Smartphones have made our lives so much easier, but they’ve also reduced our privacy and security.
That’s especially true for location data.
If someone can find out where you are 24 hours a day, seven days a week, they can cause a lot of trouble.
Hacking someone’s location is significantly easier than one might think.
That raises the question: Is it possible to track someone using text messages?
This article will explain how SMS location tracking works and how you can avoid it.
We’ll also discuss the signs to watch out for if you suspect someone is tracking your device.
Can Someone Track Your Location From A Text?
Yes, other people can track your location by sending you a text message on chat platforms or via SMS.
They may send you a malicious link, install a hidden app, or triangulate your location using phone company data.
However, it’s much harder to track your location based on a text you send to someone.
If the message is an SMS, only the phone company can access your location data, and they’ll only share it with law enforcement.
If you use a messaging app, your location will only be visible if the app transmits it by default.
Popular apps such as WhatsApp and Telegram don’t allow the receiver to see your location.
Check your messaging app’s settings to make sure.
With that brief explanation, let’s go deeper into location tracking and its different mechanisms.
How Can Location Be Tracked Via Text?
If someone was hellbent on tracking your location, they’d be able to do it in many ways.
Below, we’ll cover the three most common techniques in order of technical difficulty.
1. Live Links
This method is the easiest way for someone to track your location.
Nearly anyone can do it without any technical expertise.
The perpetrator uses one of many geolocation services to send a text message to your phone number.
These services allow people to track anyone by paying as little as one dollar!
The text message you receive contains a link usually disguised as a joke or a picture of an animal that needs your help.
Once you open the link, your device will transmit your GPS location every few seconds.
2. Mobile App
The perpetrator must access your phone and manually install the app to track your location using an app.
Finding these tracking apps on Google and Apple app stores isn’t difficult.
Some serve a noble purpose: allowing people to track their children or old parents.
However, another category of tracking apps is specifically designed for spying on people.
They’re usually hidden and can’t be uninstalled without a password or special permission.
Once the app is ready, they can send a special text message that the app will intercept and respond to by transmitting your location.
It’s hard to detect the presence of these spying apps on your phone, but there are a few signs, which we’ll cover later.
This method requires access to phone company software and equipment.
Phone companies have thousands of towers in different areas, and phones must connect to these towers to transmit messages and calls.
With access to the right tools, the perpetrator can send you a silent text message (more on this later) and analyze the signal from your phone to your nearby cell towers.
They can estimate your location by measuring how long it takes for your phone to connect to three different towers.
You might wonder why they’d trace text messages instead of calls.
Text monitoring is more reliable because it’s not affected by poor connectivity and interference.
Silent Text Messages
A silent (or Type 0) text message is a message that forces your device to “acknowledge its receipt but discard its contents.”
In other words, your phone will tell the sender that it received the text message but won’t notify you.
The message won’t even appear in your inbox.
As mentioned, with the right tools, the perpetrator can accurately triangulate and estimate your location.
Governments and law enforcement are infamous for using this tool to track people’s locations.
However, as broadband equipment has become cheaper, hackers also use modified versions of this technique to spy on people and steal their information.
It’s also possible to emulate and send silent text messages using an app, but the attacker’s functionality will be more limited.
Silent messages can even be used to cripple someone’s phone and drain its battery.
Attackers can flood a device by sending thousands of these messages simultaneously, and the owner won’t know what hit them!
How To Tell If Someone Is Tracking Your Phone
As mentioned earlier, malicious tracking apps are hard to detect.
They hide from your list of installed apps.
You cannot easily find and uninstall them.
Even if they appear on your app list, they’ll probably use fake names to throw you off their trail.
For example, a tracking app could disguise itself as a useful security tool or an optimization app that boosts your device’s speed.
Nevertheless, not all hope is lost.
You can still figure out if someone is tracking your phone by noticing the following signs.
Note: Before arriving at any conclusions, rule out other causes of these issues.
Remember that you need multiple signs to be present simultaneously.
Otherwise, it’s impossible to say for certain that someone is tracking your phone.
1. Faster Battery Drain
Tracking apps constantly run in the background and use your phone’s GPS functionality.
As a result, they drain your phone’s battery more quickly.
The same is true for live links that transmit your location.
If your phone used to last an entire day but suddenly lasts only a few hours, you’re in a suspicious situation.
2. Unknown Apps
If you find an unfamiliar app on your phone and you didn’t download it, there’s a chance that someone else installed it.
Think back to the previous days.
Did you give your phone to anyone?
A stranger on the street?
A shady repairman?
Google the app’s name to see what it does exactly.
Read user reviews on Reddit and app stores.
Malicious tracking apps can be sneaky.
You can check the installation date if you don’t remember installing an app.
We’ll explain how below.
How To Find An App’s Installation Date
If you’re suspicious of an app and you don’t know whether you installed it yourself, you can easily check its installation date on Android and iOS.
For Android devices, you need to install a second application.
Follow these steps:
- Open the Google Play store on your phone.
- Search My Apps List.
- Install the app and open it once the installation is complete.
You’ll see a list of all your apps.
When you tap on any app, you can see its installation data, update date, and other useful data.
Note that the installation date for the default apps on your phone could be very old—for example, 2008.
However, you don’t have to concern yourself with that.
If you have an iPhone, follow these instructions:
- Open Settings and navigate to iTunes & App Store.
