Can My Phone Be Tracked If Location Services Are Off? | McAfee (2024)

Your smartphone comes with built-inlocation services, which are useful if you lose it or if you use an app that needs to know your location. But what if you don’t want your phone to be tracked? Can the phone be located if you turn offlocation services? The answer is yes, it’s possible to trackmobile phoneseven iflocation servicesare turned off.

Turning off thelocation serviceon your phone can help conceal your location. This is important if you don’t want third parties knowing where you are or being able to track your movement. However, a smartphone can still be tracked through other techniques that reveal its general location.

This article explains how your phone can be tracked and what you can do toenhance your mobile security.

How can a phone be tracked?

Whether you have aniOSorAndroid phone, there are ways it can be tracked even iflocation servicesare turned off. You may have used some of these yourself to find a lost orstolen phone. For example, theFind My iPhoneapp usesBluetoothto help you find aniPhoneeven if it’s offline.

If you have anAndroid phoneand theFind My Deviceapp, you can log in to yourGoogle accountand useGoogle Mapsto check yourphone’s location history.

Here are four ways that your phone could be tracked:

Cell towers

The United States hasmore than 307,000cell towers. When you use your phone, signals travel back and forth to the nearestcell tower. Cell carriers can calculate the general area of your phone by measuring the time it takes for a signal to travel back and forth.

Carriers usecell towertriangulation for a more accurate reading, which combineslocation datafrom threecell towers. This technology was developed to help 911 operators locate callers. It pinpoints the phone’s location within a300-meter area.

PublicWi-Fi

A smartphone that hasWi-Fienabled communicates with nearbyWi-Fi networkseven if it’s not connected to one. Your device automatically scansWi-Fiaccess points nearby and notes the signal strength.

When using publicWi-Fi, the provider commonly asks you to agree tolocation tracking. ThatWi-Fiprovider will then record your location whenever you’re in range of one of its hot spots.

To use publicWi-Fiwhile protecting your privacy, it’s a good idea to connect with a VPN likeMcAfee’sSafe Connect VPN. This software protects your data using bank-grade encryption to keep your online activity private. The VPN also keeps your IP address and physical location private.

Cell site simulators

Cell site simulators — otherwise known as stingrays— mimiccellphonetowers. They trick your phone into pinging it, transmitting its location, and identifying information. Stingrays causecellphonesto connect to them rather than to legitimatecell towersby transmitting a stronger signal than that from the cell towers.

Law enforcementofficers often use stingrays to locate and track the movement of potential suspects. While attempting to connect to a specific individual, stingrays connect data from all phones in the vicinity of the device.

Malware orspyware

A device that is infected withmalwareorspywarecan track your location even if yourlocation settingsare turned off. Malware can also record your online activities, allow cybercriminals to steal personal information, or slow down youroperating system.

To help protect yourmobile device, consider getting a comprehensive security tool likeMcAfee Security for Mobile. It works for bothAndroidandiOSdevices and comes with an antivirus app that scans for threats and malware and blocks them inreal-time.

Can you tell if your phone is being tracked?

While many reasons for tracking aphone’s location informationare benign — such as seeing where a loved one might be — scammers and hackers may track phones in an attempt to steal personal data.

Luckily, some telltale signs can help you spot whether yourphone is being tracked.

Battery drain

When your phone hasspyware, the program continuously runs in the background and drains your battery. A battery that is losing power faster than normal is either due to an old battery orspyware.

Check your battery health to see if it is still strong. If you use aniPhone,follow these stepsto check battery health. You’ll see a maximum capacity score that shows your battery power compared to when it was new. An older phone with a battery capacity of 75% could explain why your battery loses power throughout the day. If your battery capacity is 95% or 100% and it drains quickly, however, a virus could be to blame.

It’s a slightly different process tocheck the battery healthon anAndroid device. Depending on the phone brand, you may need to download an app.

Overheating

Using apps with high processing demands can cause yourmobile deviceto heat up. Aspywareapp that tracks yourdevice’s locationwill use GPS, which causes the phone to work harder and overheat. If you’re using your smartphone normally and it overheats, it could be a sign of malware.

Extra apps

If there areunfamiliar appson your phone, someone may have tampered with it. The mystery app could bespyware.

