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How to tell if your cell phone is tracked, tapped or monitored by spy software

There’s some very powerful spy software available for snooping on mobile phones. But nobody would spy on you would they? Well, bugging happens at all sorts of levels from political worthies to anonymous everyday people. If you find your mobile phone chewing through battery life or your data usage rockets skywards, these could be signs of snooping. And if not read on to become acquainted with snooping clues, in this age of mass surveillance they could be very useful.

Why would someone want to spy on me? It’s a question that is asked a lot especially by people who have been spied on. Well, maybe you have information that someone else wants. If you’re in business it could be details about sales strategies, new product development and so on. It could be to find out whether an affair is taking place or it could be related to a court case.

But if you’ve never spied on anyone, the concept of you being spied upon will probably seem outlandish and ludicrous. But for some people spying on others is a way of life and in this technology and mobile age it’s a lot easier than it ever used to be. If your phone has been handled by someone else, for instance during repairs or for some other reason, a backdoor application could have been installed to piggyback your GPS service or spy software could have been installed on your mobile device.

But don’t take our word for it, there’s a large, legitimate and thriving industry solely dedicated to snooping on others via spy software. And some of this software is very powerful indeed. But it’s not so powerful that you can’t see the clues if you know what you’re looking for.

How to tell if your cell phone is being spied on

There are several tell-tale signs that suggest your phone is being tracked, tapped or monitored in some way. The signs can be quite subtle but when you know what to look out for, they can also be glaring:

  • Unusual sounds during calls

If there are clicking sounds, static or distant voices coming through your phone during conversations it could be a sign that you’re being snooped on. This is not normal for today’s phones on digital networks. It’s a thing of the past and associated with old-style analogue networks. If you are hearing fragmentary voices, they may not be in your head; it’s a possibility that your phone has been tapped.

  • Decreased battery capacity

Another indication of a bugged cell phone is reduced battery performance. If a mobile phone is tapped it is recording your activities and transmitting them to a third party. This leaves a footprint in the form of increased battery usage and as a result the battery loses life faster. A tapped cell phone can also be constantly recording conversations in the room, even when the phone appears to be idle. And of course as a result it will chew through battery life. You can test this by using your battery in another phone of the same model and compare the results. Is your phone using more battery power than a phone of the same model and software? If so, it could be that your phone is bugged, or it’s defective in some way.

  • Phone shows activity when not in use

Is your phone making noises or lighting up its screen when you’re not using it? Call and message alerts to one side your phone should be as silent as a sleeping baby when not in use. Does it also reboot for no reason at all? If so it’s possible that someone has remote access to your device.

  • Phone takes a long time to shut down

Before a smart phone shuts down it must complete any tasks that are processing. If your phone is transmitting data to someone it will have to complete the process before it shuts down. As a result if a phone takes longer than usual to turn off especially after a call, text, email or web browsing it could be sending information to a third party.

  • Battery temperature feels warm

A further indicator of a possible phone tap is the temperature of your battery. If the phone feels warm even when you haven’t used your phone it could be still in use secretly transmitting data. However this is only a potential sign.

  • 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

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. 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.

How to find spy software on your phone (Android and iOS)

Android

It’s possible to find spy software on an Android by looking inside the files on the phone. Go to Settings – Applications – Manage Applications or Running Services, and you may be able to spot suspicious looking files. Good spy programs usually disguise the file names so that they don’t stand out but sometimes they may contain terms like spy, monitor, stealth and so on. Some of the poorer quality software programs are still quite easy to spot.

Don’t worry, if you are only looking for confirmation of spy software you won’t do any damage to the phone, but it’s probably best not to remove or delete any files unless you really know what you are doing. And if you do find suspicious software it’s a good idea to take your device to someone who does know what they are doing.

iPhone

Generally, if you have an iPhone and someone wants to install spy software they have to jailbreak the phone first. That said vulnerabilities have been discovered in the past that allowed someone with access to a network used by the device to download significant amounts of personal data. These holes have been patched but you can never be too certain about new vulnerabilities emerging.

