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Spying Spouses in the Digital Age - Valley News Live - KVLY/KXJB - Fargo/Grand Forks

Spying Spouses in the Digital Age

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In this new age of technology, spy gadgets are no longer just for actors in James Bond movies. Studies show more spouses are using spy equipment to catch the other red-handed.

The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers says in the past three years 92 percent of divorce attorneys saw an increase in evidence from text messages, emails and GPS trackers. In fact in 2011, a Minnesota man was thrown in jail for installing a GPS on his wife's car as he searched for proof she was cheating.

Valley News Team's Hope Hanselman investigated what hidden devices might be keeping tabs on you and what trouble it's digging up.

Jane, who's name we changed for her safety and privacy tells Valley News Live how it all started, "I started noticing things were different with him. He was putting on jeans instead of sweat pants, he was shaving and things that he didn't normally do."

When does suspicion become paranoia? When does a hunch become a call to action? For Jane, that call came from an unknown number.

"Well, this female had called our home, which raised suspicions of course," Jane explains. "He came home from work said, 'well the dogs need to lose some weight, I need to lose some weight, so I'm going to start walking the dogs.'"

Since that day, her husband of ten years left the house every night at 11:00 p.m. for what she thought was harmless exercise… but turned out to be something much different.

"In a month or two the dogs weren't losing any weight, he wasn't losing any weight. I knew something was going on and I looked for it and I found it"

So Jane took matters into her own hands, calling on a professional like Fargo's Don Fischer.

"They always come in and tell me they have a couple of teenagers they're trying to keep track of," Fischer explains. "But as they are talking it usually comes out it's a spouse they're checking up on."

Fischer sells espionage technology at "The Spy Shop" selling technologies that track passwords, logins and every key stroke you make. They are meant for security purposes, but have become another set of eyes for husbands and wives.

"Every time the phone rings it will record whether you're there or not, Fischer says as he explains the technology. "Cameras in everything from calculators to picture frames to alarm clocks to smiley face buttons."

Curious spouses like Jane are fueling Fischer's business. She bought voice recorders and hid them around the house. And Jane knows first hand that even the investigation didn't always feel right.

"You almost feel deceptive when you're doing it cause you don't know if it's true."

Jane installed a GPS on her husband's cell phone, and even hacked into his personal phone records.

"It was a caller ID box from a spy company and it recorded both incoming and outgoing calls and I connected it and I hid it behind the entertainment center."

Jane had her proof there was another woman.

Family lawyer Jason McLean says many of his clients hit a crossroads.

"Because we tell them as attorneys it is only what you can prove by evidence, it's not about how you feel or what you believe, it's only about what you can prove, so then they have to go gather evidence."

But McLean says hidden cameras, voice recorders and GPS devices violate most states' privacy laws.

"They could end up with a call from the Cass County Sheriff's Department, the Fargo PD, the West Fargo PD, they could be hit with restraining orders."

Jane could have faced thousands of dollars of fines for stalking, but according to her, it would have been minor compared to the price she was already paying.

"It was an emotional whirlwind that almost took me under a few times," Jane expressed to Valley News Team's Hope Hanselman. "I felt like I was going crazy and I started to think at times, well maybe my kids are better off without me starts to cry but um deep breath in through the strength of God I think I just pulled it together and went, this is not happening

Proof, she says, was her only way out

"At the point that I heard the voicemail messages from her to him, that was my switch."

Jane's 7 months of research would have likely been thrown out in family court according to McLean.

"Adultery, cheating, those kinds of things, they don't really move the ball at all, there's not much the courts going to do with them."

But when truth lies where legal and moral lines cross, trouble is close behind.

"When you're in my shoes you're not going to walk away from a marriage," Jane explains. "And a life and a family without digging in and find out the absolute truth."

Legal experts tell Valley News Live privacy violations are judged on a case by case basis, and each state differs a little in their interpretation. As a rule of thumb for those thinking of spying on a significant other: They say if it feels wrong, it's probably illegal.

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