How to Tell if your Cell Phone is Being Tracked, Tapped or Monitored by Spy Software

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 in some way. Quite often 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 should help for all types of Smartphone including Android and for the iPhone there are a few extra tips.

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.


Is Your Mobile Phone Being Monitored?

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 MobileSpy. 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 spotis your cell phone being monitored spy software apps.


Detecting Cell Phone Spy Software

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.

Battery Rundown – 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.

Background Noise – 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.

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, but if your phone shows signs of several of these, you could be a victim of spying.

How to Check for 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 cydia sign of jailbreakJailbreak 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 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.

Advanced Steps – 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.

If you think your phone does have spy software installed on it you should read the next article on How to Remove Spy Software from your Phone. Then check out How to Secure your Cell Phone.

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 Different Types of Spy Phone. 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.

73 Responses to How to Tell if your Cell Phone is Being Tracked, Tapped or Monitored by Spy Software

  1. Cynthia M. Thacker January 18, 2014 at 4:21 am #

    Is there any good cell phone spyware or any device which can be installed on the target phone without having access to the target phone?

    • Michael Keenan January 21, 2014 at 8:16 pm #

      No – you must install directly on to the target phone – no exceptions.

      • max February 5, 2014 at 6:36 pm #

        There is a company, Easy SPY, that claims to be able to use a bluetooth connection to remotely access a target phone from a PC. The company claims to be able to record phone calls for live and later listening, allow access to texts, email, contacts and browsing history of the target phone. Is this possible and, if so, how can one “disconnect” from this connection and prevent reconnection?

        • Michael Keenan February 11, 2014 at 11:29 am #

          There are companies making all sorts of claims – using Bluetooth to spy on a cell phone does not work. Check out my article about Remotely Installing Spy Soft.

  2. John February 21, 2014 at 11:24 am #

    Sounds conspiratorial, I know, but can thee government look at or mess with your phone, legally?

    • Michael Keenan February 24, 2014 at 10:41 pm #

      Hey John – don’t want to worry you but hell yes! Where have you been my friend – they can do mostly what they like. They don’t bother with software though, just go straight through the carriers.

      • Nick Keenan October 15, 2015 at 2:51 am #

        Hey Michael, can a carrier listen in on phone activity and if I was experiencing symptoms of being traced or bugged then how do I determine who or how its happening and can I stop it at all? It would seem to me that if an external source wanted to listen in to ones calls whether it be a carrier or government department there is really nothing we can do to prevent it is this true?

        • Michael Keenan November 7, 2015 at 8:21 am #

          That’s about the way of it these days. We can all be spied on at source by gov. and law enforcement.

  3. Sofia March 11, 2014 at 8:56 pm #

    Are there programs that don’t have all the obvious signs listed above that we may be aware of, like the weird text messages, or phone lighting up, etc?

    • Michael Keenan March 31, 2014 at 5:42 pm #

      Yes, the better quality programs can be very difficult to spot. The products mentioned on this website are hard to notice unless they have been incorrectly installed. The good programs have worked at the problems such as battery drain etc. making it vey hard to find them.

  4. paul March 25, 2014 at 2:52 pm #

    Hey q can a private detective tapp a phone line and record conversations(not talking about government, more like a jealous spouse) or anyone else besides the government?

    • Michael Keenan March 31, 2014 at 5:28 pm #

      It is possible – but illegal of course. People have gone to jail for this but it does happen.

  5. Stephanie April 8, 2014 at 5:15 pm #

    Hi, Does spyware work better on an Android or Iphone? We have to monitor 32 business phones and we don’t want to keep reinstalling the software. which is the least likely to have to re-install?

    • Michael Keenan April 8, 2014 at 5:41 pm #

      Android monitoring offers more features and is probably a bit easier to manage. Jailbreaking the iPhone and constant updates means some extra work. I’m not a big fan of Apple and their obsessive guarding of their exclusivity, but that’s another story!

  6. emad moawad April 23, 2014 at 6:06 am #

    Does restoring factory settings remove the spy software from my phone?

    • Michael Keenan April 24, 2014 at 11:40 am #

      Yes – a factory reset will remove any spy software app. Of course someone could re-install it if they have access to your phone so you need to take precautions.

