How to Tell If Your Phone Is Tapped

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Have you ever been in the middle of a phone call with someone and heard a strange sound, like a click or a static noise, and wondered if your phone was being tapped? If so, you're not alone. Many people are concerned that their personal and business communications might not actually be private. Smartphones can be especially vulnerable to tapping, particularly if you've decided to jailbreak or root your device to take advantage of third-party apps you can't find in an official app store, for example. Fortunately, there are a few smart steps you can take to figure out if your phone is indeed being tapped.

Note: The information below should apply no matter who made your Android phone: Apple, Samsung, Google, Huawei, Xiaomi, etc.

01
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Listen for Unusual Background Noise

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If you hear pulsating static, high-pitched humming, or other strange background noise when talking on the phone, that may be a sign that your phone is being tapped. 

  • Strange noises do crop up from time to time on cell and landline calls, however, so this is not a surefire indicator that something is wrong. You'll want to check for other signs of unusual activity on your phone as well.
  • Your phone should be quiet when it is not in use. If you hear unusual sounds like beeping, clicking, or static even when you are not in the midst of a phone call, your phone may be tapped.
  • You can check for inaudible sounds on your phone by using a sound-bandwidth sensor on a low frequency. If it finds sounds several times in one minute, your phone may be tapped.
  • If you have a landline phone: If your phone emits a dial tone when it is on the hook, this may also be a sign that it has been compromised.
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Check Your Phone's Battery Life

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If your phone’s battery life suddenly is a lot shorter than it used to be and you have to recharge your phone far more often than you used to, then it’s possible there might be tapping software running silently in the background, consuming battery power. 

  • Consider how often you've been using your phone. Have you been making more voice calls or using apps more often than usual? If so, then that may be the reason you need to charge your phone more frequently.
  • Whether you have an iPhone or an Android phone, there are a few ways to get detailed information on what's hogging the battery and why it's running out so quickly. You may want to try using one of them to get a clearer picture of what's going on.
    • If you're using an iPhone, you can quickly find out which apps are consuming the most battery life by tapping Settings and then Battery, then scrolling down to the Battery Usage section. There are other apps such as Battery Life and Coconut Battery that can give you detailed information on what's consuming your battery life and how to extend your battery life.
    • If you're using an Android device, you can determine which apps are consuming the most battery life by opening the Settings app from your app drawer, expanding the Device section, and then tapping on the Battery option. There are other apps you can use to get granular information on what's eating up your battery life and how to manage it better, such as Battery Saver 2018 or Power Battery.
  • If your phone's battery is over a year old, it may be less capable of holding a charge. In that case, there are steps you can take to improve your cell phone battery life.
  • Your phone's battery warms up when it's being used. If your phone is hotter than usual, particularly if you haven't been using it, that may be a sign that something's amiss.
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Try Shutting Down Your Phone

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If your smartphone has suddenly become less responsive or has difficulty shutting down, someone may have gained unauthorized access to it. 

  • When shutting down your phone, check to see if the shutdown fails or the back-light stays on even after you have completed the shutdown process.
  • Of course, other glitches may cause a smartphone to have trouble shutting down. If you recently installed an update on your phone and it has begun acting strangely, that may be the reason why.
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Stay Alert for Suspicious Activity on Your Phone

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If your phone begins turning on or off or even starts to install an app all on its own, someone may have hacked it with a spy app and could be attempting to tap your calls. With that in mind, stay alert to any suspicious activity if you think your phone might be tapped.

  • If you receive weird SMS text messages from unknown senders that contain a garbled series of letters and numbers, this is a major sign that someone may be attempting to tap your phone. Some tapping apps receive their commands via coded SMS messages.
  • Strange pop-up ads or unexplained performance issues could also point to the presence of malware or a tapping app.
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Check for Electronic Interference

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When you're using the phone, it's not uncommon to encounter interference around other electronic devices such as your laptop, a conference phone, or your television. This shouldn't happen when you are not on a phone call but the phone is still powered on, however.

  • Check to see if there is any static or interference when you are not on a call by placing your phone close to another electronic device. If you hear unusual sounds, that may be a sign that someone is listening in on your calls.
  • Some tapping devices use frequencies that are near the FM radio band. If your radio emits a high-pitched sound when it is set to mono and dialed to the far end of the band, your phone might be tapped and interfering with it.
  • The same is true for TV broadcast frequencies using UHF channels. You can check for interference by bringing your phone into close proximity with a TV that has an antenna.
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Check Your Phone Bill

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Take a look at your phone bill. If it shows a spike in text or data usage that is way out of line with what you would normally expect to see, that's another potential sign that someone may have hacked your phone. 

  • Spyware and other malicious apps can use your cellular data plan to conduct their secretive transactions without your knowledge, so if you see a sudden burst in data activity on your phone bill, definitely check it out.
  • If you just downloaded a new app that uses a lot of data, that could be a legitimate reason for the sudden uptick in data usage.
  • If you've allowed children to use your device while you're out of the house and not connected to a Wi-Fi network, that may be another cause for the increased data consumption.
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Be Cautious When Downloading Apps

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When you download apps from the App Store or Google Play store, it's a good idea to be sure they are safe to use and that they don't include any stealthy spyware capabilities.

  1. Although most apps available for download on an official app store have been carefully screened and vetted, you may still occasionally encounter an app that has slipped under the radar and secretly harbors spyware features.
  2. Be cautious with apps, particularly games, that request permission to access your call history, address book, or contacts list.
  3. Some scammers copy well-known app names and icons when creating fake apps, so it's a good idea to Google both the app and its developer to make sure they are both legitimate before downloading an unfamiliar app.
  4. If you have children, you may also want to enable parental controls to keep your young ones from accidentally downloading malicious apps.

How to Know if Your Phone Is Tapped

It can take a little sleuthing to find out if you're really dealing with a phone tap or just random glitches that pop up every now and then during a call. If you've only noticed one of the signs listed above, then you may not be dealing with a spy app or other tapping device. But if you are encountering multiple red flags, then you may indeed have someone listening in on your calls.