I am being stalked

Victims of domestic abuse are often at risk of being stalked by their abuser, especially if the abuser is obsessively jealous and wants to know everything about what that targeted person is doing. Smart phones or other devices with GPS tracking capability can be used by stalkers to monitor the whereabouts of their unwitting victims. Recently, it has been reported that tracking behaviour is increasing in New Zealand and is a worrying trend. It is very important for women to be aware of tracking apps that may be on their smart phones and how to disable them to keep themselves safe. Below are some helpful tips from digital agency Gladeye

How is smartphone location tracking done?

The most common way for a smartphone's location to be tracked is via an app installed on your phone. There are now literally hundreds, if not thousands, of apps that are capable of doing this. Some apps come built into the phone's operating system, like 'Find my iPhone', while most are downloaded via a smartphone app store, like 'Find My Friends' or 'Lookout'. Some of these apps need to be open to be accessed, however, some may run in the background and continuously transmit information.

In addition to apps, it is also possible to track phones via accessing the underlying Apple (iPhone) or Google (Android) account within a browser. 

Most of these tracking methods will use a phone's GPS, however, it can also be done through a range of other means if GPS is not enabled, such as, using cell networks and wifi connections.

Why do these apps/features exist?

Most of these apps/features are well intentioned, in that they enable users to locate a phone if it is lost or stolen or keep track of a child's movements, however, they are also open to abuse. 

What other information could be monitored?

Some tracking apps are capable of monitoring much more information than just the phone's physical location, and can also send the contents of text messages, call logs, photos and posts on social media (plus much more). 

How can you check if you are being tracked?

This is difficult to know for sure but understanding what each app does on your phone is a good start and ensuring that you are the only one with access to your Google or Apple account is also key.

How can you stop your smartphone from being tracked?

The most basic step to take is to uninstall any apps that you know track your location, however, in a situation where you wish to completely minimise the risk of being tracked consider taking these steps in the following order:

1. Change your password to the underlying smartphone (Google/Apple) account (or possibly create a completely new account and replace the old account with the new one - you should be able to export your contact list relatively painlessly from your old account to the new one).

2. Delete all apps installed - this can be done through the phone's settings or by logging in to the underlying account through a browser or as a part of the reset process, see below (before you do this maybe make a note of the apps that you want to re-install once you have completed the reset).

3. Reset the phone to its factory settings.

4. Change the passwords for all of your smartphone/online accounts, particularly social media.

In addition, you may want to check on the terms of your account with your mobile service provider and ensure that no other parties have access to information held by them and/or set up a new account and possibly phone number.

If you are being stalked, here are some other options: 

Call Shine’s Free National Helpline for advice, 9am and 11pm, 7 days a week, on 0508-744-633