How to Check if Someone Is Spying on Your Phone

By John Machay

Wallets and cell phones may be similar in terms of importance, but a thief doesn't have to physically steal a cell phone to get to the information it holds.
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While both men and women have long regarded wallets as among their most guarded possessions, these days people have taken to carrying around another item that’s just as valuable: cell phones. Like wallets, cell phones contain their owners' personal details, credit card numbers and banking information – not to mention access to online accounts, passwords and important phone numbers. But unlike wallets, cell phones don’t have to be lost or stolen for a thief to access their owners' critical information – or, for that matter, eavesdrop on conversations, read confidential text messages and emails, and view stored photos. There are a number of spyware applications available that will allow an outsider to monitor these things remotely. Although these programs are difficult to detect, there are a few things you can look for to determine whether your life is being compromised through your cell phone.

Step 1

Determine whether someone has had the opportunity to install spyware on your phone. It takes someone who knows what he’s doing only a minute or two to complete the installation, so if you’ve allowed someone to make a “quick call” on your phone, left your phone on your desk while you were in a meeting or left it on a restaurant table while you used the restroom, someone has had the opportunity.

Step 2

Watch your phone when it’s not in use. Most cell phones automatically light up when the screen is touched, a key is pushed or data is transmitted. So if you notice your phone lighting up when you’re not using it, that could indicate stolen data is being uploaded or sent to the person who installed a spyware program.

Step 3

Pay attention to your phone’s icons. Data transmission on several types of cell phones is accompanied by the appearance of an onscreen icon. If you’re not familiar with your phone’s icons, look in your owner’s manual to determine what the data icon looks like and watch for it to pop up at inappropriate times. The presence of this icon when you’re not accessing the Internet with your phone could mean your phone’s been compromised.

Step 4

Examine your phone bill. Most spyware applications run constantly; when they’re not actively monitoring calls or text messages, they’re collecting data, generating reports, checking GPS positions and uploading information or forwarding it via text messaging. If your phone bill reveals increases in text messaging activity or data use even though you haven’t been using these features more than usual, that could be a red flag.

Step 5

Check your battery. The activity of a spyware app might not be obvious to a phone’s owner, but – like any other function – it needs power to run. So having to charge your phone more frequently even though you haven’t been using it more often could indicate it’s been infected with spyware.

Step 6

Use common sense. The lack of the above-mentioned red flags is no reason to dismiss other indicators that may have made you suspicious in the first place. For example, if someone in your life knows things you’ve shared only during private phone conversations, or if you’ve got a reason to believe someone’s been accessing your online banking or social networking accounts, there’s a strong chance your phone has been compromised.

Step 7

Play it safe. If any of the above-mentioned indicators are present, don’t wait for more confirmation to solidify your suspicions. Follow the instructions in your phone’s owner’s manual or bring it to your service provider and restore the phone’s factory settings. It’s the most reliable way to remove spyware and keep your private life private.