Sunday, January 27, 2013


(U.S.A.) Manti Te'o, the US college footballer revealed to have been conducting a relationship with a fake online girlfiend, has denied that he was involved in the hoax.

In his first interview since the revelations, the Notre Dame linebacker told the sports network ESPN that there was "no way" he could have been involved in prepetrating the scam.

There had been speculation that Te'o was involved in the hoax: the "girlfriend" was revealed to have died hours shortly after the death of his grandmother. Despite the apparent double tragedy, Te'o went on to play the game of his life when Notre Dame beat Michigan State 20-3.

It has been suggested that he was involved in creating the story in order to perpetrate a media-friendly myth to assist his Heisman Trophy candidacy.

But in a two-and-a-half hour interview with ESPN, conducted off camera, Te'o said he was the victim of the hoax: "When they hear the facts they'll know. They'll know there is no way I could be a part of this."

The comments were Te'o's first public remarks since Deadspin.com reported that his girlfriend not only did not die but, in fact, never existed. Notre Dame and Te'o insist he was the victim of a cruel joke.

According to a report of the interview on ESPN's website, it appears that Te'o concocted an elaborate story to hide the fact that he had not physically met the woman, known as Lennay Kekua. He lied to his father about the affair, who then told reporters that the pair had met. Te'o now says he never met the woman.

On the occasions they talked on video chat online, the woman never activated her camera. Te'o admitted to meeting Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, a man believed to be behind the hoax, but said he did not know of the scam.

"I even knew that it was crazy that I was with somebody that I didn't meet," he told ESPN. "And that alone people find out that this girl who died I was so invested in, and I didn't meet her as well."

Before Friday night, Te'o's only statement was to declare his embarassment at the Deadspin revelations. "This is incredibly embarrassing to talk about, but over an extended period of time, I developed an emotional relationship with a woman I met online. We maintained what I thought to be an authentic relationship by communicating frequently online and on the phone, and I grew to care deeply about her.

"To realize that I was the victim of what was apparently someone's sick joke and constant lies was, and is, painful and humiliating." 




Tuesday, January 22, 2013


Online relationship Pictures, Images and Photos

Is "real" love possible to attain via computer? There are many factors that come into play when two people fall in love. Some cannot be described in a definitive way; such as chemical attraction. Other factors are qualities that we find in another person that compliment our desires of a “perfect” mate. Honesty, integrity, loyalty, caring, a fun loving personality and good morals are just a few of these qualities. Many woman and men alike, have “fallen in love” over the internet. They have done so, without the possibility of truly seeing any of these qualities in the other person. So before we put our hearts on the line, we must ask ourselves; is it truly possible to love someone via computer?

The majority of people who believe they have discovered true love without actually meeting the other person, have done so by implementing a type of instant messenger or video conferencing. We will focus on this element, as the element of a webcam can be misleading. When two people find each other and begin to chat online, one of two things happens. Either they do not feel a connection or they do. If a connection is felt, this can quickly escalate into chatting every day. They believe they have discovered the excitement that one feels when meeting someone new. However, they have not really met, have they?

It is a fact that many people are lonely. This is not new to us, many single people are busy with work, single moms are busy with their children and it can be very daunting and difficult to find a meaningful relationship in the “real” world. With personal computers in the majority of every household, many people turn to this internet environment when they are lonely and wish for someone to talk to.

It is important to realize that the world inside a computer is not, and never can be, the real world. When craving acceptance, love, caring, attention and a relationship, one can easily be led astray into the art of misperception. Often, this misperception is not done on purpose. Both people involved in the online relationship do not even realize this is happening.

The truth of the matter is this: the key elements of a true and loving relationship cannot materialize through a computer. You may wish for them, daydream of them and tell yourself they exist, but they do not.

Starting with physical and chemical attraction: a person may feel they are attracted to the image on a webcam but this in no way is the actual person that exists. Anyone who owns a webcam surely understands that it is very easy to show yourself in a good light via cam. If you feel that you are completely attracted to the other person, ask yourself this: Do you entirely show your true self on your cam? Webcams are an image of you, a moving image and very far from what you are perceived as in person. If you are attracted to someone via cam, ask yourself, have you stood close to him or her and taken in the presence of his or her body? Do you love the fragrance of their cologne/ perfume? Do you love the feel of their kisses? When they hug you, is it done strongly or softy? Do you love those hugs? When you touch their hair, do you admire the feel of it? The smell of it? The answer, of course is no. You have no idea what this person is like in person nor how you feel physically and emotionally when touching them.

Qualities such as honesty, loyalty, integrity, caring and general overall mood are extremely important to a strong and loving relationship. If a person possesses these qualities, it can then free you to respect the person and set a ground for trust and a feeling of safety. Someone who is in love online, may debate that they have seen these qualities already. To this, I ask:

Are you there in the house when they get home from work and see what they do with all of their spare time?

Are you witness to their work ethics?

Do you sit around a table with their family and see the loving interaction?

Have you gotten in an argument and have seen if the other person stays to talk or walks out the door in anger?

Have you stood by them when they hear some unpleasant news and are witness to how they react?

Have you greeted them at the end of a long day, a day that tested their nerves, and then received a hug?

Did you cook and then burn dinner and they told you it does not matter, they love you for trying?

Did you forget to run an important errand that you promised you would, and they told you not to worry?

The list is endless. The conclusion is that there is no possible way to know of how this person will interact in a relationship without physically being with them.

Love can be confusing. Craving a relationship or marriage can send people in a blindness that prevents them from understanding the misperception that occurs online. Again, this misperception does not need be by intention. The mere fact that there is no actual “in person” interface is what causes this misperception to arise in the first place. A person can be intrigued, in lust, in "like", or in a false reality of love when online with another. Only in spending quality time face-to-face, will the true colors of the other surface.
It is at that time, that one should decide if they are in love.

Written by Alisa Chagnon

Friday, January 18, 2013

Lack of Help for Victims of Cyberpaths & Scammers

by James Eli Shiffer

Jody Buell thought she was falling in love, but she fell for some­one who didn't exist.

The Burnsville, Minn., woman didn't catch on to the scam until she had spent more than $10,000 on her on­line admirer.

In­stead of sink­ing into de­spair, howev­er, Buell decided to get even.

For the past two years, she has been help­ing oth­er fraud victims get advice, support and fel­low­ship from an on­line group called romancescams.org. Since the Yahoo group was founded in 2005, it has helped more than 50,000 people from around the world.

"It's ba­sically a war," said site founder Barb Sluppick, a scam victim who lives in Mis­souri. "They're battling us for our mon­ey. We're fight­ing back, but we're fight­ing on our own because the govern­ment doesn't seem to want to get in­volved in this."

Govern­ment of­ficials say the biggest hur­dle is that the vast major­ity of suspects are located out­side their ju­ris­diction, usu­ally in oth­er countries. The epi­center of the scams appears to be West Africa, partic­ularly Nige­ria, where young men reportedly work through the night in Inter­net cafes per­pe­trating dozens of frauds.

"I've had scam victims from around the country getting ahold of us because they can't find anybody to pick up their case," said Jim Arlt, in­terim di­rector of the Minnesota De­part­ment of Public Safety's alcohol and gambling enforce­ment unit. "I am astounded at re­ally the lack of co­or­dinated effort in this area."

In the past year, the FBI has received more than 4,000 complaints about dating-site fraud, but the agency has no es­ti­mate on the financial impact, FBI spokeswoman Jenny Shearer said.

In some cases, the losses are dev­astating. An Arizona man who con­tacted romancescams .org said he was tak­en for $1million, and in Au­gust, a New York man shot him­self af­ter los­ing $50,000 to an on­line scammer.

When Buell first joined the group, Sluppick had to moderate her com­ments because she was still so angry. Now Sluppick consid­ers Buell her sec­ond-in-command.

Looking back, Buell said she can't be­lieve she mis­sed the warning signs. She said she decided to tell her story publicly for the first time because she counsels oth­ers to feel no shame for be­ing the victims of crime.

"Who in this world does not want or need to be loved?" said Buell, a longtime in­sur­ance bro­ker.

In 2008, the dating site eHarmo­ny.com matched Buell, 53, with Claude Eichmann, who de­scribed him­self as a Mary­land busi­nessman with an international mining compa­ny. Their friend­ship blossomed by e-mail, in­stant messaging and phone conver­sa­tions.

Paul Breton, a spokesman for eHarmo­ny, said he can't disclose the meth­ods his compa­ny uses to weed out crooks. But he noted the site also in­structs users to pro­tect them­selves by rec­ognizing the signs of a fraud - some­one who wants to move too quickly, who draws you into a sudden person­al cri­sis, who has a complicated story, who asks for mon­ey.

