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msnbc.com
updated 12/12/2007 7:26:27 PM ET 2007-12-13T00:26:27

When Elvis Presley sang "Suspicious Minds," he probably never realized he'd be forever associated with this affair anthem, which spoke to his hound dog side. He was the King — but he was also the rock icon cliche of the guy who stepped out on his wife.

Back in those days, Elvis was on the road and surrounded by a protective entourage. Priscilla’s options to spy on him would have been limited. A PI would probably have not been out of the question.

But today, technology would be in her favor. Spouses have discovered that snooping isn’t just for Homeland Security, it’s something they can pick up without ever having to leave home. They can arm themselves with GPS phones, voice-activated recorders, keyloggers and online cell phone accounts, among the range of resources available to them from spy stores and online that make it easy for the suspicious to do surveillance.

Conversely, those who want to stray outside of marriages and committed relationships have more tools at their disposal than ever before. Pre-paid cell phones, instant messaging, biometric access to computers and secret e-mail accounts are just some of the ways affair partners can carry out their trysts.

“The internet is the cheater’s best friend,” said Ruth Houston, who runs the Web site InfidelityAdvice.com. “Think about what a person would’ve had to do 15, 20 years ago to have an affair. They’d have to physically go out there to find a partner. Now they can sit comfortably in the privacy of own home. The Internet has removed all risk. People who may have entertained the idea 20 years ago can actually dabble at it until they feel ‘it’s not for me.’”

She’s not talking chat rooms and e-mail, either. That’s so 15 years ago. Now, sites like AshleyMadison.com and AdultFriendFinder actually facilitate discreet encounters. The Ashley Madison Agency even has a gasp-inducing slogan on the “Attached” sign-up page: “When Monogamy Becomes Monotony.” Switch over to the Single sign-up and the motto changes to: “Because the Best Men & Women Are Already Taken.”

“There are certainly windows of infidelity opportunity because of technology,” said Branden Henline, Ph.D., director of marriage and therapy programs at Northcentral University in Arizona. “It’s more than just opportunity, frankly, it’s solicited. It’s the cachet of consumerism, as well as the social network process.”

MySpace, Facebook and other social networks, he said, are all fertile ground for temptation. Ex-girlfriends, boyfriends, what-ifs, could-have-been’s, loves-of-your-life: they’re all just a click away. It’s a slippery slope from an emotional affair to sexual encounters.

Escaping detection nowadays is as easy as buying a device like the bill-free Tracfone, or wiping histories and texts clean off computers and phones. The stealth involved in these relationships is sometimes worthy of “Alias,” in that double lives might not exist so handily were it not for the ways to communicate without ever touching.

To catch a cheat, follow your gut. More than likely, it’s telling you something is off. There are tons of tips on the signs of straying, but some are universal. Your honey starts to take extra care in his or her appearance — buying new clothes, working out, new haircut. They start meticulously deleting sent messages and keep their inbox pristine. Sex is either feast or famine or just plain different. Their cell phone never leaves their side. You get the idea and then it starts to gnaw at you.

“The interesting thing, if it’s going on, you’re not going to get any peace until you know, confirm or disprove what you suspect,” said the Queens, New York-based Houston, who 15 years ago discovered her then-husband was cheating on her with three women. She’s interviewed thousands of investigators, therapists, academics, victims and perpetrators since then and wrote a book, “Is He Cheating on You?”

Her compiled numbers (which she takes from therapists and investigators rather than academic studies) are grim: 80 percent of all committed relationships (cyber, same-sex, marriages, live-ins, etc.) have experienced infidelity. She thinks these numbers are at their highest ever and she says technology does foot the blame to a large degree.

She’s all about the proactive approach: Catch him or her before it gets too deep. But what if you’re not sure and want proof before confronting?

I asked Tony DeLorenzo, spokesman for All State Investigations, Inc. (94truth.com), what kinds of resources the pros have in tracking down these objects of illicit desire. DeLorenzo’s dad started the company 55 years ago and they now have offices not only in New Jersey, where they started, but also in Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Pennsylvania and New York. Infidelity is one lucrative business. Back in those olden days, private dicks used cameras with film and busted down doors to nab the guilty parties in flagrante delicto.


It’s still about surveillance, but now the technology provides his investigators with long-range digital cameras, GPS trackers (only on jointly owned vehicles), keystroke-capturing software and hidden mini-cams.

Infidelity doesn’t discriminate — couples affected are seemingly happy, straight or gay. DeLorenzo has some long-term clients who keep their spouses in sight if a pattern is established in their cheating behavior.

They follow men 55 percent of the time — down from 80 percent in his father’s day. Seventy-five percent of his female clients reconcile with their guys, while the same number of male clients dump their wives once they receive confirmation of their worst fears.

“There is no one out there we cannot catch,” DeLorenzo claimed. “They can only cover their tracks so much. Sooner or later they have to meet.”

And what if they never do? What if it’s all online?

“When you’re showing affection to someone else or doing anything you can’t do in front of a wife or girlfriend (or husband, boyfriend, live-in), that’s considered cheating,” DeLorenzo said.

If you’re not able to fork over the $500 to $1,000 it would take to engage a PI, there are ways to gather evidence with as much stealth as the wayward spouse.

Over at stores like SpyGear4U.com, there is a whole page of gadgets you can buy under the link, “Catch a Cheater.” On it: GPS (real-time trackers costing $599) or motion-sensitive digital videos hidden inside air purifiers and clock radios, and recorders disguised as pens. (Warning: check your state’s wire-tapping laws to make sure you’re not doing anything illegal if you go the surreptitious voice-recording route.) There’s even a semen test kit for use on clothing, for those inclined to go a little CSI.

Suspicious partners can also download keyloggers like E-Blaster, Acespy.com, Revealer and Spectorsoft.com to record every keystroke without their partner’s knowledge. Results can be e-mailed upon activity, which could provide some definitive proof, but warning: there is also potential for heartache in reading graphic or explicit sexual language in e-mails and instant messages (TMI!)

Pulling up histories on Internet searches can also clue in the betrayed to their sweetie's visits to dating services and personals.  Options on IM programs and Google bars can also allow them to automatically keep a record of those conversations.

The betrayed also have forums online where they can gain support, advice and reassurance from others going through what they’re experiencing, such as SurvivingInfidelity.com, where investigative techniques are shared after a certain number of legitimate posts.

DeLorenzo is also launching Infidelity.com as an advice site with legal and investigative experts to help those in need.

The impulse to verify what the spouse is up to is strong, Houston said, but it must be met.

“The reason why you’d want to know, if it turns out to be true, you can’t afford to be last one to know,” she said. “You want to protect yourself sexually, legally. You want to find out if this is a fling or is this something serious, am I looking at a divorce somewhere down the road? You have to find out.”

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