  7. jim jergason May 29, 2014 at 1:48 pm #

    been noticing google search results from my wife’s laptop showing up in the google search history on my android. is this an attribute of spy monitoring?

    • Michael Keenan May 30, 2014 at 1:44 pm #

      It is more likely because you are using the same IP adress on Wi-Fi – Google localizes the search terms. I doubt if it is spy software related.

  8. Matt Moss June 5, 2014 at 6:40 pm #

    You have said that the person needs to have your phone in order to add spyware to it. If they have the phone, but do not have the code to unlock it, can they still add the spyware?

    • Michael Keenan June 20, 2014 at 11:52 am #

      In theory no – but unfortunately some phones password lock can be bypassed quite easily – do a quick search online to see. Some password apps can help make things more difficult to get passed.

  9. Mar June 17, 2014 at 11:21 am #

    if someone tracks my phone calls/text messages and i suddenly change my phone number. can they still track my phone?

    • Michael Keenan June 20, 2014 at 11:36 am #

      I’m afraid so – the software is installed on the actual phone, not the sim card. In most cases changing your number will not help, you will need to remove it with a factory reset. Check my article about removing spy software.

  10. Greg August 1, 2014 at 5:29 am #

    Can spyware be installed on a phone connected to a wifi network?

    • Michael Keenan August 6, 2014 at 4:46 pm #

      Yes it will work with any internet connection.

  11. Maria October 20, 2014 at 7:08 pm #

    My calls use to fail every rare time now when I talk to this specific person it fails almost every 2 to 3 minutes of talking after a lot of random noises clearly not cause by this person whispers and breathing. Could that be another sign?

    • Michael Keenan October 21, 2014 at 11:47 am #

      Definitely sounds suspicious – call intercept from Flexispy adds the listener as a conference call. Sometimes if it is not configured correctly, you can hear a third party in the conversation. As always, don’t jump to conclusions – it could just be a problem with your phone. I would try updating the OS first and see how that works. Thanks for your question and good luck.

  12. Kim October 28, 2014 at 11:27 pm #

    If I do a factory reset on my iphone and then back it up from icloud will I just be reinstalling the spyware?

    • Michael Keenan October 29, 2014 at 11:14 am #

      In most cases the software would not be re-installed and it definitely will not be able to work. Even if the files were re-installed, the software would need to be activated. The factory reset is a reliable way to stop the software.

  13. JamesR November 5, 2014 at 6:58 pm #

    Does Itunes sync detect the spy application and thereby giving notice to its existence?

    Or can the spy apps bypass this process and remain hidden?


    • Michael Keenan November 11, 2014 at 3:50 pm #

      You can’t rely on iTunes – most will be hidden.

  14. janet November 17, 2014 at 2:16 am #

    Hi, I searched everywhere on my phone and found many weird looking apps. The apps look a lot like the other apps but there a bit off looking. I opened some of them and read that the app is a android app. When I tried to uninstall some it read something like this removing preinstalled apps could damage my phone. At that point I cancelled my request for fear of doing just that. Damaging my phone that is. The other apps I tried to uninstall read something like this app can not be removed. A few others didn’t even give me any options. Is it possible some of these app are in fact spyware?

    • Michael Keenan November 17, 2014 at 9:08 pm #

      I’m afraid that is part of the problem – most people have no idea what is necessary for the phone to operate and what is potentially spyware! Just looking at the file names, it is very difficult to tell good from bad – add to that, most spy software will hide their files or disguise them with non-descript names. There is no easy fix – apart from the reset.

  15. Sarah November 23, 2014 at 7:28 pm #

    I’ve been having battery problems with my relatively new iPhone 5s,and now found a voicemail message that was very peculiar in content,lots of background noise,hips and squeaks,and no record of a missed call ever being received? The phone was given to me by an ex,and I know it’s jailbroken,and that for his business has used spyware..guess Ive just answered my question!

    • Michael Keenan December 10, 2014 at 11:00 am #

      I guess you have! I would update the iOS or do a factory reset – just to be sure. Good luck.

      • cyberdeface January 10, 2015 at 11:33 pm #

        If resetting the Iphone to factory settings and installing the back up would this cause any problem again. ?

