You’re worried about your phone, you think someone is spying on you through your cell phone and you are angry. Unfortunately this is becoming more common these days. You need answers … quickly! I’m going to teach you how to tell if your phone is tapped or tracked in some way …. and it is going to answer your questions.
There are a few signs that may help you find out if your cell phone has spy software installed and that it is being tracked, tapped or monitored by someone. These signs can be quite subtle but when you know what to look out for, you can sometimes find out if your cell phone is being spied on.
This article series will deal with How to Find installed Spy Phone Software and then How to Remove Spy Software followed by How to Secure your Cell Phone. This guide will help for all types of Smartphone including Android and for the iPhone there are a few extra tips.
Table of Contents
Quick Signs to Tell if Your Phone is Tapped
In a hurry? In this section I list the top signs – the most common signs that your phone may have been tapped or tracked using a spy app. After that I go into lots more detail about each sign and a few other tips and tricks to help you.
- Odd phone behavior
- Battery Drain
- Phone shuts down
- Strange background noise
- Receiving unusual texts
- Increased data usage
- High phone temperature
- Electronic interference
- Unusual App activity
- Unusual account activity – iCloud, Google, Facebook
- Excessive phone bill
- Strange Pop-ups
- Blocked Emails
Keep reading for a full explanation of all of these signs and more …
How Can Your Phone be Tapped or Tracked?
Before you can look for signs that your phone is being tracked or tapped without your knowledge it is important to learn exactly how someone can spy on your phone.
They all can mean slightly different things and these days they are usually talked about in relation to cell phones … not so much landlines.
Spy software or Spyware? These are really just different terms for the same thing … without getting too technical!
There are different ways your phone can be compromised but the most common way and the most effective is with a spy app or spy software.
These programs are becoming very common and can be difficult to spot. But of course I’m going to guide you … so keep reading!
See my article on How to Hack a Phone for more ways your phone can be tapped and tracked.
Is My Phone Being Tracked?
Although I have been working with cell phone spy software for several years it never ceases to amaze me just how few people understand what it can do and how easily accessible it is. Most people are shocked at the capabilities of a relatively inexpensive piece of spy software that anyone can buy – legally.
Get familiar with these spy apps and what they are capable of – check out a few of the reviews on this site – mSpy review, FlexiSpy or MobiStealth. Knowing what you are up against is a good first step.
I think anyone would be shocked to find spy software on their mobile phone and would be angry at the invasion of privacy, but for some people the consequences could be much more serious.
Business users are particularly at risk but anyone can become a target of spy software.
Just think for a moment about the information stored on or passing through your phone on a daily basis. Should you be worried? The good news is that sometimes it is possible to spot spy software apps.
If you are really concerned that you have a serious problem – check out this Premium Security Guide – very detailed and great for real issues.
How to Detect Cell Phone Spy Apps
I will go through a few of the tell-tale signs that could let you know if your cell phone has spy software installed. Some of these indicators can be caused by other things so you need to use your judgment. Some spy programs work very well and can only be detected by expert analysis but if your phone has several of the following signs you may have cause for concern.
Odd Phone Behavior
Look for any changes in your cell phones behavior. Does it suddenly light up when not in use; make random beeping noises, shutdown by itself or exhibit any other random behavior? All phones can do strange things from time to time but if this is happening on a regular basis it could be a sign that your phone is being accessed by hidden software.
Some spy software apps can increase the use of your battery so look out for any sudden changes in your battery life – does it need charging more often. Bear in mind that over time your cell phone battery life will diminish naturally, so you’re looking for any dramatic change.
Some of the cheaper spy software programs will run your battery down quickly, however the more modern programs are designed to make less demand on the battery and are harder to spot.
Phone Shuts down
Does your phone regularly shut down by itself, even when the battery is charged? Some spy software can be quite buggy and is known to cause this.
Don’t get paranoid with this one is quite often this easily explained as a bad connection. If it is happening more than normal it could be another tell-tale sign.
Look out for static, clicking, beeping or voices in the background. Some call listening and recording features can cause this background noise as they access your phone like a conference call.
Receiving Unusual Texts
Are you receiving strange text messages containing random numbers, symbols or characters? The remote control feature of spy software works by sending secret coded text messages to your phone and in some cases these can be seen – if the software is not working correctly. If this happens regularly you could have a spy app on your phone.
