August 20, 2015
After hackers posted the names of tens of millions of users of the adultery website Ashley Madison, spouses who did their cheating the old-fashioned way – offline – may have thought that they were still safe.
Unfortunately, it looks like everyone is getting tougher scrutiny. Private detective company Trustify reports that their caseload has skyrocketed since they put up a web tool that allows people to check if an email address was in the Ashley Madison leak.
More than one million people have entered an email address into Trustify’s search tool and their caseload has increased 15 times since the data was released, company spokeswoman Cathryn Marcuse said. She declined to give more precise numbers, saying they were proprietary.
Many of Trustify’s new customers want to investigate their spouses even if they didn’t find their email address in the Ashley Madison data.
"We're seeing a lot of people who didn't know how easy it was (to have an affair)...now they're curious and they're worried and they want peace of mind," Marcuse said.
While the search tool is free, a hit on an email address in no way guarantees that your loved one was using Ashley Madison. The email addresses aren’t verified, so Trustify offers a more detailed report for $199 that looks at the user’s credit card information and IP address to verify that the account is real.
"Credit card information really is the smoking gun," Marcuse said.
Marcuse said the company, which is based in Washington, D.C. and connects people to a network of over 2,000 private investigators, has had to hire more staff to answer phone calls and handle the increased interest in PI services, she claims.
But is it ethical for Trustify to be profiting off of stolen data?
Now that the information is out there, Marcuse argued, private investigators have an obligation to their clients to use it.
"We felt we had a responsibility to the truth and to our customers to provide access to it,” she said.
Marcuse said that Trustify has “no agenda” except to help worried spouses.
“We’re in the business of providing truth, providing facts," she said. "We're not in the business of proactively outing people. We're not in the business of public shaming. We provide answers to people who have questions.”
With the hackers announcing on Thursday that they soon plan to release 20 more gigabytes of data, it looks like there will be no shortage of people with questions anytime soon.