- View your Apple ID.
- Navigate to Purchase History.
- Select the duration you want to view.
This method works for free and paid apps.
3. Increase In Data Usage
Spy apps upload your information to a web server so the person that’s spying can log in and see them.
As a result, you’ll have above-average data usage.
Your smartphone will likely warn you when your data usage exceeds a threshold—for example, 2 GB in less than a week.
Even if you don’t receive a notification, you can confirm your doubts manually.
Check your phone’s data usage to see which apps have been consuming your data the most.
If you see a strange app near the top of the list, that’s a BIG red flag.
This YouTube video shows you how to check your data usage on both Android and iPhone:
4. Other Signs
Other than the problems we just discussed, you may run into other issues that may indicate someone is constantly tracking your location.
- Overheating: Monitoring apps constantly use your battery and GPS to find your phone’s location, which causes overheating. If your phone is always warm to the touch, check which apps are consuming your hardware resources.
- You can’t make calls: If your calls constantly disconnect or you can’t even make calls on your phone, you could receive a stream of silent text messages without knowing.
- Screen activity: When you don’t use your phone for a while, it goes to standby mode, and the screen fades to black. If your screen lights up without you touching it, something is wrong. The spy app’s activity might be waking the phone up.
- Odd browser history or files: Check your browser history. The person monitoring your phone may have opened a few pages to download the spy app on your phone.
- Issues with turning off your phone: Spyware apps might interfere with the shutdown process and prevent the device from turning off properly. Alternatively, frequent and random reboots can also indicate that there’s spyware on your phone.
- Autocorrect misbehaving: Some spyware keeps a record of all your keypresses. This feature could interfere with autocorrect and make it act strangely or slower than usual.
How To Protect Yourself
There are several ways to remove spyware from Android and iOS phones.
Your most effective option is to do a factory reset.
Doing so deletes everything on the device and returns your phone to its default settings.
You’ll lose all your data and apps, so don’t forget to make a backup of your data.
Also, install a mobile antivirus program to protect your device.
These apps won’t allow unknown software to be installed on your phone and fend off attackers.
Additionally, here are a few other tips to help you detect and avoid spyware on your phone:
- Check your phone’s apps occasionally, and see if there are any unfamiliar apps.
- Update your phone’s operating system to the latest version to get the latest patches and security protection your manufacturer provides.
- Secure your phone with a password, pin code, pattern, or fingerprint.
- Change your passwords regularly, and don’t use the same password on all your apps and devices.
- Don’t let strangers have unsupervised access to your phone.
Is It Illegal To Track Someone?
SMS tracker apps let you find someone’s location, but using them isn’t always legal because it could count as spying.
Depending on where you live, there could be various laws about tracking, monitoring, and violating the privacy of smartphone owners.
Therefore, to avoid committing a crime, always inform the other party that you want to install a tracker app on their phone and explain the reason.
Maybe you have an old parent who sometimes gets lost around the city or a naughty child who frequently ends up in the wrong part of town.
Whatever the case, inform them of the presence and benefits of the app.
Make sure they understand and agree to have it on their phone.
Note: In many states and countries, tracking your child’s location is perfectly legal for parents.
The law does not require parents to obtain permission from their children to track them.
Check your jurisdiction’s laws for details.
Location Tracking Apps
So far, we’ve discussed different aspects of tracking people using text messages.
In the remainder of this article, we’ll introduce a few popular tracking apps and services.
We intend to help you identify these apps and protect yourself or use them for honest purposes.
However, the way you use these apps is up to you.
1. SpyBubble Pro
This app is a full-fledged spying toolkit for people who want to expose their cheating partner or spouse.
Once the app is on the target’s device, the suspecting partner can track the device’s location via silent text messages.
In addition, the app has the following features:
- Takes screenshots.
- Takes camera shots.
- Tracks social media usage.
- Records messages, contacts, and call logs.
- Streams the audio and video being played on the device.
The app is compatible with all modern versions of Android and iOS.
You can check the target device’s compatibility on the SpyBubble Pro website.
Qustudio is an all-in-one parental control solution that gives parents a comprehensive solution for all their concerns.
Once parents install it on their child’s device, they have total control over everything.
It includes a location tracking feature that displays the child’s spot on a map and notifies the parents when their child gets to school or returns home.
It also records where the phone has been, so parents know if their child visited an unsafe location.
Other notable features of Qustudio include:
- Set time limits.
- Block harmful content.
- Track calls and text messages.
- View activity and browsing history.
Cocospy positions itself as a tracking and remote surveillance app for parents.
Like most remote monitoring applications, Cocospy must be installed on the child’s device.
It can read all incoming and outgoing messages, track the phone’s location, and find out exactly where a target phone was when a text was sent or received.
It can also spy on most social media apps, such as Facebook Messenger, Instagram, WhatsApp, Viber, and Snapchat.
The app operates in stealth mode, so the child won’t know their parents are checking their messages, location, and phone activity.
iPhone users don’t need physical access to the device.
They can log in to the phone’s iCloud and install Cocospy remotely.
4. Location Tracker
The aptly named Location Tracker is an online website that allows you to track people without installing an app on their phones.
It also offers an interesting twist.
The user uploads an image to the website, and the system will generate a special tracking URL.
Then they can share the URL with their target via SMS or a messaging app.
Once the victim opens the link, the sender can view their live location, IP address, and WiFi data.