        • Michael Keenan January 29, 2015 at 4:02 pm #

          Not with an iPhone. Resetting will remove any Jailbreak, so the software would not work even if somehow it did get moved along with the backup.
          To do it again they would need your phone to Jailbreak it first and then re-install the software.

  16. Debbie January 12, 2015 at 3:40 pm #

    Michael I think my husband is spying on me and has tapped my phone. I know you said they have to have your phone to install this app, correct? How long does it take to install this on your phone once they have it??

    When I get the reset done can he do it again without getting my phone??

    • Michael Keenan January 29, 2015 at 3:52 pm #

      The software can be installed in under 5 minutes. Once removed with a reset, of course it could happen again – look at creating a strong password lock or using a password app to stop any further access.

  17. Sonia January 14, 2015 at 2:06 am #

    Are there phones that can not be spied on, such as an old Nokia 101 style phone which does not have internet and is very basic and just used for phone calls and texts?

    • Michael Keenan January 29, 2015 at 3:44 pm #

      Spot on Sonia – without internet access (smart phones) you can’t use this type of software. Some people who have been victims in the past have started to revert to using the old style mobile phones.

  18. Amanda February 1, 2015 at 8:54 pm #

    No one has had access to my phone, but I am being sued and followed by private investigator. Lately when I make calls, I have to do it twice because the first time is just air and a clicking noise and my voice echoes, I make the same call a second time and all is normal. I have an iphone 5, any way it could be tapped?

    • Michael Keenan February 9, 2015 at 4:02 pm #

      It does sound strange and of course it is possible that you are being monitored – especially if it is by a security professional (highly illegal of course). To be safe I would update the iOS or do a factory reset. If it still persists I would advise you to take legal advice.

  19. mary April 7, 2015 at 8:51 pm #

    If I do a factory reset, will I lose my own personal download s?

    • Michael Keenan April 13, 2015 at 11:41 am #

      Yes – be careful, everything you have added to the device will be removed – it will be exactly as it was when you bought it. You need to back up your personal data (contacts etc) and any apps you have downloaded and want to keep. It is easy to do a backup and keep your personal stuff safe.

  20. heidi April 27, 2015 at 3:34 am #

    If I do a factory reset will it erease all my text messages? I need to keep these do to a legal situation

    • Michael Keenan May 14, 2015 at 3:54 pm #

      Careful – a factory reset will erase all data from your device – including apps, software, messages etc. It will return it to how it was the day you bought it (as in from the factory!). You can of course back up or download any data you need to keep.

  21. MissPriss April 29, 2015 at 4:23 pm #

    Sooo where are you so i can just hand you this stupid phone and all my problems solved!!! 😉 lol JK I wish tho… And Thanks for all the information!!!

  22. meek May 9, 2015 at 2:14 am #

    If you don’t get your text msgs, where do you think they go?

    • Michael Keenan May 14, 2015 at 3:36 pm #

      Text message heaven! lol

  23. Ellom June 3, 2015 at 1:08 pm #

    Hello, I’m not really sure if my phone has spyware on it or not. If it has, I would like to have proof of that. If I restore factory settings, will it erase evidence of the spying? If so, what kind of expert could I go to to ask them to see if they can detect the spyware (for someone who isn’t too technically minded)

    • Michael Keenan June 7, 2015 at 8:17 pm #

      A factory reset will remove the software and also any evidence that it was there in the first place. There are forensic phone specialists advertizing online – do a search (sorry I have never used them and can’t recommend any). It looks costly to me! Obviously depends on your circumstances though.

  24. Yas June 17, 2015 at 7:01 pm #

    Does this bugging only work on voice calls? Can 1 also br followed with apps like Whatsap or sms’s?

    • Michael Keenan July 4, 2015 at 12:26 pm #

      Monitoring software can do much more than just monitor voice calls – Whatsapp, Face Book, texts, location – it is scary stuff in the wrong hands. Have a good look around this site to see what it is capable of.

  25. Joe D. Robertson June 22, 2015 at 7:58 pm #

    Great article thank you! To clarify all iPhone must be “JailBorken” correct? Then if you can not find that app (Cydia app) on the phone you most likely are safe? Or can they hide the app as well?