Sometimes you might find software on your iPhone that you don’t remember downloading. You can check the Apple store and see if that software is available and if not then it’s likely your phone has been jail broken.

Looking deeper inside the iPhone directories is more difficult than with Android but there is an easy way to remove spy software from the iPhone. Simply upgrade to the latest OS version via iTunes which will remove the jailbreak and any external software not from Apple. But make sure to back up any important data on your phone before you do this.

Factory resets

Resetting your phone to its factory settings, whether Android or iPhone, will remove any spy software, but again be sure to back up your data such as contacts, photos and music or you will lose them.

If you do take this approach then you will also need a strong passcode to prevent unauthorized access to your device in the future. For Android devices, you can also install an app, like AppNotifier that will email you when programs are loaded onto your phone, giving you a heads up if someone is trying to do something they shouldn’t.

Did you just discovered that someone is spying on you?

It can be a shock to discover that someone is monitoring you with spy software.  Most targets of spy software aren’t even aware that this kind of software exists much less that someone would want to snoop on them. It may not be personal perhaps it’s for business reasons. It may be personal, perhaps there’s an abusive ex-partner on your trail who just won’t let go. But if you’ve detected any of the behaviours above perhaps you’re already suspicious. And if you have spotted unusual behaviours on your phone it’s at least worth checking out and remembering that there is lots of very power and easy to use spy software out there.

Written by Steve Bell

Steve has a background in IT and business journalism and in the past has written extensively for both the UK national and trade press including The Guardian, Independent-on-Sunday, The Times, The Register, MicroScope and Computer Weekly. He's also worked for most of the world's largest IT companies in a copy and content producing capacity. He has a particular focus on IT security and has been involved in writing about the industry at various levels ranging from magazine launches to producing newsletters. He also runs a small copy writing business called Art of Words. When not bashing away at a keyboard he can sometimes be found in a boxing gym making futile efforts to keep fit or marveling at the works of Sufi poets such as Jalaluddin Rumi and Hafiz of Shiraz.

More articles by Steve Bell

56 comments

  • dennis

    17 May 2017, 05:31

    Im kinda in a situation. Unlike many that uve heard im haveing problems with a gang that are stalking me an i know there inmy phone tracking listening all of it i know what lady did it but im very illiterate. To phones an comp i know how its done what to look for as how phone acts but where to find it stop it ive even bought a new phone an they still got in its to the point i cant have a phone or call anyone without people kbowing everything tried moveing an they find me an this nightmare. Continues im asking please help me find the petson or persons behind this an to get this out my phone so i can prosecute or get in there phones whatever it takes for this to stop over a year now an its makeing me very physically an mentally draining. This is real an horrible. If any one can help with any knowledge. In dummy terms please lol
  •  
  • Stressed

    16 May 2017, 02:48

    Hi, I have a exhusband that claims he can send a text to my phone and when I open it , or something to that effect he can see all of my text messages.
    Is there some prom gram I can buy or download that will not all allow him to see my private messages? Help please, its very scary!
  •  
  • CeceBliss

    15 May 2017, 06:33

    Dear Paula Hodge,
    My name is CeCe..
    I was wondering if you ever had an answer to the question that you posted regarding having a secure phone Jan 14,2016 after reading Steve Bells article about Cell Phone Spys?..Possibly by Legal Groups?!?

