Is it paranoia or entirely possible? Finding out how to know if your phone is tapped can help you discern fact from fiction and decide whether someone is really listening in to your conversations. While many people think only government agencies can tap someone's phone, the technology to do so is available to the public. Employers, stalkers, and criminals can all tap your phone and use the collected information against you. So, how can you tell if your phone has been tapped?
How to Tell If Your Phone Is Tapped - 9 Warning Signs
If you believe your phone is tapped, don’t panic. First, you’ll want to look for the common warning signs usually associated with phone tapping. These fraudulent programs generally leave a trace when they operate, and by identifying certain device processes you can spot these apps early. Here are 9 warning signs you can look for to see if your phone may have been tapped by a third party.
1. Sudden Increase In Phone Bill
Many phone plans have a data limit built in, and exceeding that limit can send your phone bill skyrocketing. Whether it be internet usage or apps soaking up your limited data, you should keep a close eye on your phone bill for overages.
This isn’t only to save you money either; if you see a sudden change in the amount you pay every month, consider calling your service provider. Phone tap software will often operate through downloaded apps and will use your data to transfer information to a third party.
2. Faster Battery Drain
Along with data usage, unwanted apps can be a massive drain on your device’s power. If you find yourself constantly charging your phone, especially with newer models, this may be a sign your phone has been tapped. These background apps will use up your phone’s available power while maliciously transferring your data.
Watch out for increased heat due to battery drain as well; an overtaxed battery will be working overtime, and likely become hot to the touch. If you don’t usually use too many apps concurrently, a hot battery can be another tip-off your phone has been tapped. Check your phone to see what apps you are running and identify any that are out of the ordinary.
3. Apps That You Did Not Download
Have you ever scrolled through the many apps downloaded on your phone and wondered “Where did all of these come from?” Many smartphone users don’t delete apps even after they stop using them, and most phones come with several programs pre-installed known as ‘bloatware’. This leads to a lot of apps you rarely utilize or never downloaded in the first place, creating the perfect environment for a phone tap app to hide.
You’ll want to comb through all of your apps and delete any you don’t use or don’t remember downloading. It's also best to make sure you pay attention to the apps you download in the future; the app store can be full of fraudulent applications, and once downloaded these programs can steal your information through malware and listen to your audio.
4. Camera Turns On By Its Own
Many fraudulent apps will ask permission to use your phone's camera, which can lead to it turning on by itself. If you see any indication your phone has turned on by itself, try to find the app responsible. Scammers can use these features to see credit card numbers or other sensitive information, and use it to defraud you.
5. Increased Popups
Pop-up ads are a tool used by app developers to make money off of advertising, but can also lead you to unsafe or fraudulent websites. Most legitimate or paid apps will not cause an increase in pop-ups, so a sudden uptick in the number you are seeing can be concerning. If you are experiencing a surge in pop-ups, check the most recent apps you have downloaded. If any looks sketchy, it very well could be stealing your data while annoying you with ads.
6. New Added Profiles And Administrators
Apps with administrative permissions can often access many different facets of your device. If these apps are fraudulent, this could be incredibly damaging to you and your device. Checking the administrators on your device is easy: simply go to your phone’s settings and navigate to the “security” section. “Device administration” or some close variation should be one of the options, which will show you a list of apps with their respective administrative privileges.
Make sure each app with these permissions was allowed by you personally; if not, your phone may have been tapped. Make sure to disable the permissions of any app you do not recognize or don’t want utilizing different parts of your device.
7. Issues with Device Performance
As the RAM on your device is used by concurrently running apps, your device will begin to run slower. RAM, short for random-access memory, is responsible for storing the short term data that allows your smartphone to operate. When there is RAM to spare, your device will run smoothly and applications will open very quickly. When it's being monopolized by a fraudulent app, you’ll notice your device running much slower than usual.
8. Unusual Noises/Disturbance During Calls
Certain programs that monitor your phone can make noises during phone calls; these often present as brief high-pitched beeps, short clicking noises, or a general background static. While older phones would usually have some sort of signal interference, often leading to strange noises or even faint voices, today’s advanced networks rarely if ever experience these issues.
If you are suddenly hearing new and unusual noises during phone calls, these could indicate your phone has been tapped. It's best to contact your service provider if you believe this is happening. Even if you are wrong, it's better to be safe than sorry.
9. Suspicious or Unusual Messages
One of the more discomforting signs of phone tapping is receiving strange messages. These could come through as SMS text messages, and will appear as random strings of letters and numbers. These messages tend to be a jumbled mess with no discernible words, including blocks of text mixed in with symbols and other nonsensical characters. While seemingly inane, these messages are actually a by-product of phone tapping programs. These scammers will often try to contact you in other ways too, like emails or social media.