Increased Data Usage
Have you noticed an increase in your normal data usage? Some of the less reliable Spy apps use extra data to send the information collected from your phone, so look out for any unexplained increase in your monthly data usage.
There are several apps that can be used to monitor your data usage check out: My Data Manager – Android from Goggle Play and Data Usage – for iPhone available from the Apple Store. Again, with the best spy software programs data usage has been reduced and will be almost impossible to spot – but the poor programs will show significant data use.
High Phone Temperature
Is your handset suddenly getting hot for no apparent reason? Sometimes if a tracking app is running in the background your phone can get hot.
Sometimes using your phone near other electronic devices can cause static noises but this should only happen when the phone is making a call.
Spy apps with call listening capabilities can cause strange interference noises when the phone is being used near to other devices – could be a sign you are being tracked.
Some phone tapping equipment operates at different radio frequencies and can cause this type of interference – even when the phone is not in use.
Unusual App Activity
Are there any apps that have been added to your device – not by you? Are any apps suddenly not working? Spyware software can control your apps behavior and even block them remotely (once installed).
Unusual Account Activity – iCloud, Google, Facebook
People can use spy software to gain access to your main accounts – keep an eye out for any activity you are not aware of. If your phone has been hacked you can assume that all your accounts are compromised.
Remember that your iPhone can be tapped and tracked through iCloud backups using No Jailbreak spyware.
Excessive Phone Bill
Look for sudden and unexplained rises in your bills. Older and poor quality spy programs often used up a lot of data when transferring the monitored data.
Are you getting strange pop-ups on your device – even with adblocker enabled? Malware programs can run malicious pop-ups aiming to collect data or redirect you to fake sites. Sometimes they can look legitimate so pay careful attention to where they direct you or what they are prompting you to do.
Are you sending emails that never reach their intended recipients or are people getting emails from your account that you did not send? You could have a tracked phone – some programs can send, receive and redirect email and text traffic without your knowledge.
With all the above you are looking for sudden changes in your phones behavior that cannot be explained. Each of these on their own is not necessarily evidence of spy phone software or being tapped, but if your phone shows signs of several of these, you could be a victim of spying.
How to Detect Spy Software on an iPhone
For any software not supplied through Apple – including all spy software – the iPhone needs to be Jailbroken. If you find out your iPhone is jailbroken and you did not do it then you should be concerned.
To find out if your phone has a Jailbreak look for the Installer app on your home screen. Other app names include Cydia and Icy – if any of these show up, your iPhone has been Jailbroken.
Sometimes the phone spy might be clever enough to hide the Installer app from the home screen menu but if you look around it should be possible to find it. You could also check all your software apps to see if they are listed in the Apple store – if they are not available from Apple then your phone has a Jailbreak.
Looking deeper inside the iPhone directories is more difficult than with Android but there is an easy way to remove spy software (and the Jailbreak) from the iPhone.
Simply upgrade to the latest OS version via iTunes – this will remove the Jailbreak and any external software not from Apple, just be sure to back up any important data on your phone before you do this.
iPhone Spying – Without Jailbreaking
This is a fairly new development concerning iPhone Spy – companies such as mSpy and Mobistealth have No Jailbreak monitoring solutions. Just be clear this is not software, and is not installed on the device. I give more detailed information in the articles above.
It gives limited spying capabilities through the iCloud backup service. It is not possible to detect on the target device – you need to keep a close eye on your iCloud backups – and keep login details secure.
How to Detect Spy Apps on Android Devices
As well as looking for the signs of a tap or tracking app listed above there are a couple of things to look for specific to Android phones.
Has your Android been Rooted Without Your Knowledge?
This would give you some concern! Although rooting android is not always necessary, most spy apps require root access to allow all monitoring features to work properly.
It is easy to check if your android phone has been rooted. Go to the Google Play Store and install this Rootchecker App – just run it and follow the instructions – it will tell you if the device has been rooted.
Is Unknown Sources Enabled?
There is a setting that allows you to install apps not approved or listed in the Play Store. If “Unknown Sources” is enabled and you did not select it … it could be a sign of a spy app or other unwanted download. Most spy programs require you to enable downloads from Unknown Sources.
Check Your Phone’s Directories
If you are a little more technically minded you could look around inside your phones directory files for any clues. This step is normally beyond most people’s comfort zone but if you’re comfortable look through the folders for any giveaway file names containing the words spy or stealth – anything suspicious. Quite often there can be an installer file left behind on the SD card – if you know where to look.
