If you're worried that a stalker, hacker, employer, parent, or even law enforcement is monitoring your phone calls, you've come to the right place. Whether you're using a landline at home or have a smartphone, there are many ways someone could be listening to your phone calls. This minHour article will teach you how to determine whether your phone is tapped, and some steps you can take to get the situation under control.
How do I know if my cell phone is tapped?
The battery gets hot or drains frequently.
If your phone is infected with spyware that’s monitoring your calls or tracking your activity, it could cause your battery to drain much faster than usual or feel hot to the touch.
- To see which apps are using the most battery power, head to Settings > Battery (on both Android and iPhone).
- Battery issues don’t always indicate a phone tap—regular apps, as well as battery age, can also affect battery performance.
You’re using way more data.
Tapping software may send large recordings and/or logs to the spy using your mobile data plan. If you’re suddenly running low on mobile data even though your usage hasn’t changed, someone else might be using your data through a tap.
- More modern spyware can upload large amounts of data from your phone without being traced.
- To check your data usage on an iPhone, open Settings and tap Cellular.
- To check data usage on an Android, open Settings and go to Network & Internet (or Connections > Data usage (or select your carrier) > Mobile data usage.
Your phone lights up randomly or otherwise misbehaves.
If your phone lights up, shuts down, starts up, or installs apps without you doing anything, someone could be controlling it remotely, which could also mean they are listening to your calls.
There are suddenly lots of ads or pop-ups.
If you’re seeing annoying pop-ups and spammy ads, especially while you’re not actively browsing the web, malware (particularly adware) could be the culprit. Be wary of messages encouraging you to follow links you’ve never heard of, as well as pop-ups warnings that claim you have to pay money to remove a virus.
You see apps you don’t recognize.
Check your app list for apps you didn’t install. Although a lot of stalking and tracking apps can be hidden from the home screen and app list, some might just be installed with unassuming names. For example, if you see an app called SyncManager, it usually means that someone has installed FlexiSpy (a commercial phone tapping app) on your phone.
- Pegasus, the military-grade phone tapping software recently in the news for tracking journalists, was installed remotely on iPhones and Androids without installing any software at all. If you’re being tapped by the government and they are using powerful software like this, there will be no indication that your phone is tapped.
Your camera or microphone turns on at random.
If your camera or microphone is active and you didn’t open an app that uses one or both, someone could be watching and/or listening. The signs that your camera or microphone are active are a bit different depending on your phone:
- If you’re using an iPhone, a green dot at the top of the screen indicates that your camera is actively recording. If your microphone is active, you’ll see an orange dot.
- On Android 12 or later, you’ll see a green icon with a camera and/or microphone at the top-right when one or both are active. If you are using an earlier Android version, you can get the same functionality by installing a free app called Access Dots from the Play Store.
- If you see neither of the above, that does not mean your phone is not recording; unless if your phone has a light wired in with the camera and/or microphone, the camera or microphone can still be recording without your knowledge or consent.
You see unfamiliar administrator or manager profiles.
Even if you didn’t find any strange apps installed, that doesn’t mean someone isn’t using more sophisticated methods of tapping your smartphone. Both Androids and iPhones allow you to install special profiles that give certain apps admin access they wouldn’t normally have, allowing them to monitor the things you do on your phone. Here’s how you can look for shady profiles:
- Android: Open the Settings app and go to Security & privacy options > Device administrators. Any apps that have administrator rights appear here. If you see something you don’t recognize, tap it and select DEACTIVATE to delete it.
- iPhone: In the Settings app, go to General > Profiles & Device Management (or just Profiles) and then tap an app you don’t recognize. Tap Delete Profile to remove that app’s admin access from your iPhone.
- Not all device profiles are removable, requiring a reinstall of Android or iOS to remove.
Can somebody tap my phone?
Both cell phones and landlines can be tapped.
Although physical wiretaps are still used by some law enforcement agencies and stalkers, most modern phone tapping doesn’t require physical access at all. If a hacker wants to tap your cell phone, they can do so by installing (or getting you to install) spyware on your iPhone or Android. And if law enforcement wants to listen in on your calls on any type of phone, all they’ll need to do is contact your carrier.
How do I know if my landline is tapped?
You hear popping, static, humming, or clicking.
If you hear a great deal of noise while you’re talking on your landline, it could indicate a physical wiretap. But if your phone is tapped using software that intercepts your calls at the carrier level, you likely won’t hear anything strange at all.
- Some bugs and taps use frequencies close to the FM radio band, so if your radio squeals when set to mono and dialed into the far end of the band, an RF bug might be in use.
You see a device or wires near your phone or phone jack.
Take a look at the phones and phone jacks in your home—do they look like they’ve been removed and replaced? Any visible wires or devices? Taps may be placed on or near these jacks, so look for anything out of the ordinary.
Someone’s been messing with your outside phone box.
You might not know what a residential phone box should look like inside, but even if you only have a slight idea, open yours and take a look. If the box seems tampered with or if the contents inside have been disturbed, someone might have installed a wiretap.
- The “restricted” side of the box requires a special hex key (Allen wrench) wrench to open. If that side looks to have been tampered with, you might have a problem.
- There should only be one box for your landline number and two cables going to the box. Any additional cables or boxes can be a sign of a wiretap.
An RF bug detector detects strong frequencies near your phone.
If your phone is tapped with an RF (Radio Frequency) bug, which is one of the most common commercial wiretapping tools, it’ll be fairly easy to detect with a wide-range RF bug detector. Most of the RF bugs available fall in the 10 MHz to 8 MHz range, but you’ll want a RF detector that can detect up to 24 GHz, just to be sure.
A phone or cable repair person appears on your property.
If someone comes to your house claiming to be a repairman or an employee from your telephone carrier, but you have not called and requested someone, it could be a trap. Call your phone company—or whichever utility company they claim to be from—to verify their identity.
- When calling the company, contact them using the phone number you have in your records. Don’t call a phone number provided to you by the repair person at the door.
What should I do if I think my phone is tapped?
Reset your mobile phone.
If someone has installed spyware on your iPhone or Android phone, you can remove it by restoring your phone to its original factory settings. This won’t help if law enforcement is listening in on your calls through your carrier, but it will be valuable if you’re the victim of a hacker or stalker.
- Resetting your phone could tip off the person monitoring it. If you’re in danger, leave your phone behind and seek in-person help from law enforcement.
Ask your phone carrier for help.
If you a reason to believe your (landline) phone is tapped, you can ask your phone carrier to check using professional equipment. A standard line analysis performed by the phone company will be able to detect most illegal wiretaps, listening devices, low frequency devices, and phone line splicing.
- If your carrier refuses to help, they could be administering a government request.
Go to the police.
If you have evidence that your phone is really tapped, ask the police to check. Most police departments have the equipment needed to test your phone for a bug or a tapping device, but if you do not have decent evidence that your concerns are justified, they might not be willing to use it.
- If you’re in the United States and are the victim of domestic violence, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline on the web, or by dialing 1-800-799-SAFE on an untapped line.
Get a prepaid phone.
If your phone is tapped, buying a cheap prepaid phone from a store that doesn’t require any identification is a great way to protect your privacy. Use this phone to contact authorities, hotlines, or anyone else you need to talk to for added security.
- A prepaid phone does not stop you from being watched by law enforcement agencies.
- If you live in an all-party consent state and are being tapped by law enforcement, they are required to notify you once the tap is complete. All-party consent states include: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, and Washington.
- Never leave your smartphone unattended, as hackers could install spyware.