How to Track a Cell Phone
There are many reasons you might want to locate a cell phone and track its movements. Perhaps you lost your phone and would like it back. You might be an anxious parent, an employer, or you could be part of a group of friends who want to keep tabs during a night on the town. Whatever your reason for tracking a cell phone, there are several ways to go about doing it. Here's the scoop on cell phone tracking...
How To Track or Locate a Cell Phone
Even if you're not a spy, you might have a perfectly legitimate need to track the location of a cell phone. Maybe you lost your phone. Maybe you want a friend or family member to know the location of your own phone. Fortunately, there are ways to do so, and some are even free. Here's a roundup of tools to track a cell phone location.
Google Latitude is one free service that keeps track of your contacts by locating their cell phones and displaying their whereabouts on a Google Map. You have to download and install a Google App on your phone or computer to do this, and each person whose phone number you provide must agree to be tracked by you. Note that you don't need a GPS-enabled phone to use Latitude. The service can use GPS, wifi access points, or cell towers to determine the location of your phone.
If you receive an invitation to allow one of your contacts to track you via Google Latitude, you may wonder whether to accept and allow it. Google Latitude lets you control when your phone is tracked, so you can turn off permission to track you when you want to travel to parts unknown. The danger, of course, is that you may forget to turn off Google Latitude when you no longer wish to reveal your location.
Glympse is a similar app for Android, iPhone, and Blackberry phones. Glympse solves the privacy issue by putting the user of the phone in control of the location sharing. After downloading the app, you can send a link to family, friends or co-workers that allows them to track you on an interactive map, but only for a specific period of time that you control.
If you have access to a GPS-enabled cell phone you can install software on it that enables tracking, sometimes without telling the user you've done so. A number of services such as Accutracking offer such software and tracking services for a fee. The obvious legitimate application is a parent who wants to keep tabs on children. Employers increasingly want to know where employees are during business hours, so company-issued GPS phones equipped with tracking software are one solution. But you might also find it handy if your phone is lost or stolen.
AccuTracking is the only cell phone tracking system I know of that that will work with a regular cell phone (feature phone). Unfortunately, it can't be used with ANY feature phone, only certain models. It also works with Android, BlackBerry, and Windows Mobile phones, but not iPhones. The AccuTracking service lets you see the real-time location and speed of the phone being tracked, and will send email or text message alerts if that person moves outside of a designated boundary or exceeds the speed limit. An AccuTracking starter kit, which includes a compatible Motorola iDEN phone, costs $99. The additional service fee will cost about $16 per month.
Other Mobile Phone Tracking Software
If you have an Android-based phone you can install a free app called Pintail that will help you locate a mobile phone. If your phone is lost, just send it a text message from any other phone, with a special PIN code. Pintail will do a little magic to pinpoint the location of the phone, and then send a return message, containing the location and a link to Google Maps. That's cool. Prey is a similar app that can help you track a phone, tablet or laptop. Prey uses GPS or wifi to triangulate the location of your device, but it can do much more. Take a picture of the person using your phone, grab a screenshot, sound an alarm, zap your stored passwords or lock down the device. You can download Prey or Pintail via the Google Play Store on your phone. Both are free.
Did you know that GPS enables very precise tracking, down to as little as one meter (roughly 39 inches). But GPS is not the only way to track a cell phone. Older phones not equipped with GPS can be triangulated. A phone's signal, received by any three nearby cellular service towers, pinpoints its position within a relatively small area. But this type of cell phone tracking would require the cooperation of your service provider and law enforcement.
Phone Tracking Scams
Can you track a phone just by entering its number on a Web site? Not unless you're in law enforcement with access to sophisticated equipment and (in the United States and many other countries) a court order authorizing that phone's service provider to assist you. Don't be fooled by Web sites that say, "just enter any phone number to pinpoint its exact location." They are hoaxes, one and all. Some are harmless jokes, but many are collecting phone numbers to sell to telemarketers. Some may attempt to download malware to your computer.
While we're dealing with ethics, or the lack thereof, consider this. If the possibility of being tracked via your cell phone bothers you, then maybe it's not something you should do to someone else without his or her permission. In certain places, there are laws against secretly installing tracker apps on other people's phones. At least one bill in the US Congress would prohibit cyberstalking -- the covert monitoring of a person’s location.
Do you have something to say about cell phone tracking? Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 15 Feb 2013
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- How to Track a Cell Phone (Posted: 15 Feb 2013)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved