooms, bulletin boards and interactive games completely available to anyone who cares to partake.
An estimated 20 to 33 percent of Internet users go online for sexual purposes; most are male, about 35 years old, married with children, and well educated. Sexual behavior over the Internet can easily threaten relationships because it is extremely accessible, affordable, and the ability to hide one’s identity helps people feel they can escape being caught,” says the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (1).
The use of technology in affairs seems to enable affair partners to be more secretive than ever. Men and women who are having affairs could still adhere to a routine. So, if a wife/husband suspects something, she/he will check that suspicion by looking at outward signs. They will notice that their spouse is still coming home on time and has not left any incriminating receipts or love letters around. They check the closet, briefcase, purse, and clothing for evidence, but they come up empty.
And yet that old, aching feeling that is so hard to pin-point persists in their gut. It doesn’t matter that she/he hasn’t found evidence because that terrible feeling in the pit of their stomach just won’t go away. The idea that their spouse could be having an affair flits through their mind several times a day, but there is nothing to back it up. She/he is not ready to confront their spouse since she/he doesn’t have data. If they were to confront their spouse, they fear being called crazy, jealous, and possessive.
She/he begins to wonder what even constitutes an affair. If their spouse is flirting with strangers online, whom he/she has never met, does this constitute an affair? Flirting with a total stranger who he/she never intends to meet is harmless, right? How could someone fall in love with a stranger?
Ah, but the danger is still there and there is more danger than you could ever imagine. For example, “Several studies suggest that even when there is no in-person contact, online affairs can be just as devastating as the real-world variety, triggering feelings of insecurity, anger and jealousy.
Women usually feel more threatened by the emotional betrayal of a partner’s online affair, while men are more concerned about physical encounters, but the gender differences are lessening,” says psychologist Brendan L. Smith (2). Any way you cut it, emotional affairs with strangers have the potential to be as threatening as physical affairs.
Technology allows people to hide evidence of affairs and yet technology also allows you to uncover the objective truth—if you know where and how to look. Obtaining the objective truth was something that was not possible to attain in the past and so technology can be a real blessing.
When you were younger, you might have been an avid reader of MAD magazine. If you were, you will remember Spy versus Spy. In this wordless cartoon strip, one spy would develop a special bomb or other mechanism to get one over on the opposing spy. But, the opposing spy would always have something with which to counter the first spy’s technology. They were always in a race to counter each other. Such is the world of Internet technology—just as someone develops an app that assists cheaters in cheating, so are apps developed to spy on the cheater. Like Spy versus Spy, it’s a constant race to keep up.
Now I will get to the meaty part of the article and introduce you to some of the ways that you can find information, if that is the path that you decide to take.
I will discuss several cellphone apps that cheaters use, then I will discuss apps that you, the betrayed spouse, can use to spy, and finally I will discuss some free ways for you to search a computer for evidence.
My only caveat is that technology changes at a break-neck pace and while all of these apps are available for download now, they may not be in the future. Please use these ideas to raise your awareness on how to search for evidence of affairs and what is available for the cheater and for you.
Android and iPhone Apps
Vaulty Stocks: Android App
This is a particularly sneaky app because the fully functional interface is an application to check stock performance. But, that is only what it appears to be on the surface. A cheater can use the app to store naughty pictures and videos. Since it requires a PIN to access, would be snoopers will not be able to access what is contained there-in. So, in that sense it is not useful. On the other hand, being aware that this exists is useful because if this app is on your spouses phone, this is going to be a GIANT red flag.
Text and Call Eraser: Android App
Once again, it is useful to know that this app, also called CATE, exists since the presence of it will signal another giant red flag. Even if a spouse weren’t cheating, why would he need to routinely hide calls and filter text messages?
Invisible Text: iPhone App
This app allows users to send videos, texts, and pictures secretly through the app. In fact, the user can set a self-destruct timer if the intended recipient doesn’t answer quickly enough. Another red flag app!
Mobile Vault: Android App
Oh, this one is very nefarious. First off, if someone tries to break into it, the app takes a snapshot of the would-be spy. YIKES. It also hides any contact, photos, or videos that are shared between spouses and their partner in crime. Mobile Vault also has the ability for a user to create a private cloud so that if a user loses his/her phone, all of the data can still be accessed and preserved. This is the stuff made of nightmares for a betrayed spouse.
Apps for Spying
Flexispy: Spy on mobile phones, tablets, and different programs used for messaging
This app allows you to get your stealth on big time. You can track your spouse’s location, listen in on their phone calls, read your spouse’s emails, view their whereabouts, and even bug your spouse by turning their phone into a microphone. Using this one would make James Bond smile from ear to ear (and that would be a rare occasion indeed)!
