Published July 16, 2014
Spouses that suspect their significant other is stepping out don’t have to track their every move, they just need to follow the money trail.
“People tend not to be very creative and smart when it comes to financing their affair,” says Marie Ebersacher, CBIZ forensic and financial services national practice leader. “They think they are doing a good job, but if you pay close attention they leave financial clues.”
Marilyn Stowe, senior partner at Stowe Family Law, says any changes to financial patterns should be a major red flag. “Having an affair is one thing, but when it starts changing a financial situation, that tends to mean it’s not a fling, that it's more serious.”
Here are 11 signs a spouse might be carrying on an affair:
The Cell phone Bill is $5 Higher. According to Ebersacher, cell phone bills are the best place to find an affair.
“For most plans it’s an extra $5 to add a line for the girlfriend or boyfriend and no one can ever really understand the charges on a cell phone bill so they just pay it. But then if you look closely, you will find a new number that has 4,000 texts with your spouse.”
Problems with the Corporate Card. If charges for hotels, rental cars and dinners start popping up under the excuse “it was for work, I will get reimbursed” or “my corporate card isn’t working, I will get reimbursed,” Ebersacher recommends paying close attention to whether the re-payments come.
“Track how much is being spent under this excuse and then look for the deposits. Work is a blanket excuse many people use to hide affairs,” she says.
Increased Cash Withdrawals. Using cash helps erase an affair’s paper trail, which is why Darrin Giglio, chief investigator at North American Investigations, says increased ATM visits can be a red flag.
“It’s not always a lot of cash being taken out, but it’s at different locations than what they normally use that are across town and not close to home or work.”
Online Account Passwords are Changed. Lack of financial transparency is always worrisome, says Diane Danois, a family law mediator. “If they all the sudden change bank account logins, don’t want to have shared bank accounts or credit cards, or change the billing address on bank and credit card statements, those should give reason to investigate what’s going on.”
Hours and Wages Don’t Add Up. “Honey I have to work late” is a common excuse to spend time outside the home, so to make sure this isn’t a cover-up attempt doubtful spouses should check paychecks.
“For hourly workers, they should be getting paid over-time for the extra hours being spent at the office. Or if they are salaried and bonus eligible, all those extra hours should get a monetary reward,” says Ebersacher.
The Mail Disappears. Being controlling over the mail can mean a spouse is trying to hide something.
“If it starts getting moved immediately to an office or another place and doesn’t even get the chance to hit the counter, that can’t be good,” says Ebersacher.
The Gas Bill is Higher. Increased gas fill ups (especially those not near work or home) means excess driving and should lead to questioning, says Giglio.
He also adds that statements from electronic toll passes can also show a spouse’s whereabouts. “Those bills give accurate times and dates of when people are going through tolls.”
Tax Returns Look Different. Tax returns divulge a lot of information about the filer, and Ebersacher says never to sign a return and just walk away.
“That form will show if stocks or an IRA have been liquidated, if employee stock was sold or options were converted—all things that could be used to help finance an affair.”
She also advises partners review brokerage account statements for any unusual activity. “People don’t look at these in detail. In fact, I just sold a bunch of employee stock options and my husband wouldn’t have known if I hadn’t told him.”
Household Money Practices Get Stricter. If a partner suddenly has an interest in running the household finances or becomes more strict over the finances, that can be a sign something is amiss, says Giglio.
“If all the sudden the spouse is put on financial restraint and told not to spend money when it hasn’t been an issue before, that could hint they are hiding their own spending.”
New Junk Mail Arrives. Getting an increased amount of credit card offers from banks not currently used can be a signal another account has been opened.
Credit Scores Unexpectedly Drop. It’s common for a cheating spouse to open a new credit card to hide affair-related purchase or change the billing address on existing credit and bank statements to either the office or a P.O. box.
Stowe says it’s common for the double-timer to rack up debt carrying out the affair and get desperate. “They will take out a home equity loan, make up work-related excuses to get money from friends and family."
Giglio recalls a case of a wife being married for 30 years only to discover during the divorce process that he had taken out multiple lines of credit, re-mortgaged the house and incurred massive debt to hide his mistress. “Both people need to have control over the finances and know where money is being spent to protect themselves.”