MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Ted Scott is a master at airing other people's dirty laundry.
"I went through a divorce, and on the other side of it realized I might have been able to leverage some of this type of material," Scott said. "I can only imagine other people can too."
Scott, of Verity Digital Forensics, gets paid to recover electronic evidence from computers and cell phones: hidden files, pictures, text messages, the kind of stuff people don't want anyone else to see.
"It's very difficult to get subtly and nuanced sometimes, so usually people are more explicit (online)," Scott said.
That was the case for one Mid-South mom, who we'll call Desiree. She thought she'd married the man of her dreams.
"It was good, I felt. We had two daughters together," Desiree said. "I really felt like I had the perfect husband."
That is, until her husband's behavior started to change.
"I was using his laptop one day. A message came up on Facebook, and he snatched his laptop from me."
Relying on intuition, Desiree started digging, and discovered a digital footprint of her husband's infidelity.
"'Hell yes, I've been trying to get some of that good (expletive) of yours and you know it,'" Desiree said, reading off a Facebook conversation she came across on her husband's account. "Her reply was, 'I know right, but soon, I promise you. I owe you some.'"
Desiree took screenshots of the conversations, hired an attorney, and filed for divorce--a trend growing as fast as the number of people using social media.
"It's the most low-lying fruit," Memphis divorce attorney Miles Mason said. "It's the easiest thing to get evidence when it's on our office's desktop computer."
Mason said he obtains evidence several ways, but the most common are reviewing public posts and getting a court order for private ones.
"Somewhere, some client's spouse is putting information on Facebook or LinkedIn that is helpful to our case," Mason said.
When the court order is issued, that's when Scott goes to work.
He said even though spouses may try to delete or hide salacious conversations and photos, the supposed "clean up" is never as spotless as the cheater might think.
"Infidelity is usually not that hard to prove, unless people have gone to great lengths to lie about it and are very smart about it," Mason said. "Which most people are not."
When going through a divorce social media can be a powerful tool in your corner or it can be an area of abuse. Scott made the following list of things you should do with your online footprint in the event of a split up:
- Create strong passwords for your social media accounts using a combination of letters, numbers and symbols.
- Passwords that are easily guessed can be easily hacked.
- Ensure the passcodes on your mobile devices are truly secure.
- If you have an Apple product, change your Apple ID to keep your spouse from cloning your account onto another device.
- Take a social media vacation. Stop posting. What you post can and will be used against you.
- Verify your privacy settings.
- If you are still living together, remember to always logout of your accounts on any shared or unsecured devices.
- Work with your carrier to preserve phone records, including call and data details.
- Keep a list of dates, names, email addresses, phone numbers, unusual events -- anything that might be helpful in a forensic examination.
- Scan your computer for spyware.
- Google yourself. Protect your reputation from a vindictive spouse.
"You need to be aware of what's going on in the online world as it relates to you," Scott warned. "We had a case where a vindictive spouse posted compromising pictures on various porn sites of his now ex-wife."
Here's a list of things Scott said you should never do online during a divorce:
- Don't try to hack or guess your way into your spouse's social media or email accounts.
- Don't start cleaning up your accounts. The court may harshly penalize you for destruction of potential evidence.
- Don't install spyware.