Unprompted activity

If your phone launches activities that you didn’t initiate, an app might be running in the background. In some cases, malware needs to reboot your phone to install updates or change the phone’s settings.

A phone that automatically restarts lights up for no reason or makes noises during calls or texts could be infected with malware.

Phone tracking FAQs

Here are answers to some common questions about phone tracking.

Can a phone be tracked if it’s turned off?

A phone that is turned off is difficult to track because it stops sending signals tocell towers. However, theservice provideror internet provider can show the last location once it’s switched back on.

Can a phone be tracked with no cell service/connection?

Even without cell service,Androiddevices andiPhonescan be tracked. Your phone’s mapping apps can track yourphone’s locationwithout an internet connection.

The GPS works in two ways: It uses Assisted GPS or A-GPS when you have a data connection. This uses the locations ofcellphonetowers and knownWi-Fi networksto figure out where you are. It also uses data from GPS satellites for more precise information. The A-GPS needs data service to work, but the GPS radio can receive satellite information without data service.

Can a phone be tracked when it’s inairplane mode?

Yes, your phone can be tracked when it’s inairplane mode. While it does turn offWi-Fiand cellular services,airplane modedoesn’t turn off GPS (a different technology that sends and receives signals from GPS satellites). You’ll have to disable GPS on your device and turn onairplane modeto prevent your phone from being tracked.

Protect your mobile security with McAfee

Understanding how your phone can be tracked can help you protect your privacy. For greater peace of mind, though, it can help to have a mobile security tool likeMcAfee Security for Mobileto keep yourAndroidorAppledevice free fromspyware.

Our all-inclusive mobile security tool safeguards your digital life by offering safe browsing,a secure VPN, and antivirus software. It actively protects you from malicious apps, likespyware, and unwanted visitors.

With a dedicated mobile security app, you can use your phone the way you want without worrying about cybercriminals tracking your information.

Can My Phone Be Tracked If Location Services Are Off? | McAfee (2024)

FAQs

Can My Phone Be Tracked If Location Services Are Off? | McAfee? ›

Can the phone be located if you turn off location services? The answer is yes, it's possible to track mobile phones even if location services are turned off. Turning off the location service on your phone can help conceal your location.

Can my phone be tracked if location services is off? ›

Sometimes, you may want to turn off the location services for security reasons. In this case, you might wonder "Can someone track my phone if my location is off?" Yes, it is possible to track mobile phones even when location services are disabled.

How do I block my phone from being tracked? ›

What can I do to prevent my phone from being tracked?
  1. Use antivirus software. ...
  2. Use a VPN. ...
  3. Don't use a public WiFi network. ...
  4. Turn off location settings for certain apps. ...
  5. Check your Google account. ...
  6. Use a strong password. ...
  7. Enable biometrics and 2-factor authentication. ...
  8. Keep your phone updated.
Mar 16, 2024

How to make your phone location untraceable? ›

Tap the gear icon in the upper-right corner to open Settings. Scroll down and tap Location. Tap the toggle switch at the top to turn Location off.

What happens if I turn off location services on my phone? ›

Turn Location Services on or off

You can individually control which apps and system services have access to Location Services data. When Location Services are off, apps can't use your location from Location Services in the foreground or background. This will limit the performance of various Apple and third-party apps.

What is the 3 digit number to see if your phone is tapped? ›

Fortunately, there's a code (netmonitor code) that helps you identify whether or not you're being tracked or tapped. To confirm this, dial any of the codes below for your phone's operating system: For Android devices, dial: *#*#197328640#*#* or *#*#4636#*#* For iPhones, dial: *3001#12345#*

Can an iPhone be tracked when turned off? ›

Apple's Find My network can be used to track a lost or stolen iPhone, even if it's been turned off or offline. For this to work, Find My Network will need to be enabled on the iPhone before it's lost. The feature is only available on the iPhone 11 and later models.

How do you make sure your phone is not being tracked? ›

Turn off location settings

Turning off the location-based features of your phone can prevent GPS tracking. Switching to airplane mode will do this for you, but you can also turn off GPS tracking as an isolated feature on many devices, allowing you to still use your phone to make calls and access the internet.

What is the code to see if your phone is being tracked? ›

Press *#*#4636#*#* or *#*#197328640#*#* to see if anyone is watching your movements. These are Utility Net Monitor Codes. Dialing these codes can tell you if you're being tracked or monitored through your mobile phone.