I read an interesting article about this on Forbes, where they had an expert trying to find some of the popular spy phone software applications. He talked about how easy it was to find evidence of these spy apps by looking in the phone directories. But he was an expert! How many people do you know who are comfortable looking around inside the software of a phone, let alone know which files to look for?
In my experience most people do not find spy software in this way. They need to be suspicious in the first place and if they are suspicious they will usually have detected some of the odd behaviors mentioned above. Remember that most targets of spy software aren’t even aware that this kind of software exists or that someone would want to monitor them.
Using a Code to Check if Your Phone is Tapped
Most modern smartphones have a built in security feature that allows you to use specific codes to tell if your phone is tapped or tracked. They are really easy to use and can provide valuable information.
To use the codes just type them into your phone keypad dialer – couldn’t be simpler! The hard part is knowing the code to use …. give these a try:
*#06# – Check IMEI Number Code
Your IMEI number is specific to your phone and identifies it – like a finger print. If your phone has been tapped or tracked you’ll need to know this number if things ever escalate into a legal case. Your cell phone provider will also need this if they are investigating any suspicious activity.
*#62* – The Code to Check For a Redirection
If you suspect a spy app could be intercepting your calls or texts you can dial this code. It will list any calls, texts or data packets that have been redirected. If there is anything showing in this list your phone is tapped. The list should show no redirected information.
The good news is that you can dial this code ##002# and it will remove any redirection set up on the device.
*#21#: The Code to Check For a Diversion
This works similar to the redirection code. A diversion could be set up on your device by a spy software program and can be hard to detect. Unlike a redirection a diversion works before the call or text is actually sent from your phone.
Using the code will show a list of any call diversions including texts and data. Again you want to see a blank list – if not you have a problem.
*#*#197328640#*#*: The Utility Netmonitor Code
This one gets a bit complicated but it will give you access to the phone main menu. It allows you to track where any data and call information has been processed. Useful if your phone is being tracked by false towers or base station devices.
From the main menu select – “UMTS Cell Environment >UMTS RR Information” and copy the cell id number it displays.
Return to the main menu once again and select – “MM Information >Serving PLMN” and copy your local area code that is displayed.
If you go to a Netmonitor website – they have databases of all cell phone towers. When you enter the two numbers it can pinpoint exactly where your phone has been connected. Potentially locating the source of any tap or hacker.
How to Know if Your Phone is Tapped by Police or Law Enforcement
I get asked this a lot – can you tell if your phone is being tracked by law enforcement agencies – the Police and FBI most commonly.
I don’t want to engage in any illegal or unethical debates around this subject but I will tell you a few things.
These days law enforcement have wide ranging powers and I’m not here to debate them. Let’s just be aware that they will not be spying on you using some spy software app!
They have the power to get all of your data – everything including GPS tracking information, listen to and record your calls and see your texts. Everything you do on your cell phone can be monitored and reported to the police and other agencies and you will not know.
They can do this through the service providers – no software is needed so no signs will show. I just accept that if you are worried about the police tapping or tracking your phone …. you must have something to hide.
What Next ….
It seems that almost everyone is obsessed with cell phones, from young kids right through to the elderly. Babies seem to be the only ones missing out so far! In the early days, cell phone security wasn’t a major issue. Cell phones were exactly that -Phones!
I know that it might seem strange to younger readers, but back in the day, cell phones were only used to make phone calls (often quite unreliably).
Of course today with modern smart phones we can do all sorts – browsing the Internet, chatting on Facebook, online banking and sending e-mails, just to name a few.
More and more of our personal information is being transmitted through our phones and most people do not realize just how easy it is for other people to get hold of this information. You might want to check out our resources page for some extra information and links to help topics.
I hope this has been of some help but remember that this kind of technology is always evolving and is becoming increasingly difficult to spot. If you think you are at risk of being monitored you should take steps to secure your phone and prevent the installation of spy software in the first place. Just being aware that spy software exists and knowing what it can do is a good start !
Need to know more about cell phone spy software and what it can do? Start with the articles in the top right box of this site or read The Best Spy Apps. You should also check out my article about Monitoring Your Childrens Cell Phones – it was inspired by a great comment left by a concerned parent looking at the ethics of using spy software to monitor kids.