Fact check: Dialing this viral code will show call forwarding status, not a phone tap (2024)

The claim: Dialing this secret code will show if someone is monitoring your phone calls

AsAmericans continue working, socializing, shopping and living from home, our phones are increasingly involved in our daily lives. For some, this heightened dependence means heightened vulnerability to cyber-securitythreats.

A video posted to Instagram July 15 claims iPhone and Android users can test to see if someone is monitoring their phone useby dialing a secret code.

In the video, posted by @whodafckwannago2prison, a man holds an iPhone and demos how users should type *#21# to test their devices. He tells viewers to dispose of their phones if the next screen indicates that any of the listed features have been enabled.

The post quickly inspired hundred of comments from Instagram users sharing the results of their own test and expressing concerns about the security of their devices. Some questioned the validity of the code and the post's motivation.

“It worked but why do I feel like I just opened up my phone to whatever scam he doing,” @619meech commented.

Other videos making the same claim are circulating on Facebook, Instagram and TikTok.

@whodafckwannago2prisonhas not responded to USA TODAY’s request for comment.

Fact check: Dialing this viral code will show call forwarding status, not a phone tap (1)

The code does not show if a phone has been tapped

Scott Westover, Google communications manager for security,wrote in an email to USA TODAY:“Think this is just call forwarding.”

According to tech magazine How-To Geek, dialing this code shows whether or not call forwarding is enabled on the device — not whetherit's been hacked. How-to Geek described the *#21# feature as an “interrogation code” that allow users to view their call forwarding setting from the phone app.

“These are not related at all. The idea of a phone being tapped is totally irrelevant from (call forwarding settings), aside from social media memes making it relevant,” Alex Kirschner, Apple's Senior Public Relations Manager, iPhone, told USA TODAY.

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What is an interrogation code?

Lately interrogationcodes, also called feature access codes,are getting a lot of attention as phone hack trends popularize them on platforms like TikTok.

"These short codes will either uncover hidden menus or act as direct commands. They provide additional information about your device and tweak current settings," wrote iPhoneTricks.org.

One of the most well-known interrogation codes is *67, which is commonly used to hide caller ID on outgoing calls.

Fact check: Dialing this viral code will show call forwarding status, not a phone tap (2)

Other interrogation codes showphone users their data usage, Bluetooth address and signal strength, among other things.

Some providers don't support these codes, causing themto not work on customers’ devices. Reaching a recorded message when dialing the code does not mean your phone has been hacked.

“Not all carriers support the same feature access codes or abilities so when dialing these codes on an unsupported carrier, like Verizon for example, a customer may get a prerecorded message informing them that they have dialed an incorrect number,” said Kirschner.

Many wireless serviceproviders list *#21#, or variations of it, as a call forwarding command on their customer materials.

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How-To Geek also explained that call forwarding could be disabled by typing ##002# or through the settings app. Phone owners that wish to disable call forwarding do not have to dispose of the device as the video suggests.

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. A Google spokesperson, tech websitesand service providers all confirm the interrogation code indicates whether or not a phone has call forwarding enabled – not a security breach.

Our fact-check sources:

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Our fact check work is supported in part by a grant from Facebook.

Fact check: Dialing this viral code will show call forwarding status, not a phone tap (2024)
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