Can police track your phone if location is off? ›

Can a phone be tracked if it's turned off? A phone that is turned off is difficult to track because it stops sending signals to cell towers. However, the service provider or internet provider can show the last location once it's switched back on.

How to tell if someone is tracking you? ›

10 Signs to Tell If Your Phone Is Being Tracked
  1. Unknown Apps Installed on Your Phone. ...
  2. Your Phone Gets Overheated. ...
  3. Higher Data Usage. ...
  4. Increased Battery Consumption. ...
  5. Your Phone Is Jailbroken or Rooted. ...
  6. Sudden Performance Deterioration. ...
  7. Unusual and Peculiar Permission Requests. ...
  8. Unusual Noise During Calls.

What phone Cannot be tracked? ›

Librem 5: The Privacy-Focused Phone with a Social Mission

It uses a privacy-focused operating system and avoids features that can be used for tracking.

Can someone track my phone without me knowing? ›

Can someone spy on your phone without you knowing? Yes, if they had physical access to your phone and installed monitoring software.

Can someone track your location with your phone number? ›

Phone Number and Location:

Your phone number alone is not sufficient for someone to track your precise location in real-time. Phone numbers are primarily used for communication and are not directly tied to your physical location.

Is my phone being monitored? ›

Increased data usage

If you suspect your phone is being monitored, check the Storage section in your settings. Here, you should be able to see how much data is being consumed by what. If you notice your device is using more data than usual, that could be an indicator of spyware.

Why would someone turn location services off? ›

Turning off Location Services can help to protect your privacy by minimizing the amount of personal data your phone collects and shares with your apps and contacts.

Will people be notified if I turn off location services? ›

No one is notified if you turn off Location Services, but some features may not work as expected without access to your location. Note: You can also temporarily turn off Find My iPhone in the same tab if you're concerned someone may have access to your iCloud account.

How accurate can a cell phone be tracked? ›

Ghose, Acevedo and Chellappa said the size of the area in which a cellphone can be traced to depends on how many cell towers there are in the vicinity. Urban areas, with more towers, provide greater precision, they said. “It can be 50 to 500 feet,” Chellappa said.

What is the secret code to see if your phone is hacked? ›

##4636## or ##197328640## ➡️ To Check Unknown Connections (Android) If you're concerned someone has installed malware or spyware on your Android phone, these codes open up a screen that lists all running processes and services.

What does *#21 do to your phone? ›

Dialing *#21# on a GSM network like AT&T or T-Mobile will tell you whether your calls and messages are being diverted to another number. Call **21* if you use Verizon, US Cellular, or another CDMA network to discover any unconditional call forwarding settings that may be used to tap your phone.

How to make your phone impossible to track by police? ›

3. Turn off GPS and Bluetooth tracking. On Android and iOS phones, the GPS is known as “location services.” By turning location services off, you can prevent other apps from tracking your location.

Can you be tracked if location services are off? ›

Cellular Network Tracking: Even if location services are off, your phone constantly communicates with cellular towers to maintain a connection. Mobile network operators can track the general location of your phone based on the cell towers it connects to.

How do you stop someone from tracking your iPhone? ›

Go to Settings > Privacy & Security > Tracking. The list shows the apps that requested permission to track you. You can turn permission on or off for any app on the list. To stop all apps from asking permission to track you, turn off Allow Apps to Request to Track (at the top of the screen).

Can you still track an iPhone if it's dead? ›

When you're using iCloud.com/find, you can't find your device's location if it's powered off, the battery has run out, or more than 24 hours has passed since its last location was sent to Apple.

Can you track a mobile phone when location is off? ›

Just visit the Find My Device web page and sign in with your Google account. Your device will then be tracked, and if it's connected to the internet, its precise location will be displayed. In the event that your phone is switched off, Find My Device will indicate the last known location before it went offline.

Can someone see my iPhone location if phone is off? ›

Yes, someone can see your location if your phone is off. Your device probably transmitted its last known location, which others might access. Disabling location services on your mobile device will help you hide your location—including when your phone is off.

Will someone be notified if I turn off location services? ›

This stops all apps on your device, such as Maps, from using your location. No one is notified if you turn off Location Services, but some features may not work as expected without access to your location.

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