If your marriage is on the rocks and you may be heading for a separation or a divorce, you need to take several proactive steps to protect yourself from allowing a spouse to access information that could later be used against you. You may not be able to completely stop a snooping spouse from gaining access, but where it makes sense, you should be sure your privacy is protected as much as possible.
Some of these strategies are more appropriate when you’re still living together, and others make sense after a separation has taken place.
Here are some things to consider:
iPhones and iCloud access. Cloud based storage has been around on Apple devices since 2011. It’s convenient and provides unlimited storage and sync solutions for users with multiple devices. Unfortunately, those multiple devices can also mean your spouse has access to your iCloud account. When you have a shared iCloud account with your spouse, it gives them access to just about everything on your iPhone, including your location, photographs, contacts and text messages.
To start, you can disable the GPS function by disabling the “Find My iPhone” function found under the Setting menu on your phone.
If you have and iPhone, iPad or an Apple computer, your data is automatically uploaded with the proper settings in place. Android users have a similar situation with data that is uploaded to Google+ cloud storage or some kind of similar cloud storage app. To prevent unwanted access by your spouse to your iCloud or similar account, you must change your device settings to and passwords to prevent that from taking place.
You can enhance security by enabling Two-Factor Authentication. This means there are two steps that must be taken before access is granted. When activated, a user enters their user name and password. A text message is then sent to the registered device with a security/verification code. That code must be entered to get access to the account.
Another way to give yourself maximum security is to simply create a separate iCloud account and do not share the information with your spouse.
Some spouses may consider accessing their partner’s SIM card which stores memory on a cell phone but is separate from the phone’s memory card. However, taking a SIM card out of another person’s phone for the purpose of spying on them without that person’s knowledge or consent could be illegal under state and federal laws. There are also software programs that can retrieve or alter SIM card information and while it’s legal to use this software to manage your own phone, using software to spy on a spouse is probably also illegal in most cases.
Your cell phone bill can reveal a lot. In addition to the information on your phone, keep in mind that your provider also keeps detailed records of all the calls you make and those calls are easily accessed by a spouse who is on the account with you.
If they are listed on the account and therefore responsible for paying the bill each month, then they also have a right to see all related records. You should consider having your spouse either removed from the bill or if that’s not possible, move your billing to a new account or a new provider.
Do you still have land lines? If you still have a land line at home, don’t give out that number to your attorney or any other person connected to your separation and divorce. If they leave a message, it could be discovered by your spouse and the information could reveal your strategies or other sensitive information that could be used to weaken your position. Always use your cell phone to receive calls.
Make your social media accounts less social. For many people, social media including Facebook, Instagram, SnapChat, Twitter and others are an integral part of their lives. If you suspect your spouse is snooping on your social media accounts, you can take the steps of blocking them from viewing your information.
If you’re not in a highly hostile relationship, at the very least you might want to review all the content on your accounts and delete anything that might be used against you. This is especially important if your spouse has either accused you of infidelity or may use that as a grounds for divorce which is allowable in some states. When adultery can be proven (perhaps by incriminating social media photos) then this can impact a number of things including alimony, child support and a division of assets.
Mail delivery is vulnerable. Whether your spouse is still living with you or not, it’s a smart idea to have any correspondence related to your divorce delivered to some place other than your home. Getting a private P.O. box is a cheap alternative or you can have any sensitive mail sent to a friend or a relative’s house. Even if a spouse is not living with you, it is a very simple process for them to drive by at any time and access your mail.
Accessing your home computer. If you have not made your intentions known regarding a separation or divorce, you need to be careful about what you research on a computer that both spouses may have access to in your home. When you’re not there, your spouse can access your browsing history, documents that you have downloaded or files that you would prefer to be kept private.
Another step you can take is to disable automatic logins. Many sites save information or keep users perpetually logged in as a convenience, but this can work against you with a snooping spouse. Go to your browser settings and delete saved passwords and disable the autofill function.
You might also consider using private browsing which means the pages you visit will not appear in your browsing history, cache pages or store cookies. You can also set your browser to delete your browsing history at regular intervals, such as once a day or once a week.
If you have a dedicated laptop that stays with you at all times, or a personal computer that requires a password for access, this is better to use if you are still in a discreet mode.
Shred those documents. Do not take the chance that anything you throw away in the trash is gone for good. Nosey spouses will rummage through the garbage. Instead, if you have sensitive documents and information you no longer need, buy a shredder and use it.
Accessing credit card information. If your spouse moves out and a separation has taken place, contact your credit card issuers and attempt to have your spouse removed from the account. Most will not do this and instead will require you to close the account and reopen a new and separate account in your own name. Doing so immediately means that a spouse will no longer have access to monthly statements that can show your spending habits and locations.
What about emails? Emails can be a bit trickier to deal with. While you might want to delete old emails and email accounts, you might be advised to check with an attorney first. If you delete information that might pertinent to your separation or divorce, you could be accused of intentionally destroying potential evidence and information that could have a bearing on your current situation.
Bank accounts are another obvious vulnerability. To prevent a spouse from draining an account prior to any formal separation action, it may be in your best interests to set up a separate bank account in your name only at the first sign of trouble. Keep in mind that while you may do this discreetly, at some point during a divorce you will need to disclose your financial holdings and assets. not doing so can result in some harsh penalties that could leave you in worse financial shape.
Are you feeling “bugged”? It’s sad to say, but in some instances a spouse may actually install programs on your cell phone that allows them to view text messages, call history, GPS information and other information by intercepting iCloud backups.
Landline phones may also be bugged as well. If you hear odd sounds or volume changes or you hear sounds coming from your phone after you hang up, it could be an indication of a bug. Another indicator of a bug is if your TV or FM radio suddenly develops interference.
Software also exists that allows for keystroke logging. Basically, software can be installed that tracks every character that you enter on your computer, including user names and passwords to all of your sensitive and private accounts. There are tools you can use to detect the presence of a keystroke logger. You can also run anti-virus software that can detect spyware or even prevent it from being installed in the first place.
Some spouses will even resort to installing hidden video cameras to surveil your activities. You’ve seen several “nanny cam” stories on the news in the past few years. Those same cameras work on spouses as well. There have also been instances of a spouse hiding a camera or recording device in a child’s toy or stuffed animal. “Teddy cams” can and have been used in some divorces.
There are limits on spying and violating state or federal statutes can result in various levels or prosecution ranging from fines to prison time in some instances.
If you think you are being recorded or bugged, tell your attorney immediately. A forensic expert to track the spying software or protections can be put in place to protect your privacy. If evidence of stalking or illegal spying is found, you can take possible criminal and civil actions.
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