This questions has come up in many forums including our own PI discussion groups. Is it legal to perform or hire someone to perform a Cell Phone Ping to determine the location of a person?
What is a Cell Phone Ping?
Pinging a cell phone is finding out what cell tower their phone is in. This can be used to locate a person that you know has the cell phone. This is used by law enforcement on a regular basis.
Usually the information is provided by the cellular provider and you have to have an account with them. In 911 systems the location is broadcast with the call. If a bad guy is carrying a cell phone the phone is constantly sending signals to the closest cell tower, even if the phone isn't in use. The location of the cell tower will tell you that the person is within a certain range. When the person moves they can be tracked by which cell towers the signal is bouncing to.
Now cell phones come with GPS so your exact location can be traced. Even when your phone is turned off!! Also, the phones can be used as a listening device. It can be activated via a cell phone tower and law enforcement can listen to everything said within range of the cell phone. The phone doesn't even have to be turned on. It's like you are carrying around a microphone (see my blog titled "Is Your Cell Phone Bugged").
Many ways of listening to people are being developed and put to use right under our noses. ONSTAR has been used to listen in on criminals by law enforcement. the microphone for ONSTAR in your car can be activated remotely so your conversation in the car can be listened to.
If you want to remain anonymous with a cell phone use a prepaid phone and don't send in your information for a mail in rebate. Because the phone will then be registered to your name. If nobody knows your phone number or ESN (electronic serial number) then they can't trace your phone by cell towers. And definitely not by GPS. As for the ONSTAR, well, most people in the know disconnect it. Cable boxes are also being used to listen in on people in their homes. The signal is sent over the same coax cable to the head-end where a server records you conversations if you have been targeted.
But, back to Pinging a phone, it's finding out what cell tower grid the phone is in so a person can be located. The ESN or phone number of the cell phone needs to be known. The cell phone provider can provide this information but you have to be allowed to have it, meaning you can get it if you are LEO (law enforcement officer), government agency and have a subpoena.
One way to perform a Ping is by performing a number of LEGAL procedures to determine the physical location of the cell phone user.
What most services provide is a pretext. They will send an SMS message (text message) to the phone advising the recipient that they have "won a prize, call in the next few minutes to claim your prize". The number to be called is an 800 number. When the "winner" calls they get a recording stating that cell phone calls are not allowed, go to the nearest wired phone and call. If they fall for that, the number is"trapped" (as with all toll free calls) and a public records search may show the location of that wired or land line phone. This is a totally legal pretext.
Here is one place where you can perform a Cell Ping - Click Here. The service is No Hit - No Fee in most cases.
If your desire is to locate a more thorough PING that can locate the phone as close as five feet there may be an option for licensed investigators, email me at Patrick@PDJservices.com for more information.
Any feedback on this topic is greatly appreciated - please click on the "comments" button at the end of this blog to post your feedback or comments, you may post your comments anonymously.
Patrick L. Baird
Labels: Cell Phone Ping