Globe and Mail

Say cheese!

Cheaters never prosper, at least not these days. Cell phones, the Internet, call display, DNA testing . . . every advance in modern technology is blasting holes through the covers of philandering spouses.

ALEXANDRA GILL
The Globe and Mail
Saturday, May 20, 2000

Martha returns home from a three-day business trip to find a cigarette butt in an ashtray under the bed. It's not her brand. Martha's husband, who doesn't smoke cigarettes, tries to convince her the stale butt is hers. She doesn't believe him.

Suspecting the worst, Martha takes the smoking gun to a private lab for a DNA analysis. After comparing the DNA fragments from the cigarette filter to Martha's own saliva sample, the technicians conclude that the tell-tale cigarette was smoked by a woman -- and it definitely wasn't her.

Whatever happened to the lipstick stain on the collar? In the old days of freewheeling adultery, a hang-up call in the middle of the night was the worst a philandering rogue had to worry about. Now there are itemized cell-phone bills, call-display screens, automobile tracking devices, Internet history folders, stealth-mode keystroke-recording software programs and spray-on sperm detectors all waiting to trip you up. Every advance in technology increases the odds of getting caught. And there's a whole lot of cheating going on: Figures from a Stanford University survey reveal that 25 to 40 per cent of married women and 50 to 60 per cent of married men have had at least one promiscuous liaison.

Martha isn't the real name of the woman mentioned earlier. But her story is all too familiar to Dr. Wayne Murray, manager of the human DNA department at Maxxam Analytics Inc. in Guelph, Ont. Last January, Maxxam was the first lab in Canada to win government accreditation to operate as a private firm. And ever since it opened its doors to the public, Murray's lab has received a steady stream of spouses (at least one every two weeks) who want scientific answers to their nagging suspicions.

"We never advertised for this type of business," says Murray, who, as the former head of the Centre for Forensic Sciences in Ontario, has worked on many high-profile criminal cases, including the DNA evidence that led to a conviction in the 1986 murder of Alison Parrot. But as someone who has been cuckolded himself, Murray takes infidelity testing very seriously.

"It bothers me that some of the stuff I do could break up marriages, but it's rewarding to give answers to people who need help. It's very time-consuming to have your private life screwed up, no pun intended. It affects your job, your sleep, your finances. . . . It might cost a lot, but for some people, marriage is a serious financial investment."

A DNA test of this type costs approximately $800 (in Martha's case, it would have cost $550 to test the cigarette butt and $240 for the sample saliva). The results take three weeks, although, for a 50-per-cent premium, you can receive a five-day turnaround. Most clients bring in undergarments, condoms and feminine hygiene products to be tested. And many end up opting for the cheaper, $400 semen-detection test.

Just this week, a Seattle-based company began selling semen-detection kits over the Internet (http://www.getcheckmate.com). Based on a similar spray-on product available in Japan, this $49.95 (U.S.) swab test detects acid phosphatase, an enzyme found in high levels in male ejaculate. The test detects semen on the body or in items of clothing, and might be used, for example, by a woman who suspects that her husband has just returned home from the arms of another woman.

"A lot of people laughed at us at first," says Brad Holmes, the company owner. "But now, they're amazed. We've begun a nationwide advertising campaign. And we expect to sell at least 1,000 units a month. I think it's going to be like the next pet rock or the next hula hoop . . . . Most people, at one time or another, think their spouse is cheating. Whether or not it's true, this is a good way to find out."

More and more, however, betrayed lovers are trying to answer questions about infidelity for themselves. And sometimes, all it takes is a phone call. The cellular phone has become one of the major causes of marital breakup in Britain, according to the British counselling service Relate.

"Growing numbers of couples are coming "for therapy sessions," having discovered that an affair was being conducted via a mobile," a spokesperson for the company told The Observer last year. Citing the case of one TV producer who was dumped after he inadvertently hit the redial button on his phone and left his partner a message meant for his actress lover, explaining that she was "far more sexy" than his partner, the spokesperson added: "We are seeing more and more relationships hit in this way."

