"I think my phone is tapped. What do I do?"
I get that question a lot! Most people are looking for a device they can just put on their phone line to tell them whether it's bugged, or not.
The bottom line is that there's no simple device you can put on your line to tell you it's been bugged. If you think your phone line is bugged, don't say anything on it or in your house that you don't want overheard.
The safest way to make a call that's probably not bugged is outside in the open, on a brand new digital (not analog) cell phone with a new number, that you just bought (like a prepaid cell phone). If you make the call in your car, there's a possibility that someone has put a microphone in the car attached to an RF transmitter, so they could hear at least your side of the conversation.
Some people don't believe me that there's no magic gizmo to detect a bug since they've seen devices advertised at spy shops or in the back of Popular Science magazine. Don't believe everything you read, but I'm not lying.
you're interested, I'll tell you exactly why you have no hope
You can be bugged in a few ways:
The person listening to the bug can be connected in a few ways:
To detect a hardwired connection to the phone line, you need a Time Domain Reflectometer (TDR), which gives you a graphic display of all of the connections on a phone line going towards the Phone Company's Central Office. The TDR will tell you on a screen how many feet it is to each blip, then it's your job to walk out that many feet (including up and down walls) to find what's making the blip. It might be a bug, but more likely it's just a phone, spare jack, answering machine or a splice. Once you've found the source of that blip, you go on to the next blip, and so on. You can do that for miles outside the building, going towards the phone company. There will be splices on poles, and in the green pedestals on the street. An then again one of those blips can be a bug. The only way to know is to walk it out and physically look at it. Pretty time consuming, and it could require a ladder or bucket truck, as well as a wrench to get into the green pedestals.
An experienced phone man can do some of that by just looking at the wiring and equipment on the line. If it was an amateur trying to bug the line, it's likely that the phone man would spot something that just doesn't belong there. If it was a professional bugging the line, the bug would probably be hidden inside something that would normally be attached to a phone line, and even after 35 years of being a phone man I probably wouldn't recognize it. Without the TDR, a phone man is just guessing. If you're that concerned about being bugged, you really don't want a false sense of security.
If there is a bug on your phone line, they could be listening to your phone calls, but they could also have microphones hooked up (or they could modify a telephone) to listen to anything in the room(s) - not just phone calls. The bug can be monitored anywhere the phone line can be extended. A guy on a pole, in an alley, or the line can be extended (spliced like an extension) on a pole or in a pedestal so that it goes to another house or office in the neighborhood, using the telephone company's spare wires. The people listening can be in a nice place, sitting on a couch eating pizza and watching cable TV, and you'll never know it.
A bug on a phone line might also transmit using RF (radio), and can also be transmitting the audio in the room(s). If that's the case, the person listening can be anywhere within range of the radio. Since bugs can be made out of cheap cell phones (powered right from the regular 110AC wiring in the building), it's possible that they could be listening in another country - again sitting on a couch drinking Vodka and speaking to their cronies in Russian. You'll never know it.
The solution? Don't say anything you don't want overheard!
If your cell phone could have been accessed by anyone when you weren't using it (like when you were in the shower?), or by a sales person or technician in a cell phone shop, the phone could have been modified to:
The government (FBI, CIA, Police, etc.) can and does do this legally. It's not hard, and there's no way to stop them other than not to say anything that can be used against you. Recent news stories have pointed out that the FBI ignores the law themselves, and just asks phone companies for phone records - with no supporting documents or a warrant.
In the old days (20 years ago?), bugging was much more difficult than today. The amazing modern technologies we're all using make it incredibly easy to bug anybody. Because it's so easy, the police seem to have forgotten the laws that protect all of us, including them from illegal bugging. When it's this easy and the tools to do it are so easily bought cheaply on the Internet, it's easy for anybody to lose sight of laws that are in place to protect us.
Software to bug a cell phone is cheap and easy to get on the Internet. Just about anybody can bug anybody else's cell phone easily.
There are a few things that will give you a clue that your cell phone has been bugged, but there's no way for you to know for sure:
How can you stop your cell phone from being bugged? You can't.
Your only hope of preventing a cell phone from being bugged is to go the Biggie-Mart store, buy a prepaid cell phone, and use it until you have to leave it out of your sight for a few minutes. If you take it into the bathroom and shower with you, put it under your pillow when you sleep (alone), and never leave it out of your sight, you can probably use it for a few days.
Once the government gets your cell phone number, probably by bugging who you're calling, they'll be able to listen in to everything you say on your phone immediately. The government can legally tap any land-line and cell phone, and most VoIP conversations. The equipment is already setup at the phone companies so they can do this quickly.
