If you’re stuck in a combative marriage with a controlling or abusive spouse, he or she may be exerting control over you by attempting to track your every move.
In a world where we’re all constantly connected to our phones, iPads and computers, there are plenty of opportunities for your spouse to track your whereabouts and monitor your communications.
Not only is it an undue invasion of privacy, but it can also lead to dangerous consequences with a spouse who may be angered by what they see.
More often than not, it’s husbands who are guilty of spying, but it’s not unheard of for wives to take on covert operations as well.
I sat down with private investigator Joe Seanor to learn more about the steps you can take if you suspect your husband or wife is spying on you.
Why would someone’s husband (or wife) spy on them?
Joe Seanor: There are lots of different reasons that someone’s spouse might spy on them. Here are a few of the more common:
- Your spouse is controlling, insecure or narcissistic
- Your spouse suspects you of having an affair
- Your spouse is cheating on you (and is suspicious that you might be doing the same)
- Your spouse may suspect you’re drinking or using drugs
In some cases, your spouse might be planning for a divorce and is gathering evidence to use against you in court.
How to Tell if Your Spouse is Spying on You
What are the ways that your spouse can spy on you?
Cell phones are the primary source that these people will spy on you with, because everybody has their cell phone with them all the time. It’s a great way of collecting information, so husbands who want to spy will always try and put spyware on there.
Now, the other way is through your laptop, desktop, or tablet as well.
A third way is your car, where they’ll put a GPS tracker on the car.
Can you go into more detail on each of these?
Let’s start with your cell phone. When a spouse is using the cell phone to spy on you, there are two ways to do it. They can put spyware on the cell phone, which basically captures everything on that cell phone to a server outside the United States, and then the spouse can connect to it and see everything.
One tip off for a spouse is that if there’s spyware on the cell phone, the cell phone battery will die a lot faster than normal, because what’s happening is spyware duplicates every single thing you do on the cell phone. So, when you send a text message, the spyware makes a copy of that text message and sends it off to the server. It’s doing double duty for everything on the phone. That means the battery life is basically cut in half.
You can also look at your cell phone bill, specifically look at the data. I had one client that I talked to about this, she called me back and said, “I looked at my cell phone bill. It says I used four gigs of data this month.”
I said, “Great. Look at the previous month.”
“Look at the month before that.”
Two gigs. Wait a minute, what? It showed two gigs. She went from two gigs a month on average to suddenly going to four gigs, and that was the time that she suspected that her husband had put spyware on her phone.
Just like with the battery, the spyware’s doing double duty and it is sending everything through data. So your data usage automatically doubles. That means if your data plan suddenly goes from two gigs a month to four gigs, something’s going on.
Are there any other ways that you can detect spying through your phone?
Battery life and data usage are the most common ways to look at it. If the spouse does not put spyware on your cell phone, and you have an iPhone and you have iCloud turned on, if your spouse knows your iCloud account and your iCloud password, they can get pretty much get an exact copy of your cell phone without putting any spyware on it. That’s because the iCloud is designed to make a backup of your cell phone every morning just in case the iPhone crashes, and then Apple can restore your phone to the way it was first thing in the morning or the day before.
The way they do that is by mirroring everything on your phone up to the cloud, so by doing that the spouse doesn’t have to put spyware on your iPhone. They just simply log into your iCloud account with your password. There are a couple of websites that all they do is put in your account and your password and this website downloads the iCloud backup every morning and parses it out into all your text messages, web searches, phone calls, voice messages, web searches, location, everything for them. That way your spouse doesn’t have to have spyware on your phone if it’s an iPhone.
If it’s an Android phone, if they know your Google account and Google password, they can go into your Google backup and look at all that same information as well.
So, the cell phone is a huge, huge way of collecting information. That is the number one way people will always try and spy on you is by using your cell phone against you.
What other ways can your spouse spy on you electronically?
Yes, absolutely. Now, let’s say you’re dealing with a person that you caught spying on you and they say, “Oh no no, I’m not going to do that anymore.” And your cell phone is clean, there’s absolutely nothing on it.
But maybe you have an iPad at home. Or maybe you have an Android tablet. If they say they’re not spying on your cell phone, maybe they’ve moved all that to the iPad or to the Android tablet instead, because they’re not spying on your phone anymore. They’re only doing it on the iPad. Keep in mind the iPad has your account on it. It also mirrors what’s going on.
So, a spying spouse can switch it from a direct device, which is your cell phone, to an external device such as a tablet.
The number of times that we’ve seen people spying on computers, installing spyware on laptops, desktops and so forth, those instances are going down more and more. The majority of everything is going after the cell phones and the tablets. That’s where the majority of the spying is right now.
Tell us about how someone’s spouse can spy on them through tracking their car.
Sure. People can put trackers on a car. We’ve found a number of trackers on people’s cars. The other thing that we’re finding more and more happening is people are buying brand new cars, like Tesla’s. The thing about a Tesla is that it is basically a driving network. You can put an app on your phone that tracks where that car is, how fast it’s going. You can adjust all kinds of things with it.
If your husband bought you a Tesla or one of the other electric vehicles that has an app, they can track you through the app at any point in time.
We had one client whose husband bought her a Tesla. She knows that he’s tracking her. She has separated from him and she is trying to get as far away as possible from him. The problem is, he bought the car. The car is in his name. Tesla will not remove his access, because he is the owner of that car. So, until she can get rid of that car or buy a new car, he will always be able to track her no matter what.
