How an Oyster card could ruin your marriage

Lipstick on the collar may point to infidelity, but a check of your travel card can reveal where and when it happened

Oyster cards, the "smart" little blue thing in London commuters' wallets that enable them to travel at will around the capital, have another, unexpected function. They could also be a one-way ticket to the divorce courts.

For the cards, introduced by the London Mayor, Ken Livingstone, in 2003, don't only let you on to public transport - they also record your every journey. And, private detectives and lawyers report, that is information the suspicious are accessing to track their partner's movements.

And they are increasingly finding that the night she said she was working late in the City, she was actually hopping off the Northern line at Morden, staying there for some hours, before returning to town at 11.17pm. Or when he said he was playing football on Hackney Marshes his informative little Oyster card reveals that he was really catching a bus in Parsons Green.

The electronic lipstick-on-the-collar is revealed to anyone - the holder or their partner - who takes the card to a machine on the Underground or keys in its serial number on a website to get a read-out of every journey taken in the past 10 weeks.

One private investigator said: "Oyster cards won't tell you that the bloke's been cheating on his wife, but it will show if he's been in one part of town when he's supposed to be somewhere else. It is an easy thing to confront your partner with. It doesn't look like you've been snooping around too much."

The use of the cards is the latest weapon in the growing high-tech arsenal of tools used by suspicious partners. A telltale sign such as lipstick on the collar has been replaced by technological snooping such as placing a tracking device on a mobile phone.

Several internet sites now offer mobile phone tracking as a service to worried parents keen to know the whereabouts of their child. But private investigators said spouses who suspect that their partner is cheating are increasingly using mobile phone tracking sites.

Although an SMS message is sent to the mobile that is being tracked confirming the process, if this is deleted before the "target" sees it he or she has no way of knowing they are being followed.

Peter Heims, spokesman for the Association of British Investigators, said technology was transforming the private detective industry.

"Trackers are used on husbands all the time," he said. "You can get one with a magnetic bottom which you stick to the underside of the car. It will track the vehicle via satellite and is accurate to within 10 feet. A lot of companies now use this to check where their travelling salesmen have been."

From software that records every single tap on your lover's keyboard to DIY lie-detector kits, the market for catching a cheating spouse is now bigger than ever.

A company called OverSpy will let you monitor everything your partner does on computer by sending you email reports of the websites visited and emails sent.

Another firm has software that allows someone to retrieve secretly text messages deleted from a partner's phone. All that's needed is the SIM card.

A quick search reveals more than 14,000 websites that will help uncover a partner's infidelities, whether it is opening letters secretly or tapping a partner's mobile answerphone.

Proving adultery is no longer necessary for a court to grant a divorce. But the growth in technology in this area has enabled partners to check their suspicions in a way that was never possible before.

Divorce lawyers said they were sceptical that Oyster cards would be used in divorce proceedings, but accepted that it could lead more people to realise their relationship was over.

Lisa Fabian Lustigman, a family lawyer at city firm Withers LLP, said: "I would never instruct a private investigator to try to track down someone's Oyster card records to prove adultery. I don't think it would be overwhelmingly helpful."

But it has already happened in Hong Kong, where a similar scheme was introduced eight years ago. Suspicious husbands and wives obtained print-outs of their spouse's travel card to use as evidence in divorce proceedings. In the former British colony, the "smart" cards are used for shopping as well.

If London follows Hong Kong's example, Oyster cards will soon become even more useful for the distrusting partner.

Transport bosses in London hope to expand the concept here, allowing card holders to pay for their shopping in nearly 4,000 shops with their travel card. The records of where a person has shopped, as well as where they have travelled, will then be stored on the card.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Books should be for everyone, says Els, 8. Publisher Scholastic now agrees
booksAn eight-year-old saw a pirate book was ‘for boys’ and took on the publishers
Life and Style
Mary Beard received abuse after speaking positively on 'Question Time' about immigrant workers: 'When people say ridiculous, untrue and hurtful things, then I think you should call them out'
tech
Life and Style
Most mail-order brides are thought to come from Thailand, the Philippines and Romania
life
News
i100
Life and Style
tech
Voices
Margaret Thatcher, with her director of publicity Sir Gordon Reece, who helped her and the Tory Party to victory in 1979
voicesThe subject is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for former PR man DJ Taylor
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Cancer Research UK: Corporate Partnerships Volunteer Events Coordinator – London

Voluntary: Cancer Research UK: We’re looking for someone to support our award ...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions