Phones are bugged
May 28, 2006 8:26 PM   Subscribe

My cell phone is being bugged, I have changed my number several times. My corded landline phone is also bugged. My apartment has been bugged , don't know if it still is since I have moved. Don't know how they were able to bug my last apartment but it was. Can anyone help me
posted by 10jubilee to Technology (52 answers total) 80 users marked this as a favorite
How do you know it's bugged?
posted by b33j at 8:29 PM on May 28, 2006 [3 favorites]

No one is bugging your cellphone, landline, and apartment, unless you are worth spying on to that degree to someone. It's expensive and time-consuming to spy on a person's communications that much. Do you hold in your hands decisions that could change the course of history? Are you a scientist with access to industrial blueprints worth billions of dollars? Are you an ambassador? Are you an intelligence agent? Are you a CEO? I suspect the answer is no to all these questions.

Seek help from a mental health professional for your delusions.
posted by evariste at 8:35 PM on May 28, 2006 [1 favorite]

you can buy bug detectors in most cities, and they should help to detect all but the best listening devices.

google search

Most private investigators are experienced in at least some counter-spy techiques and you can hire one. The thing is, this type of surveilance requires a lot of time, expense and tricky legal work and is not done lightly - chances are that someone watching you would not go to this kind of extreme. Most private investigators hired to do these kind of sweeps find nothing, their client is just paranoid. This is something to think about.
posted by Deep Dish at 8:35 PM on May 28, 2006

Who do you think is doing the bugging and what are they trying to gain?
posted by -harlequin- at 8:46 PM on May 28, 2006

10jub, clearly you are very stressed about this situation.

Have you spoken to anyone, your general practitioner maybe or a trusted family member or friend? That can be vey helpful.

A person in my family is going through a very similar situation and he has found that dealing with the stress caused by the fear really really helps in finally dealing with the overall situation.

Hope that is helpful.
posted by johnj at 8:48 PM on May 28, 2006

You're worried about being bugged and you still carry a cell phone?

You know that they can track your movement with those things. That isn't a complex or expensive thing to do.
posted by 517 at 8:53 PM on May 28, 2006 [1 favorite]

How do you know for a fact that you are being 'bugged'? How does one bug a cel phone anyway? You got a new number, but you didn't state if you got a new phone. Did David Cross call you a faggot on Houston? Who are 'they' that have bugged your last and possibly current apartment? What is your supporting evidence to asking for help with this?
posted by pieoverdone at 9:13 PM on May 28, 2006

You should consider switching to VOIP. Also, watch this movie.
posted by johngoren at 9:15 PM on May 28, 2006

please let us know what evidence you have for being bugged..
posted by ori at 9:35 PM on May 28, 2006

Use *only* prepaid cellphones. Pay with cash whenever possible. Use fake ID *everywhere*.

1) (optional) Get a visa gift card from a retail store that sells them. Pay with cash.
2) Use cash (or visa gift card) to buy prepaid cellphone.
3) Destroy the cellphone and sim card and visa cards after use.
4) Repeat steps 1-3.

Also ensure that everyone that you speak with on the phone is also using a disposable cellphone, so that *they* can't be bugged either. If they are also bugged, you've already lost. You can use the internet to distribute your phone number to your contacts, (encryption is the key here!). They can't bug the phone if it never leaves your possession. Destroy the phone if there any doubts, you can always just replace it. Worst case scenario, you can destroy the phone after one use. Don't buy phones in batches though. Buy one at a time from different stores.

Only thing you can do about bugs in your apartment is, well, not live there. Move from place to place as much as humanly possible. Live at shelters, hotels, motels, etc. Keep moving. Won't stop em, but, it'll at least make it a little harder for them to track you.