    Thank you very very much!
  •  
  • Dean Scally

    31 Dec 2016, 20:49

    Bad people never break the law..............ugh
  •  
  • rach

    14 Nov 2016, 12:51

    Can these be installed remotely? And from app downloads? My battery is beyond screwed and whole phone quits and shutsdown and lights up opens apps etc. I need this horrid crap off my phone!!! Did i do this or did someone else?
  •  
  • Rosemary

    16 Apr 2016, 17:01

    It's a felony to spy on someone's cell phone
  •  
  • Dick

    8 Apr 2016, 22:24

    Thanks for the article very knowledgeable, I myself am currently going threw a battle with 80% of the stuff you talked about. I have been in some trouble in the past but that was the past. What they are doing is illegal and I want to stand up and prevent this from happening to anyone else in this small town. I don't trust apps you can download,apks,etc. If there is some form of app or apks you do believe in or some thing along those lines please help this really needs to stop. I have seen many hurt from this do to people not standing up.
  •  
  • 4 Mar 2016, 23:29

    I believe my cell is being tapped or monitored. I also believe it is my ex-gf
    because she knows detailed conversation from my Facebook inbox
    and text at times. Usually Facebook inbox messager.
    I don't feel good about being tracked like this.

    Help me
    I have an I-phone 6
    And Facebook messages are being tracked and
    used against me
  •  
  • Billl

    26 Feb 2016, 01:32

    Happened to my wife and I with her ex husband
  •  
  • Mr.Alonzo (a.k.a ZO)Brooks

    25 Feb 2016, 04:11

    I'm going through data loss and WiFi being unlocked and exclamations beside them I'm really in need to remove the spy ware can I get any help you this is so illegal what's happening I am really trying to avoid taking legal actions!!!
  •  
  • Anthony

    23 Feb 2016, 21:09

    Thanks for your help.
  •  
  • Tshepo

    19 Feb 2016, 01:52

    I think my phone is tapped
    My phone is hot
    Battery doesnt last
    Data doesnt last
  •  
  • Joseph Collins

    17 Feb 2016, 11:26

    Thanks to share !!
  •  
  • Joseph Collins

    17 Feb 2016, 11:25

    Very Professionally written !!
  •  
  • Zania

    12 Feb 2016, 18:38

    I have "" Kyocera'' ,which on certain calls I hear static and faded voices sometime something like a distance radio signal. feeling that my privacy is being Violated Is very uncomfortable one more question wondering should I not use this Brand phone or could you recommend a better model. also how can I find out if My phone tapped I'm hearing all the warnings and I am just a disabled woman who is single. Thanks please help
  •  
  • Eladio cosme

    11 Feb 2016, 07:02

    Its been very helpful i se lots of things happening for some time
  •  
  • Cynthia

    8 Feb 2016, 12:56

    Thank you very much for this article. After reading it I can safely say my phone does not have spying anything on it. A friend of mine spied on her husband's phone which made me mad but when I found out later she was trying to save his life I totally understand. (Husband had gotten caught up on drugs pretty bad) I'm just saying in some cases it's a good thing.
  •  
  • florena Amparo

    7 Feb 2016, 15:02

    Why is it my phone appairing the messages SECRETLY DATA USSED it means somebody
    used my account
  •  
  • Tracy Sheehan

    30 Jan 2016, 09:34

    Need to know if a Nic Ross or Samantha Baird is tapping into my phone
  •  
  • Rudy

    29 Jan 2016, 07:17

    In my call log, often but randomly my phone displays a very long 14 digit number with my countries area code as dialed. This number changes every time it appears, and randomly appears after I have made a local mobile call. This happens maybe once or twice a week, and not always after dialing the same number. Because the number is different every time it obviously shows as "unsaved" number under dialed numbers in my call log. Could this be software that randomly chooses to record or monitor my phone activity?
  •  
  • worried and concerned

    26 Jan 2016, 18:38

    I recent discovered unusual darta loss on my HTC. I'm not tech savvy but have managed to eliminate most explanations. I'm left with the uncomfortable conclusion someone may have "piggy-backed" using up my data! Is it really possible that someone can kind of clone my mobile and use my internet service? It sounds very sci-fi" how can I find out who is doing it and stop it happening? - also, I don't use phone as a router (whatever that is!). Can you please help? Thank you.
  •  
  • Spy App

