(Dec. 3) -- Tiger Woods has long since mastered the use of every club in his golf bag. Yet he, like many Americans, apparently is still learning the hazards of communicating too openly by modern methods such as text messaging.
Woods is certainly not alone. As communication technology continues to evolve, unfaithful partners are finding it easier to keep in touch with their illicit lovers -- but it's also a lot easier to get caught.
The golf champion has said only that "I have let my family down" through unspecified "transgressions." But one of his alleged mistresses, Jaimee Grubbs, says she still has 300 text messages sent to her by Woods. In one, Grubbs tells RadarOnline.com, Woods says, "Send me something very naughty. ... Go to the bathroom and take [a picture]."
Us Weekly magazine has also posted a voice mail Grubbs says is from Woods, warning that his wife has examined his cell phone and may have discovered the former cocktail waitress' name via caller ID.
"Any electronic means of communication -- a cell phone call, an e-mail or a text message -- will leave some sort of trail behind," said Ed Edmister, a private investigator and computer forensic expert at Integrity Security & Investigation Services, which has branches in California and Virginia. "Even if you toss your phone in an incinerator or dump your computer in a lake, there are still records kept by phone and Internet companies. Digital forensics has become a huge field."
Of course, not every spouse needs to hire a private investigator, or send in a partner's cell phone to one of the dozens of companies that specialize in recovering deleted text messages and call logs. Sometimes, the evidence is hiding in plain sight.
Take the case of Tony, a 38-year-old Jacksonville, Fla., man who did not want to use his real name for this article. After eight years of marriage, Tony began an affair with a younger woman. "We sent text messages to each other all the time," Tony said. "I carried my cell phone with me wherever I went."
After staying out late one night with his mistress, Tony slept in while his wife and two sons ate breakfast together in the kitchen. His cell phone, carelessly left in a coat pocket, chirped to indicate a text message had been received. "My 8-year-old son picked it up and read the message aloud," Tony recalled. "It said, 'Good morning, honey. Have a good day.'"
Tony's wife snatched the phone from her son's hand, headed into the bedroom and confronted her husband. Six months later, the couple divorced.
"Infidelity is so much easier today," said Ruth Houston, author of "Is He Cheating on You? 829 Telltale Signs" and a widely cited infidelity expert. "In the past, a potential cheater would go to a bar or a nightclub -- very risky stuff when you're in a marriage. Now you can sit down in your home and click on a mouse and find willing partners."
Thanks to unreliable self-reporting, trustworthy infidelity statistics are difficult to come by. But a recent study sponsored by the National Science Foundation, and reported in The New York Times, showed marked increases in infidelity among both men and women from 1991 to 2006.
"Infidelity is definitely on the rise because of technology," Houston said.
Even in innocuous ways, the Internet can bring together aspiring adulterers. After all, the Web is quick to sort users into affinity groups. Two people who meet in a dedicated chat room already have some interest in common, and that can foster a rapid sense of intimacy.
"Women, especially, crave emotional intimacy," Houston said. "E-mail or chatting can start off innocently, but if there are actual connections, relationships develop quickly."
In any case, adulterers are slow to grasp that modern communication devices are not nearly as private and secure as many people believe. Just ask South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, whose e-mails to his mistress, Maria Belen Chapur, were first made public by The State, a Columbia, S.C., newspaper.
Kwame Kilpatrick, the former mayor of Detroit, suffered a similar turn in the electronic pillory. Some 6,000 text messages from his mistress' pager were posted online by The Detroit Free Press and helped lead to his conviction on perjury charges.
Those politicians are certainly not the only ones to be caught with their virtual pants down. Digital technology, which has democratized almost everything it touches, is making adultery accessible to the masses.