This is the price one pays for anonymity.
posted by yeoz at 9:38 PM on May 28, 2006 [1 favorite]

Unless you are a terrorist, part of the mob, or another serious criminal, you are probably not bugged. If you really believe you are and you are not doing anything seriously illegal, you should talk to a doctor. There might be something they could do for you that would take away your anxiety and feelings that people are out to get you.
posted by weretable and the undead chairs at 9:41 PM on May 28, 2006

Dude, I'm going to be frank with you. You have a sickness. You need to get help. I know that right now, you are totally consumed with thoughts of being watched. However, I know that there is a voice in the back of your head that knows that you really are not being watched. Listen to that voice. Nobody is watching you. You need to get help. I know the pain that you are feeling. Right now, you are at a low low low point, and I promise you that life doesn't need to be this way. You can free yourself of your mental anguish, and live the life of a free man. You can end your personal torment, but in order to do that, you must get help. Please listen to me. Find a psychologist. The relationship between you and the psychologist is sacred, and that trust may not be breached. You need someone to care for you right now, and that's nothing to feel ashamed of. Get help. Please.

My thoughts are with you tonight.
posted by Afroblanco at 9:51 PM on May 28, 2006 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Skype, supposedly, is pretty well encrypted. I've actually never looked into what it's using, nor would I have a clue if there are backdoors. But if you're legitimately being bugged, perhaps Skype's worth a try.

Two cellphones ago, I got a budget cellphone. The box had the "RSA Encryption" logo on it. So long gone are the days when someone with a police scanner could listen in on your cell phone.

Could you just stop using the phone? I can't remember the last time I've used it for anything remotely private. Meet in a crowded, noisy restaurant and talk face-to-face. If you're really paranoid, set up a meeting at a restaurant with lots of restaurants next door, and, when you meet the person you're talking to outside the restaurant, ask them to go to a different one with you, to trip up anyone following you.

I do agree that it's highly unlikely anyone's bugging your calls, but without knowing the circumstances, I'll leave it at that.
posted by fogster at 9:55 PM on May 28, 2006

Best answer: You are a bunch of pricks. The poster doesn't have to prove he/she is bugged to you in order to get an answer. Answer the question. If you don't know anything about this, shut up.

First, it is not unreasonable to think that your phone is bugged. If your service provider is AT&T, it is probably bugged.

Second, the watcher doesn't in any way need to be the government. It could just as easily be a spouse, a private investigator, or a stalker. It's not expensive to do and the equipment is readily available.

Third, there are many many ways to detect a tap. Perhaps the poster said something privately which was then made public - not by the party he/she originally spoke with. I don't need to provide more examples. If you can't think of them you're not thinking hard enough.

The best way to avoid being tapped is to not use the services entirely. Phones are easy to tap; stop using them. But yeoz already said that.
posted by fake at 9:56 PM on May 28, 2006

If you're honest with yourself, ask yourself this question -- "Is it possible that I'm wrong and just imagining all this?" If I were in a situation where I believed what you do, I'd want to know whether to trust my own judgment. Pick a person you trust -- a doctor, a member of the clergy, an old friend -- and describe the evidence for what you believe to be happening. If your fears are reasonable, they'll tell you to call the cops or hire a lawyer. If not, they'll help you find a way to calm down and get back to normal. Stress can do weird things to people. It doesn't mean you're crazy.
posted by words1 at 10:03 PM on May 28, 2006

Best answer: 10jubilee, assuming this is a serious request, you might want to send Richard McLean an email. He was also bugged wherever he went but found a way out of it. Don't take my word for it though. Read his book (some of it is available on his site for free) and decide for yourself what your best course of action is.
posted by zaebiz at 10:09 PM on May 28, 2006

Even paranoids have enemies.
posted by homunculus at 10:09 PM on May 28, 2006

FYI, there's a metatalk thread posted about this question. Mathowie says the guy is for real.

Generally, even when the government is not bugging your cellphone, it's trivial for someone to intentionally or accidentally listen in on cell. I make it a point to always use a landline when calling banks, credit card companies, or any other place where I will have to type or speak personal information.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 10:52 PM on May 28, 2006

Best answer: What yeoz said. Frankly, you sound pretty crazy. But maybe you're not. It's asinine to assert, as some have in this thread, that only spies and billionaires are the subjects of surveillance. Maybe you have a jealous spouse or just a nutjob acquaintance. Simple bugs are easily procured.

