How can you tell if your phone is being tracked

Even though I have discourage my friends severally about hiring a private investigator to catch their cheating partners, I resorted to hiring one during my divorce. My ex husband hid his affair too well and I had no evidence to prove his infidelity to the court so I had to go back to my friend who am grateful didn't listen to me back then to refer me to the hacker she is working with and I told him my problem.
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Unless you compromise on the user experience and features, almost all devices and software will have monitoring and tracking components in them. This is why you get the ability to remotely monitor and control an app, service, or device.

So, can someone abuse this feature to track your phone? If yes, how can you prevent phone tracking? More importantly, can you detect if your phone is being tracked? Here, we shall briefly discuss the answers to those questions.

Can Someone Track Your Phone?

Long story short: Yes, one can monitor your phone to keep tabs on all your activities.

However, that does not necessarily mean that the attacker can also get all the associated information. For instance, the attacker may be able to see what you browse and whom you connect with. But, they may not be able to see your messages.

It depends on how the monitoring is taking place on your phone. If surveillance apps explicitly do phone tracking for parental controls and safety, they should have various features, including location sharing, remote control, etc.

But what if a malicious attacker is tracking your phone?

It is implausible for an unauthorized user to track your phone without physically accessing your device unless you did some of the following things:

  • Unknowingly installed a malicious app from a third-party app store.
  • Shared your credentials through a phishing scam campaign.
  • Used outdated device software for an extended time (like a year or more).

Now that you know that it is possible, how do you notice it?

How to Know If Someone Is Tracking Your Phone

A few pointers can help you determine if someone's monitoring your device. Let's see what they are, shall we?

1. Unknown Apps

How can you tell if your phone is being tracked

How can you even know when someone is spying on your Android phone or tablet? It’s a bit tricky, but there are a few red flags you can look for. Let’s show you some of them.

Performance issues

Spyware constantly gets your data, works hard in the background, and eats up your resources. This is why devices often get slow when running this sneaky software in the background. Be worried if your phone is suddenly dropping performance for no apparent reason. This could also be happening for other reasons, so check out our dedicated post on how to speed up a smartphone first.

Battery life suddenly dropping

How can you tell if your phone is being tracked

Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority

Noticing a phone doesn’t last as much as it did when first purchased is normal. Batteries start dying with time. Plus, you are probably throwing more work at devices as you continue to expand your app collection. But sudden drops in battery life are not typical.

Tracking software can take up a lot of resources. These are working in the background, running your GPS, and doing other things… sometimes all the time. Unexpected battery drains could mean someone is tracking your device, or it could be something else in your phone pulling all that juice. Check our list of common battery drain issues for reasons other than spies.

How to check which apps are using up your battery:

  1. Open the Settings app.
  2. Tap on Battery.
  3. Hit Battery usage.
  4. A list of apps with a percentage of battery usage will appear.
  5. Check if there are any weird or unknown apps here. If you see something you can’t recognize, do a Google search and see if it’s possibly a spying or tracking app.

How can you tell if your phone is being tracked

Kris Carlon / Android Authority

A tracking app will try to update the attacker constantly. This means it will need data… and often plenty of it. Are you noticing unusual usage of your data? A possible attack could be the reason why this is happening.

This is especially bad because unlimited data subscribers often get throttled after using a certain amount of data. Furthermore, you might still be in a limited data plan, worsening the situation.

How to check data usage:

  1. Open your phone’s Settings app.
  2. Select Network & internet.
  3. Under SIMs, select your SIM of choice.
  4. Go into App data usage.
  5. You can see more information here, and even check how much data each app uses.
  6. Check the list of apps and see which are using the internet more. Look for any discrepancies. It would be normal to see YouTube using much data, but a “Notes” app shouldn’t use much.

Temperature suddenly rising

Is your phone getting a little too hot? This is normal during hard-core gaming sessions or while charging, but it shouldn’t happen when your phone is idle, sitting in your pocket, or doing light tasks. If you notice unusual temperatures on your handset, it might have fallen victim to spying.

How can you tell if your phone is being tracked

Kris Carlon / Android Authority

We aren’t talking about paranormal activity… though sometimes it may seem like it. Sometimes phones that are being spied on make weird noises during calls. This could include white noise, beeping, or simple echoing. Of course, we all have lousy reception sometimes, but it shouldn’t be habitual.

Phone turns on and off

Other usual signs that your device may have been compromised are random reboots and shutdowns. Don’t go too crazy with this one, as some buggy phones do this sometimes, but keep your eyes open for other clues if you see this type of odd behavior.

How can you tell if your phone is being tracked

Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority

Are you getting some weird text messages? Maybe ones with many letters and numbers that seem to be code. Perhaps just random talk from unknown numbers. They can be anything, really.

Attackers often use these to communicate with devices and give them commands. For example, if an attacker needs your location, he can request it by sending you a message with a pre-determined code.

Are any weird apps around?

How can you tell if your phone is being tracked

Ryan Haines / Android Authority

Have you noticed some weird apps showing up out of nowhere? These could result from malware or spyware, which can often download and install apps on your smartphone without approval.

Is your phone doing things when it shouldn’t?

Notification lights, sounds, and screens activating are standard, but it’s not OK to see these things happening when they shouldn’t. You should be concerned if your phone shows signs of activity when you’re not doing anything with it. If your screen turns on or the phone makes a noise, and there is no notification, this may be a sign that someone is spying on you.

Issues turning off or restarting

Hackers can make turning off or restarting a phone complicated. Some spyware can even prevent such actions. These wrongdoers want to be able to check on your phone and interact with it without problems. Turning the device off would be a severe limitation.

Weird browser history entries

How can you tell if your phone is being tracked

Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority

Look into your browser history and see if there’s anything weird in there. More specifically, try to see if there’s anything about phone spying software. Someone may have used your browser to download spyware. Likewise, people who want to steal your private data might also be looking around websites to see what they can take.

How to check your Chrome browser’s history:

  1. Launch the Chrome browser.
  2. Tap on the three-dot menu button.
  3. Select History.
  4. Scroll through the history to see visited websites.

How can I fight spying and tracking apps?

How can you tell if your phone is being tracked

OK. So you may have some spyware installed on your phone — now what?

Avoid rooting phones and unofficial app downloads

The Google Play Store does its best to keep you secure, but remember, we are Android users. We can easily install 3rd-party apps and be at risk of intrusion. We advise you not to install apps from anywhere besides the Google Play Store. Installing apps manually can have its benefits, but it’s a favorite way for hackers and spies to get their software on your smartphone.

Now let’s talk about rooted phones. Owning a rooted phone is certainly a plus for some of us, but it comes with serious risks. Root users can dig into the system and modify the code. This could make it very hard to combat spyware. Remember Avast! Mobile Security? They could install their phone tracking software straight into the system files, making their solution survive even factory data resets. They did it for your security, but who says hackers won’t do it for opposite reasons?

We advise you not to root your phone unless you feel very confident about your actions. You should also consider unrooting your phone if it already is.

Try to find the app manually

How can you tell if your phone is being tracked

Ryan Haines / Android Authority

Do you believe someone is spying on your phone? The first step is to try and manually find any suspicious files or applications. You can use any file manager to do this. Another option is to simply take a look at your app drawer.

Oh, and remember, these guys are trying to keep things on the down-low, so chances are the app won’t just tout its real name and logo. It could be disguised as something else, like a notepad app. Just go in there and see if there’s anything unusual, and if you don’t remember installing it (and it wasn’t a pre-bundled app), you would be wise to remove it.

How to delete an Android app:

  1. Open the Settings app.
  2. Go into Apps.
  3. Tap on See all apps.
  4. Find the app you want to delete and tap on it.
  5. Tap on Uninstall.
  6. Hit OK.

How can you tell if your phone is being tracked

Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority

Spyware is hard to find; it is also hard to clean. The only way to ensure it’s all gone is by wiping the phone clean and starting new again. I do this every single time I get a new device. It doesn’t matter if the phone looks like it was already reset; I do it again.

Just perform a factory data reset, and the phone will be in the same state it was when it was turned on for the first time (at least software-wise). Remember, this will delete everything, so make a good backup.

Use an antivirus app

Many believe antivirus apps are bogus, and while this can be true, that’s not always the case. It is very rare to get any malicious software on your phone if you stay within Google’s protective arms, but the truth is these apps can potentially help fight spying and tracking. Here’s a list of our favorite antivirus apps!

Keeping your phone protected

How can you tell if your phone is being tracked

Rita El Khoury / Android Authority

Your phone is a very personal item. Don’t let just anyone go in and roam around like it’s an open house. Keep your phone with you and protect it well against strangers’ eyes. You can protect the lock screen (password, pin, fingerprint, etc.). Check out our guide to protecting your privacy using Android, too.

Maybe you want to take advantage of a spying app! Spying apps have a negative connotation, but they aren’t always a bad idea. They could help you keep track of your own devices, as well as your kids’. Check out our recommendations below.

We’d also like to bring a newer form of spying to your attention. People have recently been planting tracking devices such as Apple AirTags on people’s belongings, such as vehicles. Thankfully, there is a way to check if someone’s doing this to you.

How do I block my phone from being tracked?

Turn off location services (iOS and Android).
Go to Settings > Privacy and tap Location Services..
You can toggle off Location Services for all apps or scroll down and turn off location services only for specific apps..
Go to Settings > Location, and toggle the location button to Off..

Can someone track my phone without me knowing?

Regardless of whether you use an iPhone or an Android smartphone, it is possible for someone to install spyware onto your phone that secretly tracks and reports on your activity. It's even possible for someone to monitor your cell phone's activity without ever even touching it.

Does *# 21 tell you if your phone is tapped?

Our ruling: False. We rate the claim that dialing *#21# on an iPhone or Android device reveals if a phone has been tapped FALSE because it is not supported by our research.