Buell's friend­ship with "Eichmann" played out over 3-1/2 months. His photo showed a smartly dressed man with unruly black hair. Af­ter a number of weeks they exchanged phone numbers, and while Buell was initially put off by his ac­cent, he re­m­inded her that he had grown up all over the world.

"Ev­ery time I would raise a doubt or a question, he would have a plau­sible answer," she said.

The two planned to meet, but first he had to trav­el to the West African nation of Ghana to open an office. Then trou­bles began. His office equip­ment suppli­er fell through. Could you send mon­ey? he asked. Buell refused, but he persuaded her to buy $10,000 worth of com­put­ers and phones and spend an­oth­er $1,300 to ship it to Ghana. Buell even included a pair of Timber­land boots he coveted, plus a lock of her hair.

Then "Eichmann" became ill and asked her to pay for his malar­ia medicine. Buell implored him to con­tact the U.S. Consulate, but he resisted he idea, so she went to the embassy website her­self. On the home page, she no­ticed a link to "romance scams."

"I clicked on it," Buell said. "It was like ice went through all my veins. Ev­ery­thing that hap­pened to me was listed on that website. My dream per­son turned into a nightmare in 15 sec­onds."

Buell reported the crime to IC3, the fed­eral Inter­net crime clearing­house, but she doesn't expect any fol­low-up. (IC3 reports an 9+ year backup on reports; many they dismiss.)

Af­ter Buell's sad encounter, an old boyfriend invited her to go on a bike ride. On the trip, he popped the question. Now she's happily married, but she's not for­getting what hap­pened to her.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Stop Trolling!! Married Means M-A-R-R-I-E-D

(This gem was posted on Craigslist.com and was so good, we are reposting here for all the victims and spouses (even those in denial) of online cheaters &  cyberpaths - EOPC)

Married means married, Moron

It's getting to the point where I can't even read those stupid personal ads anymore, not even for fun.

They're loaded with married people, bitching about their spouses, and looking for something "better".

I've got a few things to tell you:

1. "She" is not the reason your marriage sucks. YOU are.

If you spent half as much time paying attention to your wife as you do trolling CraigsList (or other sites) for sex, your marriage would be a whole lot better.
2. Yeah, yeah, we've all heard it a thousand times. You're in a sexless marriage.

First of all, that's probably a lie, because most cheaters are liars too. I'm gonna let you in on a little secret, pal- if your wife isn't interested in sex, it's because you're not offering sex that's interesting. Married guys get awfully boring after a while. They do the same boring thing the same boring way every single time and then -- they expect you to scream like a porn star.

Seriously, you come home from work, totally ignore her while she chases the kids around for 4 hours, makes dinner, does the laundry, blah blah blah, and then you expect her to roll over with her legs open for another session of same-old same-old? When are you idiots going to learn that the best foreplay in the world for a woman is watching you take care of the kids, vacuum the floor, pick up the dog poo in the backyard. Or how about just listening when she talks? You know, it's not that hard to stop thinking about yourself for five minutes and hear what she has to say.

Think about it - way back when, when you were getting your brains ****ed out on a regular basis - what were YOU doing differently than you're doing now? Planning dates, telling her she looked nice, acting like you're happy to be with her? A thousand dollars says if you do that stuff again you'll get the same result.

3. Spare us. Your kids are NOT the reason you're staying married. If you were THAT miserable, you'd leave whether you had kids or not. If you're not getting a divorce it's because YOU DON'T WANT TO. For whatever reason.

At least be honest and don't try to feed people that tired line about staying married for the kids. Contrary to what you think, it doesn't make you look like a poor suffering but honorable victim. You obviously don't care enough about your kids to treat their mother with enough respect not to cheat on her, and you don't care about them enough to spend time with THEM instead of some
vulnerable woman who falls for your carefully constructed lies, so cut it out with that crap. (BTW - did you even BOTHER to tell her you're MARRIED with KIDS?)

There is absolutely nothing honorable about putting your **** ahead of your kids. If you really really cared about them, you would get offline put ALL your time and effort and money into saving the one thing that means most to them in the whole world - your marriage and their family. Otherwise you're full of crap.
4. We all know how bored you are. Poor you, someone should really come along to entertain you.

What are you, 12 years old? If you're bored with your marriage, it's because YOU'RE BORING, and have you ever stopped to think that if you're bored, she probably is too? But instead of throwing a temper tantrum like a 2 year old, she's at home cleaning out the lint trap on the dryer and washing kool-aid off the kitchen floor. Yeah, she's having a riot washing your underwear and cleaning up cat puke.

Marriage is hard work. Heck, life is hard work. Grow up and take some responsibility for yourself. You supposedly have a brain, USE it. Put some thought into your marriage and some effort into your life and stop blaming her and being a baby because life isn't fun.

5. You're looking for someone "younger."

Sure you are. You think you look the same as you did when you got married? I'd bet not. Even if you do, you haven't spent the last 10 years having babies (the ones YOU wanted) and sacrificing your body for them. The next time you have to have someone stitch your ***hole together because you just pushed a watermelon out of your butt, then you can squawk. If you ever spend 9 months with your belly stretched to obscene proportions, and manage to look exactly the same as you used to 6 weeks later, then you can whine about how "she's not attractive anymore." Until then, shut the **** up.

You have no concept of what she has sacrificed to give you the children you "claim" to love. You really think she wants varicose veins and stretch marks and a distended belly and saggy boobs? Get real. What she wants is a man who understands and values WHY she has varicose veins and stretch marks and a distended belly and saggy boobs. She wants a man who loves her because she was willing to make those sacrifices with her own body because she loves HIM. Instead, you criticize and go running off with the first perky 25 year old who gives you the time of day. (or the first vulnerable woman who's being ignored by her man or is vulnerable enough in some way that her b.s. radar is damaged while you put the NLP whamma-jamma on her and say "I love you" just get her to spread her legs for you.) Ugh.

6. And finally, if you're cheating on your wife, there's something wrong with YOU.

If you're not happy with your marriage, exactly how do you think screwing some sl*t you barely know is going to fix that? Exactly how is that going to make anyone happy? Have you ever actually heard of adultery or an online affair working out really well for everyone involved? Are you actually stupid enough to think that you're going to be the exception to that rule? If so, you are delusional and you need professional help.

Affairs are disasters - not some of the time; not most of the time; ALL OF THE TIME. Your guilt and trying to cover your tracks will drive you crazy. Someone WILL find out. You will NOT be able to keep up the lies and the deception. And it will all lead up to a disaster of epic proportions, which leads me to Lucky #7.

7. Here‘s what you can expect in the wake of your little ****-fest:

Divorce - this is where you lose everything- your wife, your house, half your income and possessions, possibly your job if you're stupid enough to be screwing around with a co-worker, your kids - EVERYTHING. You will LOSE IT ALL.

Exposure - this is where everyone finds out what a scumbag you are. And they WILL find out. Your boss, your co-workers, your friends, your family, HER family, your neighbors, the parents of your kids‘ friends, everyone at your church. They WILL find out. Why? Because your now ex-wife and/ or ex-girlfriend(s) will tell them. She will probably tell everyone she knows, and everyone you know, and she will feel good doing it. Consider yourself lucky if she doesn't rent a billboard.

Oh, and DON'T try to paint yourself as the 'victim' of jealous or obsessed or scorned women. We all know that's a lie, too.

You lied to your wife and your probably lying to all your girlfriends as well as lying about one to the other.
Otherwise, all bets are off. Be prepared.

Your Kids - this is where you totally lose the respect of your kids, and you deserve to lose it. They will realize in pretty short order that you didn't care enough about them to keep your pants on. They will see their mother cry and they will hate you for it. They will end up shuttling back and forth between their home and your apartment, and they will hate you for it. Every time they have to tell someone that their parents are divorced, they will hate you for it.

And God forbid you decide to "introduce" them to your shiny new soulmate/ ****buddy; they will REALLY hate you for that. If your kids are really young, you have a little time before all this hits the fan, but be warned, it's coming. They will forever see you as the moron who broke up or disrupted their family. Even if you stick around - they will know that you can't be trusted, that you are weak and immoral and selfish. And they'll figure it out all by themselves, even if you never talk to them about it. Because your kids are smarter than you are at this point.

And when your new "soulmate" figures out your real agenda, bend over and kiss it goodbye. If all she does is "expose you" after she finds out you ripped her heart out at the root - you should thank her not smear her. It's nothing less than what you asked for.

