Here's an awkward situation. You're in Hawaii with your spouse, vacationing. And you find out you've been exposed as part of an adultery website. Your email is in the Ashley Madison data that hackers leaked. This is precisely the situation in which Casey Corcoran found himself.
An Awkward Moment
Over the weekend, Corcoran and his wife were in a hotel room overlooking the ocean. It was about 6:30 p.m.
"Margie's getting dressed, putting on her flower lei. I'm just reading a little bit of news before we're about to go out for this romantic dinner," he recalls.
He came across an article about the Ashley Madison hack, and it listed search engines you can use to see if a specific email address is in the leaked database.
Corcoran was curious. He decided to put in his email, to see if he wound up on the membership roster — maybe through another site he's on. And, he says, "it pops up and says 'confirmed.' "
As in, he's there!
Corcoran was at a loss for words. "I don't say anything. And I go to the second search engine. I think this has to be a mistake."
And again, confirmed.
At this point, he says, he called out to his wife, who was dolling herself up in front of the mirror: "Uh, Margie! You're not going to believe this but you know that Ashley Madison leak ..."
Margie Skeer came and sat on the couch next to him. "My first thought was WHAT?!" she says.
Couples around the U.S. — and around the world — have been having this moment since hackers leaked tens of millions of user profiles. And it did occur to Skeer that if a guy really did have an account, he "might have said, 'Oh my goodness. Look someone registered me!' "
Ashley Madison does not require you to verify your email address. So, you can claim: "Somebody else signed me up — as a joke, maybe?!" (And real users don't need email because they exchange messages through an internal chat service that's metered, charging men to deliver messages.)
But Skeer says if her husband ever cheated, he'd probably pick someone up at a bookstore. Not at Ashley Madison.
"That would not be his style at all," she says. "And we have a very open and very good relationship."
You might be wondering: by "open," does she mean OPEN relationship?
Skeer clarifies, "No, no, no. We have a strictly monogamous [relationship], but very open communication."
A Joint Investigation
The couple wanted to know who used Corcoran's Gmail address. And they debated: Should they log on? Because then, Corcoran has affirmatively been on the site. But he figured, "I'm already associated with the site. It's not like somebody's going to leak my email again."
They did a password reset to get into the account. And went straight to the tabs with personal information.
The profile was of a gentleman with a name very similar to Corcoran — which may be why he borrowed the email. But this guy lives in a different part of the country, and he's taller and heavier: 5 feet, 10 inches and 210 pounds.
"I said, boy if that really was me somebody would be really surprised when I showed up," Corcoran says.
The profile listed a hometown, an age, a username that looked like his last name with a year tagged onto the end of it. The couple had enough to turn to the Whitepages online. In minutes, they got a guy who matched this profile, picture perfect.
They even found his Facebook profile and his MySpace page, "which is a picture of him giving the finger," Skeer says.
Corcoran says he feels violated. Professionally, he's an advocate for women's rights and has even been a relationship counselor. So many Ashley Madison search engines have been put online. He's positive people he knows have looked him up but won't directly confront him about it.
"Most people that actually found my name doing that weren't going to say anything to me. They weren't going to call me out on it," he says.
The couple wants to get a certified confession from the guy who used Corcoron's email, proof to back him up when he says: "It wasn't me."