Others have been tripped up by call display, saved messages, last-call return and received call logs. You can even buy a call-display monitor to plug into a hidden jack so your partner is unaware that you have the gadget. But the most dangerous modern convenience of all? Itemized billing, a common feature on cell phones in Canada, lists the phone number of every call dialled and received. The introduction of itemized billing in France, where the extramarital affair is practically tied with soccer as the nation's favourite sport, caused a huge uproar as thousands of affairs were uncovered. France Telecom eventually backed down and replaced the last four numbers on the bill with asterisks.

Rakes everywhere will agree that modern technology is ruining their lifestyle. "The computer age is killing us," A.J. Benza recently wrote in a Playboy magazine article titled The Perils of Adultery. "There was a time when beepers, car phones, faxes and voice mail were the perfect ways to keep in touch with your girlfriend. Not any more. Get rid of them all.

"Beepers, and the numbers they display, leave a wonderful paper trail for your wife to follow. A car phone is especially horrible the first time you forget to turn it off and it rings when your wife is with you . . . .

"And whatever you do, don't mess up your home phone with caller ID or any of that other mumbo-jumbo. All it adds up to is your wife's first big collar. She'll feel like Nancy Drew for the rest of her life when you say you're calling from work and the number flashing on the caller ID box is definitely not your work number."

Ha. They ain't seen nothing yet. Last summer, a telecommunications company in Hong Kong unveiled technology that could potentially turn cellular phones into tracking devices that will allow cell-phone firms to pinpoint a caller's location to within five metres. Although the technology is intended to locate 911 callers in distress, some observers say it's only a matter of time before location-tracking information becomes available to the masses, somewhat like TravelEyes. Available over the Internet for approximately $500, this GPS mapping software program can be hidden in a car, then downloaded onto a remote computer, to reveal the exact route the car has taken and the length of each stop.

But Benza is right about the effect of technology on the modern Nancy Drew. Do-It-Yourself Sleuthing is taking its toll on private detectives. Ken Willett, an investigator with the Toronto agency Tattle Tales, says his old-fashioned gum-shoe business is slowing down. "People want to try to catch their partners on their own." Willett also sells pin-hole cameras, voice-activated micro-cassette recorders that plug into hidden jacks and other high-tech spy gadgets. And he's doing a roaring business, which makes up for the lack of surveillance requests.

Although modern technology might be responsible for tripping up the modern adulterer, it has provided new opportunities for cheaters. Anthony DeLorenzo, a private eye in New Jersey who operates an infidelity support Web site (http://www.infidelity.com; see sidebar), says the Internet is "the best thing" that ever happened to private investigators.

"My business has increased 15 to 20 per cent because of housewives who are having affairs on the Internet." In the past, he says, the majority of his clients were women who wanted their husbands trailed. But now, the ratio has flipped.

Willett has witnessed the same revolution.

Take Mark, as a case-in-point. The 30-something business consultant was happily married to Angela, a stunning blonde event planner, for four years. Two years ago, he began to suspect that she might be fooling around when her best friend launched into a lusty affair. Mark went to Willett, who told him to save his money; in Willett's previous experience, jealous husbands were almost always wrong. Willett sold Mark a phone-recording device. But when that didn't turn up anything, Mark went back and begged Willett to take his money. 'Does she use the Internet?' Willett asked.

"That's when it hit me," recalls Mark. "She was on it every night and I had no idea what she was doing." A friend in the IT department at work made Mark a program that would send all of the e-mails his wife sent and received to his e-mail account. Nothing strange there. Then he made a second program which recorded all of her chat-room conversations. Bingo.

"There were 140 pages," Mark recalls. 'I sat down with a latte and started to read. It was brutal. I realized she and her boyfriend had met once or twice for coffee and dinner, but the, you know, key meeting was still being planned."

Mark hired Willett to trail his wife and her Internet lover to their romantic weekend getaway in Niagara Falls. Willett's men managed to get pictures of the two kissing, a room-service bill, plus credit-card receipts from the hotel. Mark's wife tried to explain it all away as a one-night stand until he confronted her with the saved computer cache. They were divorced shortly thereafter and Mark has since remarried.