Is that based on who purchased the car or is that based on whose name the title is in?
Whoever’s name is on the title, that is who Tesla goes by.
Let’s say in this case wife was awarded the Tesla in divorce and they ended up transferring title over to her, then that would no longer be a concern? Would she have the ability to override that, but until that happens, she’s at risk?
Exactly. And that is a huge problem with these cars. There’s a couple of other newer cars that just came out. There was a Toyota that a client brought over to our office, and wanted it searched for GPS trackers. When I went out to the car and I looked at it, it was a brand new 2019, and I looked it up online.
What I discovered was, “This thing has its own hotspot. It’s a walking GPS tracker. I mean it’s a driving GPS tracker. There is no way to clear this out. This is all completely a hotspot that this guy could follow wherever she goes. His name’s on the title, you’re out of luck with this.”
How did that situation get resolved?
She ended up having to sell the car to go to an older car that doesn’t have any of these things built into it.
This can be related back to cell phones too. When people are using spyware or tracking their spouses, the number one way to do it is through a cell phone
And when it comes to the cell phone, here’s what everybody needs to look at. There are two big things Who bought the phone, and who pays the bill.
If the husband bought the phone and the husband pays the monthly bill, most courts have been siding with the husband on this, because he is considered under 18 USC 1030 to be the administrator of that device, and therefore he can put whatever control he wants on it.
So, if he bought the phone and pays the monthly bill, he can pretty much put everything on it he wants or track the phone however he wants.
However, if she’s bought the phone and he pays the monthly bill, he absolutely cannot do it.
If he puts any spyware or monitors her account in any way, he is violating state and federal law at that point. So most of the time when we meet with our clients, we go through these things as well. We find out, “Okay, the cell phone you have, who bought the phone?”
“Oh, my husband did.”
“Okay, who pays the monthly bill?”
“Oh, he does.”
All right, you need a new cell phone, because he can put anything on that cell phone and could be doing anything he wants and you’re out of luck, so you need a separate cell phone.” And then we will help set up a phone for them.
We always make sure we image, we do a forensic image of any device, whether it’s a cell phone, a tablet, a computer that they bring to us, because whether or not they end up doing a full forensics report on a device or whatever it is, we’ve at least preserved at that moment in time exactly what was going on with that device, what is on that device, anything.
Because spyware when it’s installed on a phone, it can be remotely removed as well. So if they come in and they talk to us and then we image the device and then they go to the attorney and the husband finds out that they went to talk to an attorney, he can remotely remove this spyware from the phone, but now we’ve got a forensic copy to show exactly what was on that phone at the time. If the spyware’s there, we have got it preserved at that point in time.
If someone buys a new phone, I imagine that would be a red flag to the spying spouse. What do you recommend that someone does if they find out their husband is spying on them, and how can they protect themselves?
Well what we normally do when our clients come into the office is that we have everybody shut off their cell phone. That’s first and foremost.
We also have what’s called a cell phone blocker bag that we have them put this cell phone into so that it blocks it from any and all signals that will try and get to the phone or get out of the phone, but we always make sure that when we’re talking to a client, they have no cell phones with them.
They either turn them off or they go back out to their car and leave them in the car. We make sure that they understand that, “Hey, there could be spyware on here. They could be monitoring your account remotely using iCloud or the Google backup to be able to do this. Therefore, this is what you need to look out for.”
If you want secure communications, we always tell our clients to use an encrypted texting application to be able to contact us so that no one else can find out what’s going on, because when you go to an encryption program, then anybody that’s monitoring what’s going on with the phone is not going to be able to pick up what’s going on.
Most of these encryption programs now have what is called a virtual keyboard so that if spyware is present on the phone, it will not be able to mask the virtual keyboard as opposed to the cell phone keyboard.
That means it can keep their conversations private, but usually when they’re in a situation where they’re concerned about their spouse finding out, we always recommend that they get a new cell phone.
Most of the time we will work with them to have a cover story for them to have this phone so that if a spouse does find it, it’s not going to end up being a problem, because we’re always concerned about safety and security with our clients.
So in some cases your client may continue to keep the spyware on but at least be aware of it and covertly be able to act covertly in other capacities. In other cases, you’re helping them develop a believable story to be able to remove the access that their husband has to spy on them?
Absolutely, because we’ve got to always be concerned about the safety of the client.
What else is important for people to know if they’re potentially concerned that their spouse is spying on them?
If they suspect their spouse is spying on them, they need to think about why they’re being spied on.
The other thing they must do is make sure that they’re safe, because if the spouse is spying on them, safety needs to be the number on concern.
If that’s the case and they suspect their spouse is spying on them, they absolutely need to come and see us. They need to come and see a private investigator so that they can talk with an expert that has been in this field, that is experienced with this type of situation.
We work with this one ladies’ group, that when we have clients who are in a situation like that, we will have them go meet with this ladies’ group, because this is a group of abused women. It’s part of a larger strategy of them finding out other ways to stay safe and what they may need to do, and if there’s anything they need to be worried about.
If someone is concerned for their safety, do private investigators offer any sort of protection services?
We do surveillance work and bodyguard work to protect against an abusive husband (or wife). We have instances when the husband is handed divorce papers, we will have one of our agents there with the spouse to make sure that everything goes according to plan, that the spouse suddenly doesn’t strike out at her or something like that. We will have protection there for her.
If it’s a situation where the spouse has to move out, then we’ll also have protection there to ensure that the move out goes safely and smoothly.