First step, for fuck's sake, why do you still have a phone? Either find a telephony service with encryption that you trust, or stop using the landline and the cell phone. I haven't had either for quite a while; it's perfectly possible to get by without them.

Bugs in your apartment, unlike telephone bugs, are fairly easy to discover. There are bug detectors available online and from specialty shops. Generally, these are only useful if the bug is broadcasting, rather than recording — but if it's recording, someone is coming to check the recordings. There are obvious ways to discover if someone is entering your apartment — hairs stuck to the door, etc., all the spy movie cliches. It's also possible that the bug is sending data out over your phone or cable line. As above, you should get rid of your phone anyway if you really think someone's bugging it. You can inspect cable hardware to see if it looks like someone's been messing with it.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 11:17 PM on May 28, 2006

Larry, if you're concerned about all these things, please please please go talk with a doctor, friend, or family member, like johnj suggests. They can help you figure out what's going on right now, as it seems like you're very worried about being bugged or tracked. Often it's very helpful to talk with someone else to get some outside perspective.
posted by gramcracker at 11:27 PM on May 28, 2006

I agree with yeoz.

Use prepaid cellphones. You can destroy them after each use if necessary. You need to keep moving constantly through shelters. Sleep on the street if you have to. Keep moving. Check cashing stores usually sell the prepaid phones.
posted by puke & cry at 11:35 PM on May 28, 2006

Tomorrow morning, after 10 AM call 1-800-950-6264 from a safe, comfortable location. And then the problems will stop.
posted by LimePi at 11:39 PM on May 28, 2006

The guy who said that it costs an unreasonable amount of money to bug telephones is wrong. It's pretty easy.

Don't use telephones. Use the internet. Anonymous drops for mail, PGP encrypted with 2048-bit keys, should be secure for the foreseeable future. Never make direct connections to anyone or to anything that is traceable to you. hushmail is kind of obvious, but it's based on open source technology and while OSS is not always pretty, it is often very secure. Also, Hushmail is based in Canada, which doesn't really escape American (non-)privacy laws but it does make it a bit harder.

Speaking to people you trust, in person, in crowded restaurants in major cities, is pretty much the most secure method of communication. Once you write it down or put it on a wire, it's there for the taking.
posted by blacklite at 11:47 PM on May 28, 2006

10jujube, have you ever been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia?

Do you have anyone you can trust? A family member, a doctor, a friend?

I have a very good friend who was having some of the same sorts of problems as you -- darker, mysterious forces messing with his life. Getting medical help so he had better control of his thoughts and better understanding of what was going on was the first step toward getting rid of those forces.

The sooner you get medical treatment, the better. These sorts of things tend to get worse the longer they go unremedied.

Remember, sometimes this can be a matter of life or death. Do you want the things that are scaring you to be able to kill you? I don't believe you do. To be able to take care of your problems, you must seek help.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 1:02 AM on May 29, 2006

My mother's phone was bugged in the eighties when she was an auditor in an Australian Royal Commission. At any rate, our phone line was intorably crackly for weeks, and one day she joked to her friend during a phone call that she must be bugged. After hanging up, she picked up the receiver and the line was clear as a bell. The next day, she wondered aloud at work if she was bugged. "Of course you are," said her boss, "We all are."

Thank you. I just wanted to tell that story.
posted by hot soup girl at 1:59 AM on May 29, 2006

I haven't read the MeTa thread, but this sounds like this AskMe
posted by trey at 3:04 AM on May 29, 2006

It's asinine to assert, as some have in this thread, that only spies and billionaires are the subjects of surveillance.

