How to turn a cell phone into a bug

Updated March 23, 2017

A lot of people dream about being able to spy on others with James Bond-type gadgets. Most never attempt it, as surveillance equipment can be expensive. There are alternate ways to live that dream. One option is to turn an ordinary cell phone into a bug and listen in on conversations from long distances. Practical applications include spying on babysitters, nannies or your children. A word of caution, though: Spying on neighbours, friends and relatives is more than likely illegal in your state.

Download the "Spy" ringtone to the cell phone you wish to use as your bug (see Resources). Select the "Spy" tone as the ringtone. The "Spy" tone rings silently when a call is placed to that phone. Alternately, set the tone to silent and turn off the vibrate option. Most cell phones have this capability built in. Consult your phone's owner manual for details for your particular phone model.

Plug in the hands-free microphone to the phone. Set the phone to auto-answer. Some cell phones will automatically switch to auto answer when the hands-free microphone is inserted. Check your phone's manual if this isn't the case with your phone. Wrap the hands-free microphone cord around the phone base and tape it so that it is as compact as possible. Do not place tape over the speaker for the hands-free set or the phone.

Select the no-lights feature located in the options area of your cell phones' menu. If you cannot find this option, place a small piece of black tape over the section of the phone that lights up when it rings. Test this in a dark room to make sure no light escapes from the phone. Remember not to tape over the speakers.

Test the bug by setting the phone in a room with a radio or television playing. Call the phone from an area of your home where you cannot hear the radio. The hands-free set will automatically answer the phone and begin transmitting the noise from that room to the phone you are using to call. Test the bug at night to make sure no lights are coming on when you call. Call the bug from another cell and watch the bug. Nothing should change on the device.

Place the bug in an inconspicuous place in the room or area you wish to monitor, perhaps a on window sill covered with a curtain, underneath a small electronic device or on a bookshelf unit with the phone hidden behind books and the microphone portion of the bug facing the room.


Recording conversations you hear is a violation of federal wiretapping laws; be careful in how you use this "bug." There are companies that sell specific devices that claim to do the same thing; use caution, as a few of these are scams.

Things You'll Need

  • Cell phone with prepaid minutes
  • Hands-free microphone and earpiece
  • Tape
  • Different phone to use to call your "bug."
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About the Author

David Roberts has been writing since 1985. He has published for various websites including online business news publications. He has over 11 years experience in tax preparation and small business consultation. He is also a Certified Fraud Examiner. He received a Master of Business Administration from Florida Metropolitan University in 2005.