    26 Jan 2016, 12:26

    Thanks for this article. Spying apps can help you in some situations. Sometimes I use such apps for spying on my wife. For example http://spytomobile.com/?s=glsrc01_spy_apps
  •  
  • David fletes

    23 Jan 2016, 23:58

    I've got this feeling that I'm traced or somthing cause my phone does all kinds of weird vibreitions and the batt gets really warm
  •  
  • Paschal

    17 Jan 2016, 13:17

    Hello Steve, let me have your contact plz. Have a lot to discuss with u on IT Security. Email me: oparinze@gmail.com
  •  
  • Nikie

    15 Jan 2016, 09:08

    Please if I only knew whi
  •  
  • Paula Hodge

    14 Jan 2016, 03:14

    I meant Tapp not Rapp...sorry
  •  
  • Paula Hodge

    14 Jan 2016, 03:11

    If the FBI,DEA or even POLICE tapping your phone,I hear that we would never hear them or know.THEY have a lot of schooling to Rapp phones.Do you think there is an app out there for Android etc.that honestly works? If so would you tell us? Do you think the security apps from play store are worthless?Thank you
  •  
  • Aaron c loving

    9 Jan 2016, 06:59

    Lets talk
  •  
  • Aaron c loving

    9 Jan 2016, 06:57

    I'm in
  •  
  • Angela Michele Beavers

    9 Jan 2016, 03:33

    Thanks just what I wanted to know
  •  
  • dennis

    9 Jan 2016, 01:30

    Takeoffspy
  •  
  • Steven Simmons

    7 Jan 2016, 04:28

    Every thing above you said my phone is doing all of it.
  •  
  • Jorge

    3 Jan 2016, 09:05

    Hi sreve what app can i download / install to see if i am being monitored / spyed on ?? Jorge
  •  
  • ralp

    2 Jan 2016, 13:45

    Hello, I very been a victuals of some sort of spyware. I've notice all the signs and people at work know things that it was impossible to know. Now I went to metro and got a new account # and phone. I'm noticing my new phone acting strange now. Is it still possible for my new phone to be tapped as well. I think this is so wrong and an ivasion of privacy.what can I do to find out who is behind this and what laws are against this. Thank you.....
  •  
  • Linda Wallingford

    1 Jan 2016, 14:41

    My phone is showing a like lighting strike
  •  
  • rus

    28 Dec 2015, 13:45

    Hi, Maybe you can help.
    My cell phone security setting (allow unknown sources) has be turn on by itself many times even though I removed the check mark. There seems to be strange apps on my phone. I have removed the apps then they reappear over and over or cleared cachet forced stop and disable certain apps yet there running when I check next. My phone is quite slow at times, delayed when shutting down from time to time very much so. Often logs me off of the internet. Got a download from someone I know, thought I could not open it , then got the same download from a another phone # I dint know. I asked this person (Bill) if they know this strange # that sent me the same download. To my surprise he said he did and was probably because a message he sent was sent to a group. I don't fully trust this person (Bill ) and my phone has acted funny ever since. I see my phone light up for no reason numerous times and yes often my battery needs to be charged a lot, runs out quickly and gets hot from time to time as well the GPS setting gets activated on its own. I know this is a lot but it happened over a 6 month period. I no longer use that phone. Not sure how someone could get physical access to my phone? Oddly after I got a new phone. I got similar text messages SMS downloads from another person (Cal) who told me not to trust (Bill). 9 messages in total from this one person (Cal) strange cus it said there were 12 but there was only 9, all the same and the same text message SMS, multipal times from 5 other phone #'s I have never seen before, again all the same message 27 in total in 3 hours. All with the same download. This person (Cal) said it was an accident that he was sending a pic to someone and by accident hit group, said he was sorry and to delete it. Only 3-4 people have this new number when that happened being such a new phone. I don't know what to think? Just happened two days ago and I still have one SMS text with the download still on my phone I haven't yet erased. I can be more specific about the apps on the phone I don't use any more if that would help. I have never had texts with downloads in the past and its almost the same story repeating it self with different people that know each other but are not friends or so they say. Any advice you have would be appreciated. thanks
  •  
  • bee