But it's not asinine to assert that a fear of being bugged is often a sign of paranoia. I knew a woman who was convinced someone was entering her apartment and subtly moving things around. She moved annually and yet was sure they were still breaking in, no matter how much security she had or how many guards were posted. When I talked to a private eye about setting up cameras for her to prove no one was there, he said he sees this all the time. The problem is, when someone is suffering from paranoia, nothing you can say to them will convince them they are wrong. It's a horrible dilemma. Often those people (like the woman I knew) are very bright too, which makes it all the more mystifying.
posted by CunningLinguist at 6:14 AM on May 29, 2006

Mod note: a few comments removed, please stop being chuckleheads and either answer the question or go to the metatalk thread already in progress
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:36 AM on May 29, 2006

Anything and everything that can convey information that generates an electromagnetic signal has to be culled.

That means: No landlines. No cellphones. Use the internet, but make sure you're using an LCD panel. CRT's are susceptable to TEMPEST interception (Transient Electromagnetic Pulse Standard--the standards are detailed in the now-classified NSA document NACSIM 5100A). Encrypt everything you think might be valuable.

Invest in a document shredder. Use shredded documents for kindling in your fireplace.

Invest in double- or triple-insulated windows. A simple laser bounced off of a window and amplified can enable a listener to monitor conversations inside a building from hundreds of feet away.

Buy exceptionally good locks for your house/apartment. If you can get a couple of Abloy locks installed, you'll be a harder target to infiltrate. Secure all windows with security bars.

Don't use credit cards.

Move often. Don't use a realtor. If you can relocate to a different country, consider the option. Make sure it's a country where you won't stick out like a sore thumb (i.e., same predominant racial makeup, same language, etc.).
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 7:55 AM on May 29, 2006

In addition:
* Have all mail sent to a PO Box.

And in conclusion:
* The suggestions above are going to seriously crimp your lifestyle. It's a pain to remember all this stuff, and you'll beat yourself up if (when) you forget something and realize it later ("Oh no, I forgot to shred that knapkin I wrote on at the Dunkin Donuts!"). In other words, make absolutely certain you're being monitored before putting yourself through all this crap.

If you really think you're being bugged, this group can help. The bigger/badder the individual/group is that you think is bugging you, the more expensive it will be to implement appropriate countermeasures. Do a google search for TSCM specialists in your area. The devices needed to detect bugs grow in sophistication (and cost) to the types of bugs being used. Cheap-o internet-bought bugs can be detected in a matter of minutes with a good frequency scanner and oscilloscope. If it's an jilted lover or a former employer, you'll find the bugs if they're there. If it's the NSA, your best be would be to move.

You mention that you think your cellphone was bugged, which leads me to think that: A. You're imagining things, or B. You've really pissed off the wrong people. Cellphones aren't tapped, really. The traditional method for cellphone interception is a man-in-the-middle masquarade that effectively bypasses built-in GSM encryption. Suffice to say, this is non-trivial, and also illegal (unless you're law-enforcement). In which case, see suggestion about repatriation.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 8:47 AM on May 29, 2006

Larry, please make a little time to talk to a physician and get a thorough health screening. You can take the precautions suggested regarding being bugged, and also adress the health concerns. If you are ill, there's treatment, and you can feel better, and be happier.

Most recording bugs seem to be voice activated, so leave radio on to fill the memory - NPR or other news, most political talk radio will just raise your blood pressure. Somebody will have to listen to everything, so you can at least make it more time-consuming. If you need to communicate confidential information, use random payphones, or borrow a friend's phone.
posted by theora55 at 8:58 AM on May 29, 2006

C_D, that group you linked to doesn't inspire any sort of confidence with their unencrypted login form.... Seems to me that anyone marketing "technical security consulting" should at least know the basics of secure authentication.
posted by aberrant at 9:13 AM on May 29, 2006

Not necessarily, aberrant. Many security consultants are business-oriented, (BECCA, for instance, is a group that certifies counterintelligence professionals and is recognized by the DOD). In the case of an individual, I'd guess that one of these outfits may be beyond financial consideration. It was just my first google hit, by no means the final word on the matter.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 10:15 AM on May 29, 2006

My ex-wife had the same problem. It happened about the time her psychologically-diagnosed "borderline schizophrenia" jumped over the border and ran south. If 10jubilee is unwilling to offer any reasons WHY he/she is worth the kind of attention that being constantly bugged assumes, then this is very simply either a conscious or subconscious ploy to attract attention and build up his/her self-importance.

