Cheating? Hello, you've got e-trail
Technological gains may render one person extinct in adultery: The blindsided dupe

By Monica Hesse
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Cheating scenario, 1989:

There were errant signs. Like the times you phoned the office and it rang and rang ("I was in the conference room," he said), like the matchbooks from places with names like the Candlelight Inn, where you'd never been. There were always plausible explanations. Work lunches! Work trips! Work lipstick! You wondered if you were crazy. There was so much wondering. Months, maybe years of uncertainty.

Cheating scenario, 2009:

I found your text messages, Jerk boy. Pack your bags.

* * *

There are so many questions about Tiger Woods's reported affairs. (A cocktail waitress? Really? Have you seen his wife? And who knew Swedes could get so angry?!) But perhaps what's most vexing is related to the saucy missives waitress Jaimee Grubbs claims were sent to her by the professional golfer.

Specifically: What kind of nitwit celebrity would still leave an e-trail?

Did he not learn from Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.), whose affair was apparently discovered because of a text message? Was he not convinced by the career annihilation of Kwame Kilpatrick after the revelation of naughty notes between the former Detroit mayor and his chief of staff? If only Woods had watched a recent episode of "Glee" -- Quinn catches Puck sexting -- he would have realized the technology that enables you can also destroy you.

This raises a question: In an age of iPhones, TMZ and standard-issue personal GPS devices, is technology killing the affair?

Here's a potentially apocryphal anecdote, submitted via e-mail to game forum GoNintendo.com: The e-mailer, a soldier, came back from Iraq and settled down to play some Nintendo Wii. He found an unfamiliar avatar lurking in his console. It was the Mii created by his wife's lover.

Schadenfreude-by-Google, as related in a column written by a London attorney: His client was apparently tooling around on the Google Maps Street View option and looked up a friend's house. Parked outside was her husband's Range Rover, identifiable by its custom rims. He was supposed to be on a business trip.

We're not talking the end of cheating altogether. There will forever be opportunities for hook-ups in bars or incidents of ex-sex. The social scientists who research infidelity say that the Internet is good for adultery. Sites such as cheating portal AshleyMadison.com have made it easier than ever to find some sleazy person whose interests include long walks on the beach and home-wrecking.

And yet maybe technology is doing in the long-term dupe, the dangerous liaison where no one gets caught and no one pays.

Everyone pays these days, Tiger. Everyone pays.

"The first thing my partner and I said," Mike Russell says. "We said, 'Wait, he's got all that money and he doesn't have a bat phone?' " -- the secret cell kept just for booty calls.

Russell is a private investigator in Alexandria. He uncovers cheating, or verifies what the wronged parties usually already know. "I just finished talking to a lady a few hours ago," Russell says. "She sees 300 texts going to the same number on her husband's phone, she knows what's happening."

Because the cheaters never have a bat phone. They never seem to realize how nakedly traceable their actions are. (It's like sex tapes. Post-Paris Hilton, post-Eric Dane, post-Carrie Prejean, why do people still make sex tapes? Have they never heard of YouTube? Do they think they still have zones of privacy? Ha ha ha, that's cute.)

But those who try to go bat phone, who try to be smart about their duplicity, still get tripped up in the end. Tasha Cunningham is the founder of DontDateHimGirl.com, a site on which women share their bad-relationship stories and talk about how they totally caught the cheating snakes disguised as boyfriends.

In one of Cunningham's favorite stories from the site, a guy thought he was being crafty by creating a secret Facebook profile in addition to the one his significant other knew about. He used it to amass dozens of friends, most of them pretty women. Unfortunately, one of those friends turned out to also be a friend of his lady's. "Or maybe it was a friend of a friend," Cunningham says. "Often, it's a friend of a friend," but what's the distinction, really? Do degrees of separation even exist anymore, when everyone is connected with everyone else?

"It's amazing, the people we find are cheating because of their Facebook photos," says Ed Hruneni, president of the Private Investigators Association of Virginia. "Or . . . we'll go with Twitter stuff. The wife might be wondering, was he at work on Friday night?" and meanwhile there's the phone number she's noticed her husband calling all the time.

Hruneni can find a name to go with that phone number, and within minutes he has subscribed to a Twitter feed. It'll say something like " 'I was with Bulldog on Friday night, and boy did we stay out late.' There are no photos." There's no full name, but then we go back to the wife, and what was her husband's nickname? Oh, it's Bulldog? Hunh.

And what about "GPS trackers. We can stick them on cars, real time, and know where you are. . . . we can find passwords you deleted seven years ago," and do everything legally, Hruneni says.

Let's ring up Sandy Ain, one of the District's most prominent divorce attorneys, and ask him how many of his adultery cases involve technology.

"It's the majority," Ain says.

And how many involve cheaters being caught by their own technology?

"It's very often."

Isn't it so typical of the way we engage with technology? Always thinking of the benefits, of the way we could tappa-tappa notes to mistresses while sitting innocently next to the girlfriend -- never thinking of the times when we're in the shower and the girlfriend might glance at the BlackBerry.

UR busted.

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