So, go ahead and whine your pathetic nonsense about how you're a victim and your wife is a horrible shrew. Do your best to convince yourself and everyone around you that you didn't have any choice and your wife "drove you to it." Start with the rationalizations and justifications now; you're going to need a lot of them.

Remember that the best defense is a good offense and start a mental list of all the ways your wife is deficient. Make sure to re-write the history of your marriage so that you can say that you were miserable from the first day. You should have married that OTHER girl (who probably dumped your sorry ***)

Be sure to tell your wife that you love her, you're just not "in love" with her anymore. Deal with your guilt by lashing out at everyone around you.

Above all, take ZERO responsibility for any problems YOU may have that caused you to be such a spineless loser in the first place.

Congratulations, you've just joined the Adulterers Club!

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Yet Another Online Dating Scam

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Tim Dog, born Timothy Blair, entered a guilty plea to grand larceny in northern Mississippi after defrauding a woman named Esther Pilgrim out of thousands of dollars.
According to the Washington Post, the former 1990s rapper entered his plea last month after causing Pilgrim to amass $32,000 in credit card debt. Stipulations of his plea agreement include five years of probation and restitution payments of $19,000 to Pilgrim within the probation period. 

The two originally met on an online dating site and began a long-distance relationship. 

The rapper said he was trying to rebuild his career and needed investors for his comeback album. 

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

CYBER CHEATING - A growing cause for Divorce

Cyber-cheating a growing cause of divorce;
online surveillance increases as result.

By Jeffrey Cottrill

Not only has the Internet made it easy to meet other people without leaving your own home, it has also provided spouses with a new instrument for starting (and carrying out) extramarital affairs. Whether the perpetrators are unhappy in their marriages, bored with their married sex lives, or merely flirting, "cyber-cheating" is now a common element in cases of marital breakdown.

"It can happen in three or four different ways," explains Dallas attorney Mike McCurley, a past-president of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML), who says that cyber-affairs are increasingly a cause of divorce.

"First, spouses can develop relationships with somebody they already know from work or somewhere else. It's easy to communicate with someone secretively on the computer, as opposed to on the phone.

Secondly, people actually meet through the web and form relationships that way.

Third, there's the pornography area, which has every kind of invitation you could imagine."
Chicago lawyer Paul Feinstein, also an AAML member, says he hasn't yet seen many cases involving cyber-affairs, but the new phenomenon doesn't surprise him. "The Internet provides one more diversion -- something people can do separately from their spouses," he says. "But is it a cause of marital breakdown or is it a symptom? That's the age-old debate."

As a result, many websites now sell electronic surveillance software designed to catch spouses who cheat "virtually". For example, Infidelity.com offers a program that secretly sends you a copy of every e-mail your spouse sends. Software available from other sites allows you to track each website and chatroom your spouse visits. Some programs even record every key stroke in real time.
"The benefit is that you can monitor their sites and e-mails," says Anthony DeLorenzo, the founder of Infidelity.com and a former private investigator specializing in extramarital affairs. "I don't see any drawbacks. We send them the software, and if they find out that their spouse is meeting the other person somewhere, they can follow and possibly videotape them."
The market for this kind of software is not happily married couples: if you've reached the stage where you feel the need to spy on your spouse, you know your relationship is in serious trouble.

"There are very few instances where 'spying' can improve a relationship," admits John LaSage, who founded ChatCheaters.com after his wife of 23 years left him for a man in New Zealand that she'd met on the web. "But surveillance products could be useful as a last resort, after all other options have been exhausted. For some, it can be difficult to believe what their heart and brain is telling them about the person that they've trusted the most. Right or wrong, they want physical proof." Many people feel more comfortable handling the situation by themselves than approaching a P.I., adds LaSage. "Infidelity can be a private issue they won't even discuss with friends or family."

However, because of the obvious privacy issues, the legality of surveillance software is highly questionable.
"The laws concerning this aren't yet fully determined," says McCurley, "but my best advice is: 'don't do that.' It's a risk you don't want to take -- whether through a computer or a telephone. There are many legal ways to find out whether your spouse is cheating that involve using a private investigator or an attorney. There are federal and state laws concerning eavesdropping and wiretapping."
Feinstein agrees.
"In about 90% of cases, cyber-cheating really doesn't matter, because fault is deemed irrelevant in most states anyway," he adds. "In some cases, I've received some intercepted e-mails with varying relevance; how the clients got them is beyond me."
Both DeLorenzo and LaSage agree that, with or without do-it-yourself surveillance, the best way to handle cyber-adultery is to confront your spouse directly. "If your spouse is cheating, there's obviously a problem with the marriage," says DeLorenzo. "You need to confront the person about it, and then either go to therapy to get help or to an attorney to get a divorce. There's no middle ground here."