10jubilee, if you are being stalked by a truly crazy person, then that person does NOT have the ability or resources to pull off the surveilance. If there is a powerful organization doing the bugging, then either you are doing something threatening to them or you possess dangerous information, and in either case, bringing your problem to AskMeFi was incredibly stupid (because all the powerful organizations are monitoring MetaFilter), and now that you've "let the camel's nose into the tent", you're probably best served by making everything public. But you can't. Because there's nothing there.

I'm actually rather ashamed of Matt and Jess for being your facilitators, 10jubilee. You deserve all the abuse the highly abusive community can dish out.
posted by wendell at 1:48 PM on May 29, 2006

Learn all you can about the phone network. Educate yourself.

At minimum, you will learn how to not be eavesdropped on if that is a genuine concern. It may also make you feel more at ease if you understand what is actually involved in tapping a phone and how to find such taps if any are suspected.
posted by sonofsamiam at 3:51 PM on May 29, 2006

Response by poster: First I am a woman posting this. First I said to my husband during a itimate time his name in a sexy way and it was repeated at work, when I did work, they have also bugged our apartment. I said to a friend her sons name on a corded landline phone, and they called one of my children saying this is Stephen that was my friends sons name and asked to speak to my her, my relative said I don't know no Stephen and didn't take the phone. My friend and I got the same newspaper article mailed to both of us with our names at the top written down. (It was about how to loose weight and it was cut out from a newspaper) I set up a separted email account in hotmail with the name rebecca which is not my name it was broken into by a woman I couldn't get in the password kept being changed, so I played a trick i sent a email from my other email with my real name to the rebecca email she got confused and called me up asking is Rebecca there. I got her number off my caller ID but I didn't do anything to her. I told my husband my first boyfriend was such and such nationality a few days later a man called asking for someone not in our house, and I asked my husband who was it he said it sounded like a spanish guy the nationality I said my first boyfriend looked like. I was talking on the cell phone told the person my brother lived in Reno, got a call couple days later from a cell phone and it was from Reno they ask for Anita and I don't know no one by that name when I looked it up on a cell phone reverse all it said for the name was WCC they had made sure their idenity could not be found. I got a cell phone call looked up cell phone reverse cell phone was set up for one day and all it said was Prison I know no one in prison have never been in prison number was set up to harrass me. Would mention names in my apartment and they would show up in my email in some form or matter in some email attachment. Like I would say Sally and then I would see a email with the name Sally in it. Yes I pissed off the wrong person I told a lie about the because she told a lie about me and that was 10 years ago, I moved on but she has caused my life to be a living hell. Her husband works for AT&T as a line technician and he has all this technical knowledge to do the cell phone bug. I have moved gotten new numbers and had my apartment checked by someone who says they can detect bugs, but talked on my phone when calling them, maybe the bugs can be taken off since they knew they were coming.
posted by 10jubilee at 7:05 AM on May 30, 2006 [4 favorites]

10jubilee, I doubt you'd be willing to tell us where you live, but if you could tell us the general area, I suspect someone here would be able to offer some suggestions of where you could go or who you could contact to get some help. Your phones and email accounts are the least of your problems right now. I wish you the best of luck.
posted by pardonyou? at 7:29 AM on May 30, 2006

OK. Time to close the thread.

10jubilee -- you need psychiatric help. Please seek help.
posted by Mid at 7:30 AM on May 30, 2006 [1 favorite]

10jubilee, I think you might find better answers to your question if you returned to the thread and answered the very first call for clarification: How do you know your're being bugged?
posted by hot soup girl at 7:40 AM on May 30, 2006

Ah. Should have previewed. Well, that's that then.
posted by hot soup girl at 7:43 AM on May 30, 2006

10jubilee: I am not a phone security expert or a doctor, and neither is anybody in this thread. I am concerned about you, though. You might be bugged, I don't know, but your story has a lot in common with the kinds of things that happen to paranoid schizophrenics. Your problem may not be that you are bugged, but that you are seeing connections between things that may not be there.