Mobi Stealth: All Smart Phones
This app is somewhat like FlexiSpy, although it also allows you to collect screen shots, go through Facebook, read email, and log conversations heard through the phone’s microphone.
Computer Programs: All Major Operating Systems
This software allows you to do everything under the sun. You can access your spouse’s contacts, go through call logs, read text messages, monitor Skype calls, log locations, look at photos and video, and see browser history. But, there is more: if your spouse has become a porn addict or is accessing other sites, such as Ashley Madison, mSpy allows you to block access to these sites. The only rub is that it costs around $40/month.
Aren’t able to hire a private investigator? That is okay because this software is like having your own private detective in a box. This software is also fairly affordable. From the company’s website about SpyPal:
“It intelligently records Facebook use, chats, emails, instant messengers, web sites visited, documents opened, applications executed, clipboard activity and much more. As an advanced monitoring software, SpyPal Keylogger takes pictures of your system Desktop screen periodically to provide you with graphics-based information, just like what a professional detective does in real life!” SpyPal also captures passwords and looks at user activities on like Facebook, Skype, Yahoo Meseenger, games, online searches, shopping, file transfers, web-based emails like Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo mail and hundreds of others. For more information visit: http://www.thinkertec.com
Easy Ways to Search A Computer
Of course, new apps are appearing every day and mentioning these apps only scratches the surface. One of your best bets, if you want to do this yourself, is to search your spouse’s computer.
Most programs on the computer have various places that they keep track of data and store it.
Email: Email programs automatically keep both sent items and even items that have been discarded in the trash. (Trash folders usually auto-delete after a month but are visible until then). Simply navigate to the sent items or the trash folder and take a look.
Web History: Web browsers keep track of websites that were visited in the history folder. To access these, simply open a browser and look for the history. There are various tutorials online on how to do this in detail. One can be found here: http://googlechrometutorial.com/google-chrome-general-settings/Google-chrome-web-browser-history.html.
Temporary Internet files: Sometimes a spouse will forget about deleting temporary Internet files and a whole wealth of data can be uncovered. You find a tutorials on how to do this in Windows here: http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/view-temporary-internet-files#1TC=windows-7
Instant Messaging Services: All instant messaging services have places where they keep track of conversations. Search the log files on each messaging service that your spouse uses.
For example, to find a Skype tutorial on this, go here: http://community.skype.com/t5/Modern-Windows-archive/Search-the-conversation-history/td-p/1382884
To find it in Skype for Mac, go here: https://support.skype.com/en/faq/FA10888/how-do-i-see-my-chat-history-in-skype-for-mac-os-x
Cookies: Although not as detailed as reading chat histories, cookies can be searched and you can glean information about websites visited. To search cookies, simply search for the cookies folder using a general Windows search for the cookies folder.
On Mac, pull up the Finder program and search for the cookies folder in the same way. On the other hand, some Windows versions have different ways to search. Tutorials can be found here:
Advanced Ways to Search A Computer
On the other hand, you may not be able to successfully use the former ways I have discussed, simply because some cheaters will likely go to great lengths to delete browser history, cookies, and chats.
Luckily, there are some tried and true ways, such as looking at index files, to gain insight into a spouse’s activities on a computer. Looking at these files will be easy as long as you have access to said computer (and it’s not password protected).
Since index files are a relatively new phenomenon, many cheaters may not be aware of them and how they work. Note: If your spouse has his entire computer on lock-down, simply ask for the password. If he/she says he/she doesn’t want the children to get into the computer, simply don’t tell the children the password. A password-protected computer where the password is not shared with the spouse in itself is a red flag.
What are index files?
Here is the high level: when an operating system is installed, a main index file is immediately created. Index files are used by operating systems to keep track of all of the different types of sub-index files that your computer creates and uses. These files are marked with the extension .index or possibly .dat. The files are automatically updated as a user takes different actions on the computer. They are valuable to operating systems because they provide a short-cut for a computer to access data. This obviously cuts down on lag-time and increases usability – and they record most everything.
Why are index files relevant to you?
They are specifically relevant to you because they contain information that could be valuable to you. These files keep track of every website that is visited by that particular computer. These files cannot be easily deleted and because of this many users consider this a privacy issue. While it may be a privacy issue, you can use the idea that they cannot be easily deleted to your advantage. If you are concerned about porn, infidelity, or other issues, you can get valuable information about the websites your spouse is visiting.
The only catch is that users can temporarily remove incriminating data from the index file (by deleting pieces of the file) using various apps. But, as soon as they go back to a website or something incriminating that they tried to hide or delete, the index file recreates this data all over again. A user would have to constantly be removing incriminating data. Most people don’t have time to do this and even if they did, cheaters always slip up at one point or another. Therefore, I think these files are your best bet if you are dealing with someone who otherwise knows how to remove history, deletes their emails, etc.