The scary thing is that the same senators and congressmen who approved the government tapping any call are at risk for their conversations being heard through this easy-to-do government system. Politics is a dirty business, and laws aren't all that important (except for the few politicians who are caught).
solution? Don't say anything you don't want overheard!
It's safe to assume that everything you say or do can be intercepted very easily.
Before the Internet, if someone wanted private information they probably broke into your home or office, your doctor's office, or your friend's or business associate's home or office. They made copies of the papers they found, stole the documents entirely, or maybe hooked up a wired bug or two.
With the advent of the Internet, you have to assume there is no privacy. Any emails you send, records that your doctor stores on his office computer network, or anything you look at on your computer or cell phone's browser is recorded somewhere.
It's so easy to put software on a computer in your home or office or on your cell phone to record everything you do, that it's now trivial. Even non-techies can find a way to do this by doing a simple google search, anytime. It's cheap and easy. Even though it's illegal for everybody except the government with a search warrant, there is so little enforcement that even the police think nothing of bugging someone without a search warrant (or they can get unbelievably broad warrants to bug anybody at any time). It's just so easy that it's a no-brainer.
Don't say or do anything you don't want overheard / seen by others!
Most of them are total garbage. Some will tell you that someone has actually gone off-hook on an extension phone, but since the volume drops and you usually hear a click when someone picks up a phone, you probably don't need it.
Most professionals will be using a high resistance device that is nearly impossible to detect after it's been installed.
But wait... it is possible to put a gizmo on a phone line to tell you whether there has been any change in resistance/capacitance on the line, and some devices will even detect a high resistance device quite a ways from the premise.
Once a gizmo like that gives you an "alert," you'd to use a TDR to verify every little blip on the line to make sure it is / is not a bug.
Before you put that gizmo on the line, you would need to verify that the line has no bugs using a TDR, and then put the bug detecting gizmo on the line. If a bug was on the line before even the most sensitive bug detector was put on the line, the gizmo could never detect it.
While it's possible to make a device like this that would work after a TDR was used, it would probably be pretty expensive and not 100% depending on how far from the premise the bug is placed.
If someone puts a bug at the Phone Company's Central Office, nobody is going to detect that. If someone installs that type of bug, they're either the government or they've paid off a phone man at the CO. Either way, you'll never know.
If the government wants to hear your conversations, all bets are off. They have the capabilities to monitor any phone including your digital cell phone in the comfort of their own office all day and night long, and there's no way you'll know, and nothing you can do about it.
Before the Iridium satellite system went bankrupt years ago, calls between two Iridium satellite phones went directly to the other phone through a satellite. There was no way for anybody to monitor that conversation (or data), because it never went through a "central office." Other satellite phone service providers route every call through a ground station, which gives the government a place to monitor the calls. Since the government helped save the Iridium system, I'm betting they can now monitor those calls as well.
You can buy an RF frequency counter/detector with a directional antenna to detect RF bugs, and go looking for sources of RF yourself. A problem with doing that is that you need an RF detector that covers essentially the whole radio spectrum - which can be pretty expensive. Cheaper detectors will cover the most commonly used frequency bands, but do you really want the false sense of security thinking that you just checked all of the frequencies possible?
While you might see Google ads for bug detectors on this page, don't believe every ad you read on the Internet!
If you still want to see if there are any bugs, it's time to call a professional. The industry is called Counter Surveillance. Unfortunately, there are professionals - and then there are scam artists that call themselves professionals, and they might even have some fancy looking equipment. They might find a bug (if they trip over it), but they're not really looking for them. All they're going to do is take your money and give you a very false sense of security.
If you're a company who's coming out with some fantastic new gizmo where if the news of it leaked out it would cost you big, or you suspect a leak in your board room (from bugs, not board members), it's time to call for help - knowing that the cost is well worth it.
If you think you're being bugged because your husband or wife thinks you're screwing around, it's probably not worth hiring a professional.
By the way, be very careful using GE or RCA 2+ line phones, since many have crosstalk right from the factory that allows someone to overhear a conversation at a low volume on one line by picking up another line (those junky GE or RCA phones that Jack Welsh had in his mansion cost him $180 million in his divorce battle!).
Here are two Counter Surveillance professionals who from my research are going to do a real sweep for bugs (and who are not cheap). If they can't come to your area, ask them for a recommendation - don't just look for someone on the Internet!
You probably should only call them from a pay phone or your new prepaid digital cell phone, outside in the open, since you're already thinking your phone line is bugged. Email may not be safe. If the person who bugged you gets wind that you're going to look for their bugs, they may remove them until after you've had the sweep done, and then put them back.
Isn't technology wonderful?