"I've met the perfect woman," says Mark. "She doesn't know anything about computers."

VIRTUAL SUPPORT FOR THE BROKEN-HEARTED

You are not alone any more.

Infidelity.com is the brainchild of Anthony De Lorenzo, a New Jersey private investigator, author of 28 Tell-Tale Signs of a Cheating Spouse and darling of the daytime talk-show circuit. Billing itself as the No. 1 infidelity support network, the Web site has received 500,000 hits since it went up in October. This popular rendezvous for the broken-hearted offers a directory of experts (from divorce lawyers to fitness coaches), support groups, professional advice chat sessions and a bubbling discussion board on which the wronged partners can console one another and plot their revenge.

Herewith, a sample of the chat-room conversation:

TOPIC: Need inexpensive 'spy' equipment -- please read
Author: wondering

Posted: 05-08-2000 01:50 a.m.

I've been away for awhile, things have somewhat calmed down a bit in my life . . . . but I am still so paranoid about my boyfriend possibly cheating. It is starting to affect other areas of my life. (i.e. -- work, family, friends) I am getting desperate and although I don't want to spend a ton of money, I was wondering if any of you know if there is any way of tracking incoming/outgoing phone calls -- besides caller i.d. We have visible redial -- but it only shows the last number called, which could easily be erased. I need a piece of equipment that is tiny, and that he would not notice. Please, if any of you can help, I'd really appreciated.

I remain forever,

Wondering.

Author: angbri77

Posted 05-08-2000 06:49 p.m.

Hi . . . . Well I would probably tell you that if your 'gut' is telling you he's cheating then he probably is!!! But, there is a product out now called Checkmate and it is a semen detection kit . . . . It's like $50.00 for two kits or something like that and you can use it on ANY fabric or bedding . . . So, I hope you get the truth that you are looking for . . . Good luck!

Author: stronglady

Posted: 05-11-2000 07:55 p.m.

Call the phone company. A girlfriend of mine did to check on her cheating spouse, and she got a report that was FREE! Also, they would know of other devices if this service isn't offered in your area.

Another possibility is to get a different phone that had a better call history on it. I have one that the 'dial log' stores a bunch of numbers, and I have caller ID for incoming calls.

Time to get smart. You can do it.

TESTING, TESTING ... WHO'S THE FATHER?

Listen up, gentleman. You may have good reason to suspect that child is not yours.

For years, it has generally been assumed that women had more reason than men to be suspicious of their philandering spouses. But it appears that pregnancy on the sly is rising among women. Or perhaps it's just that technology is finally tripping them up.

According to the Max Planck Institute in Munich, the rate of wrongful paternity in stable monogamous marriages ranges from one in 10 with the first child to one in four with the fourth.

These statistics stand up around the world. In contested paternity cases, the rate of wrongful paternity is one in three in Texas and 36 per cent of all cases in Florida. In Australia, "about 3,000 paternity tests are carried out a year," notes the Alberta Report, citing an article from the Melbourne Age. "In about 20 per cent of cases, the purported father is found to be unrelated to the child."

Anecdotal evidence suggests these numbers bear out in Canada as well. In addition to infidelity tests, Maxxam Analytics in Guelph, Ont., performs approximately two paternity tests a day. And according to Dr. Wayne Murray, head of the human DNA department, one out of four men who come in pointing a finger at their spouse is not the biological father of the child in question.

According to the article in the Report, duping men into pregnancy has become a "cultural phenomenon" related to "the chiming of single female baby boomers' biological clocks" and a favourite subject of chat lines, soaps and movies.

"DNA testing is such a growth industry," the authors write, "that websites advertise the 'fastest and easiest solution to your problem' with 'direct to the public DNA paternity testing from just a few strands of your hair . . . at accuracy greater than 99.99 percent.' "

At Maxxam Analytics, the first private lab in Canada to receive government accreditation, approximately 60 per cent of the families requesting the $720 test spring not from the courts, but from the general public.

Copyright © 2000 Globe Information Services