If you feel like you might be bugged, do what it takes to make you feel better about it. Don't talk about important things on the phone or e-mail, for example.

But you really, really, really need to see a doctor. Ask someone you trust to find you one. They can help you see things more clearly. I know you're afraid. But you don't have to be. Find someone who loves you and let them help you. You don't have to be afraid, okay?
posted by empath at 8:00 AM on May 30, 2006

10jubilee, you have medicine don't you and you have stopped taking it haven't you? Why? Did it make you feel jittery, or slow, or give you cramps? Did it seem like it wasn't doing anything? People you love and who love you have asked you to take it haven't they? Please listen to them. You need them now more than ever. It may seem like it doesn't do anything other than annoy you but the medicine really does work. I am sure you know it reduces your anxiety, that you probably sleep better. Talk to your family. Take your medicine. Don't worry about whether your phone is bugged or not. It's probably not, but even if it is so what? Take your medicine. Do it for yourself. Do it for your family. It will help you think more clearly and to decide whether you are being bugged and if so how best to deal with it. Take your medicine.
posted by caddis at 8:39 AM on May 30, 2006 [1 favorite]

My friend and I got the same newspaper article mailed to both of us with our names at the top written down. (It was about how to loose weight and it was cut out from a newspaper)

There actually is direct mail advertisement that uses this. It's a fake article with your name inserted in fake handwriting at the top to make it look personal. You and your friend and few million other women across the country got this.
posted by pieoverdone at 9:53 AM on May 30, 2006

1. If you really feel you are being bugged, contact this company Research Electronics, they are one of the premier countersurveillance companies in the world. Note that their stuff is not particularly cheap, as it is usually purchased by foreign powers and captains of industry. In fact I'm not entirely sure if they sell direct to the public or not.

2. You may need to see a doctor. If you are already seeing a doctor, you may need to go see another one.
posted by Ynoxas at 10:14 AM on May 30, 2006

"Her husband works for AT&T as a line technician and he has all this technical knowledge to do the cell phone bug"
AT&T and AT&T Wireless aren't even the same company (haven't been for years.)
The typical AT&T line tech would have absolutely nothing to do (and not even access to) any of the ATTWS equipment.

I call BS on this. Dude, you need help. you're overly paranoid and nobody is bugging you.

This is one ridiculous troll.
posted by drstein at 12:01 PM on May 30, 2006

By the way, I get the phone calls that say "Prison" on the caller ID, too. It's creepy looking, but nothing ever comes of it. I think someone is either spoofing their caller ID as a joke.
posted by MrZero at 12:02 PM on May 30, 2006

Actually, there are call centers run from prisons.
posted by Mid at 1:42 PM on May 30, 2006

AT&T and AT&T Wireless aren't even the same company (haven't been for years.)

Actually, they are/will be. AT&T is actually AT&T Inc, which is the new name of SBC after it purchased AT&T Corp. ATTWS was spun off from AT&T Corp, then bought by Cingular (which is owed by SBC/ATT Inc & BellSouth and who are themselves merging).
posted by MikeKD at 6:19 PM on May 30, 2006

Response by poster: How do you submit a response to my original post. I don't know how to do it. I did post something else but I didn't do it right
posted by 10jubilee at 6:00 AM on June 1, 2006

Not clear what you mean, 10j. If you're trying to create a new thread (i.e., post a new question), you probably can't because users can only post one question per week. Just post here in this thread.
posted by Mid at 6:43 AM on June 1, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks all for some of your responses and concerns.
posted by 10jubilee at 8:18 PM on June 6, 2006

See also. [via Projects]

Good luck to you, 10jubilee.
posted by cribcage at 2:36 PM on June 8, 2006

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