How to Tell If Someone Is Using Surveillance on Your Cell Phone

By Ellis Davidson

Hollywood has told us for years how to tell when a phone is tapped; invariably, the hero can hear telltale clicks on the line, and knows that he's being followed by the CIA or KGB. Unfortunately, this method doesn't work on cell phones. A cell phone can be traced, though it can be avoided.

Things You'll Need

  • Cell phone, and possibly replacement cell phones

Step 1

On modern digital cellular networks, it is actually impossible to know whether your cell phone is being tapped (recorded) or traced (monitored for location and whom you are calling). Much of this data is available at all times to your cellular company, and they are required to turn this data over to law enforcement authorities if presented with a warrant, or to federal government authorities upon request. You can also come under surveillance by criminals who can use hacking techniques on your phone or your network to retrieve tracing information.

Step 2

For surveillance to work, your cell phone must be turned on. When the phone is off, it is not reporting its location to the network, and obviously no conversation is being held; therefore, turn off your phone when it is not in use. There are rumors of some phone models which can be turned on remotely for eavesdropping; for added safety, you can remove your cell phone's battery to prevent this.

Step 3

Cell phone tapping requires a conversation to be held "in the clear" over the network. Digital cell phones encrypt their transmissions to the cell phone towers; it is not possible for someone to pick up these conversations with a scanner. However, a conversation can be tapped by someone with internal access to the carrier network. Conversations which are themselves encrypted over Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP), however, cannot be tapped at any point in the network. Skype phone calls within the U.S., for example, provide this feature.

Step 4

In order to target an individual for surveillance, it is necessary to know which cell phone that person is using. Any surveillance scheme can therefore be thwarted by changing cell phones frequently; cheap prepaid phones can be purchased for under $10 in most cities, and replaced as often as you wish.