We are all plugged in. We have email, text, mobile phones, messaging accounts, social networks…the list goes on and on. We like to think that our electronic lives are secured by passwords and encryptions, but we all have a digital footprint and you do not have to have the NSA’s records to uncover it.
During the last few years of my marriage, I knew things were deteriorating but I wasn’t sure what was going on. There were the usual obvious signs- he was on the computer more, he kept his cell phone with him at all times, and he worked “late” often. There were a lot of questions, but not a lot of answers. During that time, I learned a lot about letting technology work for you and not against you in the divorce process. Please note that technology not only works for your side of the divorce; you need to be conscious of your own online activities and protect yourself as well.
If you are having suspicions about your husband’s activities, you can investigate some electronic sources with very little effort. Starting with the easiest items that you have access to, you can see if there are any abnormalities among the transactions or logs. For example, if you start with checking accounts, credit card statements, you might recognize if a charge is for someplace you have never been. If you find suspicious activities there, you can take your investigation one step further.
Where do you start?
Cell phones can provide a multitude of data, even if you do not have access to his physical phone. Review voice and text logs. These can be accessed online or from paper billing.
Are there repetitive numbers that you do not recognize? Are there late night or early morning texts or calls?
If you have access to his phone, here are a few places to look for information. Can you view his text messages and emails? Check the mapping app on his phone- has he used it to go somewhere unfamiliar?
For tracking him at a later time, you can install an app on his iPhone to track his location. For iPhones:
Additionally, I found a service that will track calls, text messages, emails and GPS locations mySpyFeatures.com.
There are many reverse look up services online. Note: you can look up public information for free,for instance, land lines, but many services charge a small fee to look up personal information, including cell phone numbers. I am not endorsing any services in particular, as my experience is limited, but here are a few that may be helpful:
Banking and Credit Cards:You can look at recent transactions whether on the actual physical statements or online. Are there transactions for things that you do not recognize? Credit Card Purchases are there charges that seem out of the ordinary?
Next Steps: You can get information on recent transactions by contacting the vendors where the purchases were made. You can honestly tell them that you don’t recognize the transaction and ask for a copy of the receipt.
Auto: Check the GPS. Has the GPS been programmed to go someplace unusual? (This is worth looking at if your man regularly uses the GPS)
Computers: Laptop, Desktops, and Cookies and Downloads. Even if he is fairly secretive about his online activities, you can go behind him and see where he has been by checking your computer history, cookies and downloads.
Remember the saying, “All’s Fair in Love and War?” Keep that in mind – knowing that these technologies can work against you as well as for you.
How do you protect yourself?
The best advice is to “live beyond reproach”. Keep your end goal in mind. Don’t give yor husband ammunition against you. In some cases, that may be easier said than done. So beyond that obvious advice, here are some additional tips.
1) An attorney once told me, “There is no expectation of privacy in regard to internet use.”
2) Don’t use your personal computer, phone, ipad, etc for any internet activity that you do not want found. If you use it for social media, messaging or any other purpose that could be misconstrued, don’t do it from home.
3) Disable GPS tracking from your phone.
4) In regard to money, pay cash and have cash when possible. If you need to pay for items like phone tracing, but don’t want to raise any alarms, consider pre-paid visa cards.
5) If you have a nest egg that belongs to you personally, or want to begin one (even secretly), you may want to transfer the assets in name to a trusted friend or family member.** This may be more important in states where all assets are considered marital assets.
Words of Caution
There are many stories about Facebook and other sites causing friction in marriages. If you have those sorts of issues, I would like to caution you against “Catfishing.”(The phenomenon of internet predators that fabricate online identities and entire social circles to trick people into emotional/romantic relationships (Urban Dictionary, 01/04/14))
Investing a major amount of time and energy into something as negative as “catfishing” is not productive or protective. Finding out what you need to know to protect yourself is understandable. Knowing is way better than the anguish of not knowing.
Just be the smart, saavy woman that you are! Knowledge is powerful! Good luck and be careful!