LaSage says that many web affairs grow unexpectedly out of innocent surfing and chatting. "In many cases, people do not set out on the Internet intending to cheat. They start out thinking it's okay to do a little flirting because they feel they're in control of the relationship. They can remain anonymous, they can stop the communication anytime they choose, and they believe, as I have heard countless times on my website, 'it's not cheating if there's no touching.'

"The most important recommendation I can give is to not ignore the issue," LaSage adds. "It seems a natural response for people discovering an affair to deny what they're feeling."

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Virtual State of Affairs

A better way to cheat: One kiss leads to the next and she finds herself at the Hilton

By Sandy Lawrence Edry

On a chilly morning, Robin rushes to get ready for work as usual, though today she reminds herself not to put on pantyhose -- she has never figured out a way to remove them "sexily." Then she kisses her husband goodbye, drives her 15-month-old daughter to daycare, and heads to her secretarial job in suburban Philadelphia.

BUT WHEN SHE GETS TO HER OFFICE, she ignores the papers piled on her desk and clicks the icon on her computer screen to launch America Online, which connects her to another, secret life. She sees on her buddy list that today's breakfast date has already signed on, and they confirm their rendezvous point: a deli near the airport. It's safe because it's public -- the man is a stranger, after all, despite their 4-week cyber-relationship -- and because it's decidedly unromantic. No one would suspect her real reasons for being there.

Cloaked behind the anonymity of screen names and dial-up connections, a housewife can now participate in an evanescent universe that is one part interactive Harlequin romance, one part sex-as- sport.

An hour or so after making an excuse for leaving work (something about her daughter feeling ill), she sits at a table in the back of the deli, preparing for the last step in what she jokingly refers to as her "interviewing" process. Today's applicant, a 31-year-old married commodities broker, has already passed two crucial tests: His opening message didn't start with, "Hey baby, what are you wearing?" and the first time they "cybersexed," the words he typed exhibited both sensuality and attentiveness.

When he walks through the door, Robin is relieved. He matches the description he e-mailed earlier: about 5-foot-8, nicely built with dark hair and eyes, a goatee and an olive complexion. He does not appear disappointed with the way Robin looks, either: five feet tall and 36 years old with short, curly brown hair and a body she describes as "a little chubby." Online, she usually tells men her measurements right away: 38D-29-40.

After a hastily eaten meal, Robin and her new friend return to her car, where a momentary silence precedes an awkward first kiss. One kiss leads to the next and soon she finds herself driving to the airport Hilton. At the end of an afternoon she later describes as "OK," she checks her makeup in the dashboard mirror before returning home, expecting to feel some guilt. After all, this is her first affair since she got married, five years ago.

Instead, she says several weeks later, "I now understand what men usually say. I believe now that it can be only about sex. I went home that night, kissed my husband and said, 'Hi, how are you.'" As if nothing had happened.

CLOAKED BEHIND THE ANONYMITY of screen names and dial-up connections, a housewife can now participate in an evanescent universe that is one part interactive Harlequin romance, one part sex-as-sport. With a computer, a modem and a subscription to an Internet service provider such as AOL, she can meet someone new from the comfort of her own home while her unknowing husband watches television in the next room.

Even if they never cross the virtual boundary -- as many never do -- cyber-affairs can ruin a marriage. "People are more hurt by emotional intimacy because it undermines the very fabric of the marriage," says Dr. Lana Staheli, a Seattle-based counsellor and author of Affair-Proof Your Marriage. "It takes away from the partner."

Cybersex is not the only Internet diversion on offer. Increasingly, flirtations are moving from anonymous chat rooms to real-world hotel rooms, though it's unclear just how many Internet affairs move offline. After all, it has proven nearly impossible to determine the number of low-tech affairs; some studies report that 60% of married Americans have committed adultery, while others put the number as low as 15%.

