Michael B. Duff

Lubbock's answer to a question no one asked

Duff: Salacious e-mail propositions could lead to imploding marriages

Last week I got a letter from a woman who wanted to know if her husband was cheating on her. The husband had received an e-mail from a “nice pretty girl” offering to send him some pictures.

This was a typical junk e-mail, colloquially known as spam. I could give you a long explanation of the term, involving meat products and Monty Python skits, but all you really need to know is that spam is a slang term for unsolicited commercial e-mail and that people who send it are called spammers. Spamming used to be a mom and pop business, but these days most of it comes from quasi-criminal organizations in Asia and Eastern Europe.

So here’s the moral question: If a Russian spammer pretending to be a young girl offers to send you pictures, and you write her back, is that the same as cheating on your wife?

There’s no real girl on the other end of that line, no real-life mistress in chat or on the telephone. Maybe the husband knew that and was just looking for free pornography, or maybe he fell for the scam and thought he was flirting with a real girl.

But if there’s no one on the other end of the line, does it still count as cheating? Is fishing for pornography online as serious as digital infidelity?

I can’t offer much help to the concerned wife, but I do have some advice for potential cheating husbands. In all my years of hanging around chat rooms, e-mail lists and online forums I have learned one important thing: Unless you have a computer science degree, you’re probably not smart enough to cheat on your wife.

Every word you type, every mail you send, every Web site you visit is recorded in your computer to some degree, and those actions leave traces, even if you think you’re being careful. Some guys try to be clever. They set up anonymous e-mail accounts and clear out their cache files; they use fake names and set up secret lines of credit.

But even if you’re careful in the beginning, can you be careful every day? Which is more suspicious, a browser history with a couple racy Web sites in it, or a browser history with no information at all?

So here’s my final word to cheating husbands: Real girls don’t offer naked pictures to total strangers, and nobody learns computer sleuthing faster than a jilted wife.

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Written by Michael B. Duff

May 25, 2007 at 15:22

Posted in Columns

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