How to Monitor a Cell Phone

Services for Real Estate Pros with Inc

Do you fancy yourself a spy and wondering how you can monitor someone else’s cell phone? You won’t get that information here, but there is some good info on cell phone monitoring if you keep reading:

The Legalities of Tracking Cell Phones

Generally, it is not legal to monitor a cell phone that does not belong to you. However, generally speaking, and THIS IS NOT LEGAL ADVICE, if the account is under your name or if you have written permission from the person who owns the phone, you can track it.

Why Monitor a Cell Phone?

There are some situations where it is perfectly legal, and even useful, to monitor a cell phone. One good reason is to monitor your family. This is especially the case if you have a tween or teenager who has some freedom.

Another reason you might consider monitoring a cell phone is if you have an elderly family member, like a parent, who uses a cell phone. If your loved one has dementia, you certainly should track their phone.

Businesses also often track company issued cell phones. The main reasons to do this is to locate a device if it is ever lost or stolen and to monitor employee communications.

The Main Ways to Track a Cell Phone

There are three different ways that people track cell phones:

  • Through the Cell Phone Carrier – Most major cell phone carriers offer a feature that allows a person to track a cell phone that is on their account. There is a fee for this service, it is totally legal, and it’s a great way to track family members.
  • Through a Smartphone or Computer– If you have a smart phone that runs iOS or Android, you can use features like Find My iPhone, or you can use apps like Find My Friends. Just keep in mind that the phones must have GPS enabled for these to work.
  • Though a Third-Party App – To trace a phone through an app, you usually have to have access to the phone you want to track AND own it and/or written permission from the phone’s owner. Typically, both devices must have the app loaded for these apps to work. Some of these apps are free for limited features. Others come with a one-time or monthly payment for the service.
  • Through an Infected email or Text Link – This is pretty much illegal and might get you stint in the klink. Pulling this off requires special malware or spyware which can be obtained on the dark web for a price. That will mean you’d got from being legal to the seedy world of Blackhats. And as they say, once you go black, you never go back. You would then officially be a criminal.

In most cases, it is not legal to trace or track a cell phone unless you have permission from the owner. However, each state has their own laws, so it’s very important that you understand the laws in the state you live. This way, you can avoid any repercussions.

Robert Siciliano personal security and identity theft expert and speaker is the author of Identity Theft Privacy: Security Protection and Fraud Prevention: Your Guide to Protecting Yourself from Identity Theft and Computer Fraud. See him knock’em dead in this Security Awareness Training video.


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Carol Williams
Although I'm retired, I love sharing my knowledge and learning from other real estate industry professionals. - Wenatchee, WA
Retired Agent / Broker / Property Manager

I have heard of an app for tracking friends and family, where you each need to sign up and link together.  It should be strictly used for safety purposes and not for spying. Not that I have anything to hide but it creeps me out to think someone can track my every move. 

If I have one of these apps installed on my phone, when I turn off my "location" will it also deactivate the app tracking?  I am assuming it would. 

Feb 15, 2019 07:42 AM #1
Gita Bantwal
RE/MAX Centre Realtors - Warwick, PA
REALTOR,ABR,CRS,SRES,GRI - Bucks County & Philadel

Thank you for sharing. I will bookmark this and read it again

Feb 15, 2019 07:49 AM #2
Sheri Sperry - MCNE®
Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage - Sedona, AZ
(928) 274-7355 ~ YOUR Solutions REALTOR®

It is important to know what is legal and what isn't. Thank you!

Feb 15, 2019 08:25 AM #3
Debe Maxwell, CRS | The Maxwell House Group | RE/MAX Executive | (704) 491-3310 - Charlotte, NC
Charlotte Homes for Sale - Charlotte Neighborhoods

These are good things to know Robert but I don't think my life is exciting enough for someone to want to track me. 

Feb 15, 2019 01:18 PM #4
Kathy Streib
Room Service Home Staging - Delray Beach, FL
Home Stager - Palm Beach County,FL -561-914-6224

Hi Robert- thanks to Sharon Tara I've been using an app called Life360. I have it on my phone and my husbands and of course we both gave each other permission to track each other. For example, even though I would always give my husband where I was going when doing a vacant staging or meeting a client, he could track my whereabouts via this app. And when he was out flying his RC airplanes or kayaking I could find him if necessary . 

Feb 16, 2019 05:27 PM #5
Kathy Streib
Room Service Home Staging - Delray Beach, FL
Home Stager - Palm Beach County,FL -561-914-6224


                                              Thank you Robert. 

Feb 16, 2019 06:53 PM #6
Debb Janes EcoBroker and Bernie Stea JD
ViewHomes of Clark County - Nature As Neighbors - Camas, WA
REALTORS® in Clark County, WA

I know families who use it to keep tabs on one another. I'm with Debe Maxwell, CRS, doubt I'm exciting enough  to track. 

Feb 17, 2019 07:16 AM #7
Nick Vandekar, 610-203-4543
Long & Foster Real Estate Inc 610-225-7400 - Devon, PA
Tredyffrin Easttown Realtor, Philly Main Line

Interesting information, thank you.

Feb 17, 2019 08:21 AM #8
Grant Schneider
Performance Development Strategies - Armonk, NY
Your Coach Helping You Create Successful Outcomes

Good morning Robert - thank you for this.  There are legitimate reasons for tracking a family member as you point out.

Feb 18, 2019 04:19 AM #9
Graziella Bruner
NCS Premier Real Estate - Detroit, MI
Associate Broker - Serving Wayne & Oakland County

Interesting, I know my brother and his wife, have two daughters with cell phones, one is in 5th grade and the other in college, he always checks to see where my nieces.  He has a family app, they all check in with each other.  

Feb 18, 2019 06:26 AM #10
Sharon Tara
Sharon Tara Transformations - Portsmouth, NH
New Hampshire Home Stager

As Kathy Streib stated, my family uses Life360 and highly recommend it. We all know where each other is (providing cell phone is on) at all times. It's a great safety app for those with nothing to hide. LOL

Feb 18, 2019 06:38 AM #11
Liz Lockhart
Riverbend Realty, Cape Girardeau, MO - Cape Girardeau, MO
GRI, Cape Girardeau Real Estate

I am sure companies use such products to track their sales force members.

Feb 18, 2019 08:07 PM #12
Lise Howe
Keller Williams Capital Properties - Washington, DC
Assoc. Broker in DC, MD, VA and attorney in DC

Curious - what are some of the third party apps you mention called?

Feb 19, 2019 10:45 AM #13
Jeff Dowler, CRS
Solutions Real Estate - Carlsbad, CA
The Southern California Relocation Dude

Hi Robert

Well, this was news to me, other than the Find my Phone feature. It's certainly good to know what's legal.


Feb 19, 2019 05:14 PM #14
Mary Hutchison, SRES, ABR
Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate-Kansas City Homes - Kansas City, MO
Experienced Agent in Kansas City Metro area

I was hoping this blog would be more specific as to 'tracking' --for example, tracking location of the phone? tracking all text messages?  how to read text conversations?  etc.  I don't and would not do that but would like to know how easy it is for someone to track these things on my phone!

Feb 20, 2019 12:57 PM #15
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