What is known is that Internet affairs have been blamed for divorces in many American states and almost all provinces. "I suppose at any one time, we might have six to 10 cases where relationships have formed that way," says Malcolm Kronby, counsel for the Toronto family law boutique, Epstein Cole. "We've got one going now where the relationship formed between a woman in Toronto and a man in the U.S. Midwest who met in a chat room."

Dr. Ann Evans, president of the British Columbia section of the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy, says the issue has also become a serious topic of discussion at therapist conferences, including her organization's most recent convention in Denver, Colo. "At first, people were making jokes about it, but that stage has passed," she says. "We are all aware that this has become a serious thing."

The best place to gauge the extent of online affairs is, of course, online. To be more specific, in AOL's chat rooms, where the Internet service provider's 25 million members spend more than 56 million hours each month. There are other chat services, such as those on Yahoo! and MSN, but AOL's chat rooms, which have evolved to an unparalleled level of specificity and ease-of-use, are the top choice for most would-be U.S. adulterers.

Getting to them is as easy as clicking the People Connection icon at the bottom of the main AOL screen, which leads both to thematically grouped rooms created by the ISP's staff -- the Town Square has pleasantly titled rooms such as Sunday Brunch and The Breakfast Club -- and more than 300 bizarro rooms created by members themselves.

The member-chat Romance category houses the heaviest concentration of rooms catering to married people, from Michigan Affairs to Married Buxom BBW Babes. (BBW stands for Big Beautiful Woman, the politically correct term for "large sized".)

At 9:30 on a typical Saturday night, more than 800 people are logged into 44 member-created chat rooms with something about married or affairs in the titles. Many rooms, like SoCalAffairs4Real, are filled to their capacity of 23 people (a limit imposed by AOL to minimize confusing crosstalk). Here the lonely, the curious and the just plain horny gather.

It is a favourite hangout of Bigredmg, a recent law school graduate and husband of 15 years who estimates that he has slept with about 20 AOL women from the Southern California area -- hence the "SoCal" in the room's name. "Fat women mostly," he says. To accomplish this feat, Bigredmg stays online five to eight hours a day. "I am trying to find the passion that I lost," he says, adding that his wife is a "good woman and I love her, but there is no fire."

Nell also spends several hours a day in front of her computer screen, mostly in NJOver30. A housewife from New Jersey, she has had two affairs with other AOL members since joining in 1996. Married to a man who, she says, "abused me physically a few times, and mentally, every day of my life," Nell is looking for a way out.

"I was the perfect wife for 15 years," she adds. "I gave up."

Life for the would-be Canadian adulterer is not quite as easy, since the AOL Canada section of the chat rooms is not nearly as well populated or geographically targeted. Still, on almost any night a steady stream of men and women with screen names like CharmedCdn float through rooms such as Married M 4 F (Married Male for Female) and Married not Dead.

But perhaps the best virtual locales for the affair-minded on this side of the border are Yahoo! clubs, which are easily reached through Sympatico, Rogers, Shaw or any other ISP. The clubs are message-board/chat-room hybrids where members post requests for affairs -- and sometimes even their own photos. Type "Married" and "Canada" into the club search engine, and 26 entries appear, ranging from Alberta sex on the side affairs (247 members) to Club marriedandlooking in ONT (838 members). Members seem every bit as forward as their American counterparts: On Nov. 29, for example, Twinklineyes00 announced to the ONT club that she was "Looking for a teddy bear type, big and hairy ... ;) to play with in the GTA area. Drop me a line if a bear out there wants to play!!"

IN THE AOL FIRMAMENT, the NNJ Married Affairs chat room has a unique place: The group's activities are not exclusively online. Every Friday night for more than three years, about 20 to 30 married men and women find an excuse to get out of the house and head to a Holiday Inn hotel bar called Ozzie's, in Wayne, N.J.

Ozzie's looks exactly as you'd expect: a dark space with a long, faux marble bar that occupies half the room. On a Friday night, club-goers shimmy and shake on a small dance floor to a mix of Top-40 and disco hits. By 8:30 p.m., about 25 AOLers, mostly in their 30s and 40s, have arrived. Some are still wearing their wedding rings; others have removed them for the evening. The regulars kiss each other hello while the newcomers cautiously ask everybody for their screen names.

Harriet, a regular attendee in her 40s who bears enough of a resemblance to Linda Tripp that the bartender gives her a free drink, refuses to disclose who has had affairs with whom. "There is a code between most of the regulars and we guard one another's privacy."