    • Michael Keenan July 4, 2015 at 12:14 pm #

      Yes – for downloadable spy software – some can monitor through Apple ID and password though. The fact that the phone doesn’t Look to be Jailbroken may not be enough – you can easily hide the Cydia app so you need to be sure. Upgrading or re-installing the iOS is a quick easy way to remove any possible Jailbreak on an Apple device.

  26. Frank Faugno June 27, 2015 at 10:57 pm #

    If your cell phone is tapped and you get a new phone and keep the same phone number and the same company, can the tappers tap the new phone without having your new phone physically in their possession?

    • Michael Keenan July 4, 2015 at 11:52 am #

      No – the software is installed on the actual phone / device, not the SIM card. They would need access to your new phone to install the monitoring software again.

  27. Jill July 8, 2015 at 10:37 pm #

    How do you find an expert to examine your phone, if you are suspicious that someone is tracking your phone?

    • Michael Keenan July 12, 2015 at 1:59 pm #

      It can be difficult to find people able to do this although services are appearing in some places. Obviously you are better to try and find somewhere local where you can bring your phone in to have it examined. It can be expensive though! Don’t forget – a simple factory reset will remove any moitoring software – it’s a hassle but cheap!

  28. mohamed August 6, 2015 at 12:09 pm #

    If my buisness phone is tapped and i used it as a portable hotspot connecting my personal phone to it would they still be able to monitor what i am doing online on my personal phone

    • Michael Keenan August 9, 2015 at 1:25 pm #

      I haven’t tested that or heard anyone else comment on it – but I would suspect it would actually monitor your personal phone being sent through the work phone in that way. Take care.

  29. shasta August 8, 2015 at 5:07 am #

    I have a LG tribute boostmoible phone. Sometimes when tapping or zooming in on sites or pictures etc..a blue border showes up around the screen what is this?

    • Michael Keenan August 9, 2015 at 1:20 pm #

      Sorry, I’ve no idea – but it doesn’t sound like spy software symptoms.

  30. Christine August 29, 2015 at 11:01 pm #

    Does the spy software have to use internet all the time..

    • Michael Keenan September 5, 2015 at 7:40 am #

      No not all the time – it just needs access to the internet to upload the logs of texts and calls etc. so that the person who installed the software can view it in the online account. Wi-Fi will work as well. Hope that makes sense.

  31. Steven September 17, 2015 at 9:24 pm #

    I have the HTC M9 and the battery sucks. I even noticed when I go to bed and if I turn the power off I still lose 2% battery per hour. Why is that ?

    • Michael Keenan September 21, 2015 at 6:01 am #

      Hey Steven – it could be any number of things. Some apps drain the battery, location services and backups etc. the list is endless. Just having battery drain isn’t enough to be concerned about spy software on your phone. If you have several of the mentioned symptoms together and think someone could have reason to, then you might look more closely. Good luck and thanks for getting in touch.

  32. Lily September 20, 2015 at 7:31 am #

    If someone in the government wanted to tap someone’s phone to see their text messages or phone calls would they need direct access to the phone? Or could they hack the provider to get to the phone?

    • Michael Keenan September 21, 2015 at 5:54 am #

      Law enforcement etc. can access everything either through the network providers or …. however they please it seems! Of course they are supposed to do this legally through the courts. Did you read they spied on Germany’s Prime Minister – her personal cell phone! lol.
      Needless to say they are not using commercial spy software to do this.

  33. Rick October 5, 2015 at 8:06 pm #

    Can my employer track where I go through my company cell phone?

    • Michael Keenan October 9, 2015 at 4:41 am #

      They can using this type of software – but legally they are required to inform you that the device is being monitored. Unfortunately, many don’t do this and it is difficult to know if you are being monitored. It turns off though!

  34. Jose November 3, 2015 at 2:16 pm #

    Hi, I regularly use social media networks such as Facebook, and notice anytime I post something about being injured or having drank too much one night that I receive e-mails with the subjects being health insurance or recommended rehabilitation? Does this mean my phone is being monitored?

    • Michael Keenan November 7, 2015 at 8:25 am #

      No – it is just Facebook targeting ads at you – the same way goole does. Ever notice when you look at flights for example – later you’ll keep seeing ads for flights or travel? It is targeted advertizing. Still monitoring in many people’s book!

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