Unusual emails will often ask you to go to an external website where you will be prompted to enter private information. Social media messages may ask you to download a file, usually saying something along the lines of “is this you?” or “I can’t believe this.” All of these are designed to pique your interest and get you to either A, give up information freely, or B, download a malicious program.
How To Untap Your Phone
If you find yourself recognizing one or more of the above warning signs, it's entirely possible your phone has been tapped. The question is, how do you untap your phone? While all devices have different methods for finding and purging phone tapping apps, there are some general guidelines you can follow.
1. Factory Reset Your Phone
When you factory reset a device, you are restoring it back to its original factory settings. That means it removes any trace of your user data and deletes any apps that you have downloaded. Performing a factory reset can not only fix your phone tapping problem, but many phone issues like:
- Setting or configuration changes you want to revert to default
- Stubborn files you can’t delete
- Any malicious programs you want to remove entirely
Before performing a factory reset on your device, you’ll want to back up all information that you intend to keep. A factory reset will remove every piece of personal data from your phone: this includes downloaded files, photos, videos, and audio files. If there is anything on your device you want to save from deletion, consider backing it up to a flash drive, hard drive, or onto the cloud.
To perform a factory reset, you’ll need to follow the instructions for your particular device. Here is the way to factory reset three popular operating systems: iOS, Android, and Windows Phone.
- iOS:For iOS devices, navigate to Settings. Select “General”, then tap “Reset.”
- Android:For Android users, navigate to Settings. Select “Backup and Reset”
- Windows Phone:For those using a Windows Phone, navigate to Settings. Then, select “About” and tap “Reset Your Phone.”
2. Remove Unwanted Apps
If you don’t want to go for an option as drastic as a factory reset, you may consider carefully removing each app you don’t want or recognize from your device. This will take a lot longer than resetting your phone, but will prevent you from losing any data or apps you want to keep. Removing apps is a different process for each device; Here are instructions for removing apps from Android phones, Apple iPhones, and Windows phones.
First, navigate to your phone’s settings either by entering “Settings” in your app search bar or selecting the icon from your home screen. From here, you’ll want to select “Apps and Notifications” then tap “App Info.” This will present you with a list of all currently installed apps, which you can search through to find the apps you don’t want. Once you’ve found an unwanted app, tap it and hit “Uninstall.”
There are several ways to remove apps from an Apple phone, the easiest of which is to hold your finger on the app until it starts to jiggle. This will give you a prompt in the upper-left corner of the app to delete it. You can also remove the apps by looking through your app library, using the same process as you would for those on the home screen. Make sure to check to see if the app has any associated subscriptions, as these won’t be canceled just by removing the app.
The first step to removing apps from a windows phone is to navigate to the apps list. You can use the search bar to find individual apps (if you know which ones you are looking for) or scroll through to find unwanted applications. Once you find an app you want to delete, press and hold the app and tap “Uninstall” when prompted.
3. Safe Mode
Safe mode is a feature on smartphones that allows their operating system to solve issues pertaining to apps or system configurations. While in this mode, your phone can debug faulty applications and disable features that may be hidden during your device’s normal operation. Putting your device in safe mode follows a different procedure for each operating system, while some (like Windows phones) do not have this option at all.
How To Put An Android Phone in Safe Mode (Android 11 or Higher)
- First, press and hold your device’s power button.
- A menu will pop-up; select the “Power Off” option.
- Continue to hold the power button until the phone reboots.
- You will see a prompt to “Reboot to safe mode”. Tap on that prompt.
How To Put An Apple iPhone in Safe Mode
- Start by switching off your apple phone.
- Turn the phone back on; as it lights up, press the volume down button until you see the apple logo.
- Once your phone fully turns on, it will be in safe mode.
4. Check Registered Profiles
Checking the registered profiles on your phone will show you who has access to your device. These profiles can also make changes and install apps that could lead to your phone being tapped.
How to Remove a User from an Android Phone
If you want to see the registered profiles on an Android, open the device’s settings and tap the “System” option. Then hit “Multiple Users.” If you find a profile you want to remove, hit the “Remove user” option.
How to Remove a Profile from an IPhone
To see the registered profiles on an iPhone, navigate to settings and select “General.” Then tap “Profiles & Device Management” to see which profiles are registered on your device. If you see a profile you don’t recognize, you can tap to delete it.
Look For The Signs and Take Action When Necessary
While phone tapping can be a frightening issue to deal with, the best way to handle it is to stay vigilant. Keep an eye out for the warning signs that your device may have been tapped; if you believe your phone has interfered with, take action to remove the threat. This way you can stop the problem early and prevent your data from being stolen or leaked.