Robin has visited the room but not Ozzie's itself. Tonight, she is on AOL, where she's checking out MarriedWantsAffair but has to wait -- it is that crowded. When she finally manages to squeeze into the room, five women are holding court, discussing everything from lingerie to hair color. One asks the assembled men: "What do you think makes a woman sexy?" The men's responses range from "intelligence and passion" to "legs ... and a nice butt."

Robin prefers the one-on-one instant message-style of chat also available on AOL. But to let the men in the room know she's available for a sidebar, she must first announce her presence: "36F from Philadelphia," she types, followed by "Any PA/NJ/NY/DE men here?" She has just declared open season -- a woman who wants to chat trumps group discussions about lingerie every time. Within seconds, small IM windows pop up all over her screen.

None of the applicants make the cut. Some live too far away. Some are not her type. And one man makes the mistake of being too forward, too fast. After the customary chit-chat -- age, location and marital status -- he asks for Robin's description. When she includes her measurements as usual, he responds: "Hmmmmm ... god how I love a short woman ... with big" --Bzzzzzzzzz! Strike one.

He then asks her to describe what she's wearing. (Translation: "I hope you're naked.") Strike two. When he starts providing details on the way he likes to masturbate, Robin has had enough. She has become adept at spotting the ones who are only looking for cybersex. After all, for the first few months she was online, that was all she wanted, too.

Robin joined America Online in February, 1998, when a co-worker showed her how to use the site to conduct research for their boss, then detoured into one of the married chat rooms. "I was petrified," Robin says. "I was thinking, 'who are all these people out there?' and, 'can they see me?'"

But that weekend, while her husband was away on business, she took the office laptop home and had cybersex for the first time. "I thought it was so stimulating," she says. "I loved it." Over the next few weeks she began spending a few hours a day in the rooms. "I felt like a kid in the candy shop," she says.

The idea of actually meeting someone never even crossed her mind. At first. But her husband had always had a low sex drive -- even lower after the baby's birth -- and she began to feel that he "didn't want me, like maybe I wasn't attractive." She asked him to go to couples therapy but he refused. In the end, she was left with many evenings to explore her sexual needs online. And she was soon able to convince herself that she deserved a chance to meet some of the men she was chatting with so regularly.

ABOVE ALL, AMERICA ONLINE, YAHOO! and other chat areas provides instantaneous, round-the-clock access to massive numbers of people who self-select into easily recognizable groups. In these communities, whether the focus is gardening or sado-masochism, the possibility of meeting an affair partner increases exponentially. "There is already a basis of commonality," says Storm King, a Massachusetts doctoral candidate in psychology who has written extensively about Internet culture.

A different set of social norms undergirds these subcultures. Talking to strangers is encouraged; anonymity makes people less inhibited and more inclined to display secret sides of themselves. "Women clients say that men are so much more expressive about their feelings [online] and men say women are so much more adventurous and fun," says Dr. Staheli.

There's strength in numbers, too. "Certainly you wouldn't go to a neighbour and say, 'Oh gosh, I'm having an affair, how about you?'" says Dr. Debbie Layton-Tholl, a Del Ray Beach, Fla., psychologist who is conducting research into extramarital affairs. "But now you can go online and, literally, there is an unlimited number of people who will support you in what you are doing. So it becomes easier -- the guilt becomes lessened."

The human imagination also plays a significant role in helping online romances to flourish. "Your mind projects," says King, "and what you project depends a lot on what you want to see."

Robin, however, is no longer satisfied with her imagination. She also wants to see "the attention, the affirmation, the wanting to please and be pleased," in her partner's eyes. In the two and a half years since her first affair, she believes she has seen these things in the eyes of more than a dozen strangers with whom she has had intercourse or oral sex. Getting fired for downloading explicit pictures at work and the birth of a second child only slowed her down temporarily -- her most recent affair was less than a month ago. These encounters make her feel "sexy, wanted and needed."

Raised in a strict Roman Catholic home, she can't imagine getting a divorce. Besides, she says, her husband is "a good man, a good father, a good companion. Just one aspect isn't there."

"I can't see myself doing this forever," she says. But then she adds, "Do I see it continuing? Yes. I'm having fun."

(READERS - do YOU think this behavior is acceptable? We'd love your comments. - EOPC)