    25 Dec 2015, 15:40

    Someone tapp my phone so mean
  •  
  • bee

    25 Dec 2015, 15:38

    Yes I know it my phone is tapp
  •  
  • 22 Dec 2015, 08:57

    My husband well we r separated anyway we were trying to work things out
    In the past he has hacked my own line but I let it go, anyway the times were getting
    Tuff he suggested out of love to buy a phone I fell for it we share location
    He knows all apps I have voice mails coversstions , I assumed he looks at log my phone loss battery a lot and when on phone
    I hear echo sometimes , he has a lot of control over me. Help I moving and he wants me to move in to prove my love
    I'm scared because he is the only person well that's another story how can I stop this he owns the phone.
  •  
  • Summer

    16 Dec 2015, 09:55

    So how do you get rid of the bugif they have attached to email or facebook.
  •  
  • Tim mcdonald

    13 Dec 2015, 01:16

    Hope it works
  •  
  • RB

    10 Dec 2015, 18:08

    Lately I hear someone pressing keys while I am in the middle of conversation and the other party insists it is not them. Additionally, when I am on making a payment I hear them pressing the wrong prompts --- I have stopped making payments over the phone to say the least1 very disturbing!!! How to combat?
  •  
  • Brian A. R.

    10 Dec 2015, 07:03

    Would you happen to have any way to spy from an Android to a Iphone 6, The newest model!l Obvious cheating wife but she wont admit to anything! Anything will help. Thanks for your time!
  •  
  • cj

    9 Dec 2015, 22:29

    I keep having messages from one tgrwadcgo missing. Could someone track my phone to access a thread from and to a specific number. I changed the name to this number and it still happens. No other texts are ever affected. Help please :-(
  •  
  • patricia

    4 Dec 2015, 11:43

    Help!! Net10 is my phone provider. South America still playing technology catchup.
  •  
  • patricia

    4 Dec 2015, 11:37

    HELP!!! How do I update my phone. It has rreset restructions.
  •  
  • Treehouse

    2 Dec 2015, 16:03

    Info about possible snoper
  •  
  • 2 Dec 2015, 03:13

    Is there any apps that can turn the table on a spy and give you some insite?
    .Brian
    cC
  •  
  • warren hull

    27 Nov 2015, 23:12

    Good heavens
  •  
  • warren hull

    27 Nov 2015, 23:11

    High profile corporate health business is making me feel crazy for using a cellphone on the network unknown as to how they do it
  •  
  • frank

    18 Oct 2015, 05:02

    Thanks a lot. as you said, i didnt have an idea about this software exists.
    my phone battery always got empty in only one or two hours....
  •  
  • 11 Oct 2015, 00:20

    Is my phone being tapped
  •  
  • Sue

    30 Sep 2015, 13:43

    Hi. Unfortunately, I have had someone stalking me who at some stage has had access to my iphone. I have updated my ph recently to new ios. Weirdly, my new partners txt msgs keep getting completely wiped from my ph. All my other msgs remain, only msgs sent from my new partner get deleted. Is it possible someone is somehow reading these msgs and able to delete all msgs from my ph?
  •  
  • Helen

    26 Sep 2015, 19:58

    I discovered when I called this certain relative of mine on my cell phone a different phone number besides my own would show up on her phone. Come to find out this had been going on a year. I called my phone company. They traced the unidentified number. It was coming from a tablet of some short. The phone company also told me from this tablet no one could call out. Not true. We called the number and we left a message.
  •  
  • marycontrary

    28 Aug 2015, 19:01

    when I make a call a signal comes on saying Call Divert Set!
    I never put his on. Strange numbers not available and cut off calls
  •  
  • jen

    20 Aug 2015, 13:29

    Thanks for this article, it is therapeutic. You are the one that points out it is just way of life for people who can't stop spying.
  •  

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