Ways to detect phone tapping

Written by mario ramos
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Ways to detect phone tapping
Protect your privacy -- learn how phone taps work and how to detect them. (Michael Blann/Digital Vision/Getty Images)

Detecting a phone tap is not always easy. Tapping a landline phone is much different from tapping a cell phone, and sometimes the signs of a tap are so subtle that it's virtually impossible to detect it. Nevertheless, there are steps that you can take to protect yourself from both landline and cellphone taps.

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How Does a Landline Phone Tap Work?

Landline phone taps usually involve an induction coil. An induction coil consists of two entwined copper wires that can receive the signal from a landline and transmit it to a third party. It is usually placed directly next to the line, and eavesdroppers must be fairly close to the line to hear the calls clearly.

Ways to Detect a Landline Phone Tap

Unlike in the movies, landline phone taps usually don't produce audible clicks during a phone call (such clicks probably just indicate a problem with the line, not a tap). Wiretap detectors are also sold in stores and online, but quality varies widely. The cheapest and most reliable way to detect a landline phone tap is to contact your telephone company: If the company detects an illegal tap, they will remove it and notify both you and law enforcement. However, if the tap is legal, they are not obligated to notify you. If you are being legally tapped, a court will notify you within 90 days of its discontinuation.

How Does a Cell-Phone Tap Work?

Software can be downloaded to your cell phone by someone else, which will allow them to listen to your calls. This can be done remotely, without the need for physical access to your phone. This software not only allows others to eavesdrop and trace all your texts and e-mails, but it can also track your movements using "triangulation," which uses your phone's signal strength to pinpoint your location to within two to three meters' accuracy. Some cell-phone-tapping software can turn your mobile into a working microphone -- even if you're not using it -- which will enable others to listen to all conversations within the phone's immediate vicinity.

Ways to Detect a Cell-Phone Tap

Signs of a cell phone tap can be very subtle. When your cell phone is not in use, check to see if your cellphone battery is unusually warm or if the phone lights up for no apparent reason. If you are on a call, note any unexpected clicks or beeps on the line. However, your phone may still be tapped even without these signs.

Protecting Yourself from a Cell-Phone Tap

There are several steps you can take to proctect yourself from a cellphone tap. Phones which have online capability and can access the Internet are highly vulnerable to phone taps, so choose a model without this function. Make sure that no one else is able to physically access your phone, and keep it locked with a password. Remove the battery from the phone when you're not using it -- this will prevent it from being turned into a microphone. If you need to make calls which involve sensitive information, use a cell phone with a prepaid month-to-month plan.

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