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 someone track my phone if my location is off? ›

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. Turning off your phone's location service can help you hide your location.

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.

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

Can you track a phone that has no service? ›

Can you track a phone that has no service? Absolutely, as long as the phone has a Wi-Fi connection. Apps such as mSpy, Find My, and others depend on an Internet connection to pinpoint their location. However, the specific type of connection doesn't really make a difference.

Can people see your location if you turn off location services? ›

When you turn off location sharing on Android or iOS, your contacts won't be directly notified. But if they decide to go looking for your location, they'll find out it's been disabled.

Can an iPhone still be tracked when it is 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.

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.

How do I know if someone is tracking my location? ›

How To Tell If Your Phone Is Being Tracked
  • Unfamiliar apps on your homescreen. ...
  • Your device keeps crashing or running slowly. ...
  • Your battery drains faster than usual. ...
  • Apps suddenly open or run in the background. ...
  • Your default web browser or homepage changes. ...
  • ‍You have location sharing enabled without your knowledge.
Feb 15, 2024

How do I hide my location without turning off my phone? ›

Using Airplane Mode

This is the grey cog icon. This method will temporarily block your location using Airplane Mode, but this will also block incoming calls, messages, and any use of cellular network.

How do you make it so your phone can't be tracked? ›

Turn off location settings on Android:
  1. Open the “App Drawer.”
  2. Go to “Settings.”
  3. Select “Location.”
  4. Enter “Google Location Settings.”
  5. Turn off “Location Reporting” and “Location History.”
  6. You can also select “Delete Location History” to remove all previous tracking data.
Mar 11, 2024

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.

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 you track a phone if location services are off? ›

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. This is important if you don't want third parties knowing where you are or being able to track your movement.

Does Find My Device work when location is off? ›

How can I find my Android phone when the data is turned off or location is turned off? Your phone would have to be connected to a Wifi access point with internet access. If this is the case, you and you've set up tracking prior to losing the phone we can continue.

Can the police track a phone that is turned off? ›

Key Considerations for Mobile Phone Tracking

Several factors come into play when tracing a mobile phone's location: Switched-On Mode: To successfully trace a mobile phone, it must be in a switched-on mode. If the phone is powered off, the last known location can still be determined.

How do you know if someone turned their location off? ›

When someone stops sharing their location on their iPhone, you'll see a message in the Find My app that reads “No Location Available” and will need to re-request access. Location sharing on Apple devices is a valuable feature that allows you to track the location of your friends, family, coworkers, and more.

Can someone track my location through text messages? ›

To answer this straightforwardly, yes, it is technically possible. But it doesn't mean anyone who sends you a message can immediately locate you. This could occur under certain circ*mstances, such as when a text contains a hidden link that reveals your location when clicked.

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