How do I search these files?
Computer users are able to operate programs such as Windows Desktop Search and Google Desktop to search the contents of files and read the content within them. If you do not have these programs, you can install them. The easiest way to search is to simply plug in keywords into the search box that might be exchanged between lovers. You can use common keywords that could be associated with affairs such as: love, secret, divorce, marriage, cheat, meet, hide, leave, sex, hot, lover, and wife. Or, if you have any suspicions about whom your spouse might be seeing and where they might be meeting, use words associated with this information in your search.
I would also recommend a free multi-file viewer. In fact, the free product below searches everything in your computer files such as documents, photos, and videos all in one. You can find a lot of incriminating data this way. You can get it here: http://file.org/free-download/free-file-viewer.
I would recommend looking for tutorials online as well. I cannot recommend any specifically since each operating system and version of an operating system will have a different user interface. Trying to write about all of them would take a year and fill a book. So, figure out what your operating system is, what version it is, and find a file viewer that is compatible with it. Then look for tutorials online specifically on how to view index files with your particular OS and its version.
Finally, there are forensic data specialists who have both the knowledge and tools to do much deeper searches that what I have recommended. They have gone back to school to learn these things and can find almost anything.
I certainly hope that it will not come to that for you and I sincerely hope that when you do search your spouse’s computer or phone, that you are reassured. One of my greatest wishes in life would be that infidelity did not exist. My heart goes out to you if you have been through or are going through an affair.
But, before you start tapping away, I wanted to provide full-disclosure on the legality of taking such actions. The Electronic Privacy Act of 1986 makes it pretty clear that we are not supposed to snoop in someone else’s business. “The ECPA, as amended, protects wire, oral, and electronic communications while those communications are being made, are in transit, and when they are stored on computers. The ECPA act applies to email, telephone conversations, and data stored electronically,” states a Department of Justice website. This act also prohibits the procurement of such communications as evidence (1).
It may seem a spouse’s hands are tied since it is illegal to do some surveillance activities. Therefore, the problem of infidelity looms much larger when we consider the online component alone and all of the laws around privacy.
So the issue is that ways to be unfaithful are growing and yet victims of infidelity seemingly are in a double bind. Even though technology helps affairs, the person being harmed by the affair is seemingly not allowed to access the technology – or at least use in court—the very thing that could provide the truth.
So, in the end, you need to consult an attorney and proceed with caution. Statutes vary from state to state and this article does not constitute actual legal advice.
I cannot stress enough that if you decide to go searching your spouse’s computer that you need to do several things first:
- Consult a licensed and practicing attorney in your state before taking action. Consult someone who is familiar with both divorce laws, the legality of snooping in a home computer and cellphone, and ask what kind of evidence might be admissible in court. States that have laws regarding alienation of affection could admit some evidence while other states without such laws might not admit this type of information.
- Emotionally prepare yourself for the consequences of finding evidence of infidelity.
Finally… you need to proceed with caution when attempting to catch a cheater and/or looking for evidence of an affair. Many people don’t realize how their entire lives are upended once they discover an affair because they don’t think about the emotional and financial repercussions of such a discovery.
While it might be a validating experience to know that your gut feeling wasn’t paranoia, you must analyze all of the repercussions beforehand and have a plan for your future finances, what to do when this impacts your children, whether or not you will sleep in a different bedroom or ask your spouse to leave, and most importantly, assess whether or not you are safe.
Make sure you have a local therapist to speak with in the event that you discover such evidence. Have an attorney in place in case he or she is needed. But, most of all develop a plan to get out of your house or out of your location safely in case your spouse were to become violent. Someone who was never violent before could react in a way that is out of character when presented with proof of his/her activities.
If you would like to learn more about infidelity, recovering from infidelity, or simply talk to others who have experienced infidelity, I welcome you to take a look at all of the resources this website has to offer. Whether or not you are just beginning your journey, working through the grief, or are going through a divorce, this website has many resources that will help you out.
As always, I wish you the best of luck and know that everything will work out for you. It’s always darkest before the dawn, but the dawn will come and it will be a most glorious dawn indeed.
Oh! And if you have a working knowledge with this sort of thing and/or have monitored your spouse’s use of technology in the past (or are currently), please share your experiences below in the comment section.
- Corley, D.M., PhD. (n.d.), Online Infidelity, Retrieved March 03, 2016, from https://www.aamft.org/imis15/AAMFT/Content/Consumer_Updates/Online_Infidelity.aspx
- Smith, B.L. (2011). Are Internet Affairs Different? American Psychological Association, 42(3), 48-49.
- Department of Justice, Electronic Communications Act of 1986. (n.d.) Retrieved March 03, 2016, from https://it.ojp.gov/PrivacyLiberty/authorities/statutes/1285