The most frequently requested service we receive is for subject locates, (e.g., a client has moved and neglected to give his attorney forwarding contact information, a transient witness needs to be interviewed, an heir to an estate located).
Regardless of the seemingly obvious ease of locating someone in our now technologically-enhanced transparent society, if a person wishes to remain unlocatable, they will. (I’ll refer back to this later in this article.)
A 22-year-old Manhattan man was found, thirsty and weak, beside his BMW deep in swampy woods along an upstate parkway four days after he went missing.
State police say Thomas Wopat-Moreau, last seen at a Saturday night party in East Fishkill, was found by searchers Thursday in a secluded area near the Taconic State Parkway about 45 miles south of Albany (Gallatin, Columbia County). His car had swerved off the road early Sunday and flew 400 feet into the woods, leaving no trace behind.
Troopers said they were able to focus their search by a signal from Wopat-Moreau’s cell phone before it died.The tracking technique used by the state troopers is called pinging.
Pinging a cell phone is finding out the responding cell tower to the phone. This can be used to locate a person that has a cell phone.
Usually the information is provided by the cellular provider and one has to have an account with them. In 911 systems, the location is broadcast with the call. If a subject is carrying a cell phone, the phone is constantly sending signals to the closest cell tower, even if the phone isn’t turned on. 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 the cell towers to which the signal is bounced to.
Cell phones now come equipped with GPS so a subject’s exact location can be determined. Even when the 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. Again, the phone doesn’t even have to be turned on. The phone acts as a secret microphone.
More sophisticated ways of listening to people are being developed and many are already in use. ONSTAR has been used to listen in on criminals by law enforcement. The microphone for ONSTAR in one’s car can be activated remotely so others can listen in to the in-vehicle conversation.
A GPS unit can obviously identify a subject’s location. However, a GPS can be disabled and is worthless to locators once the juice has been cut.
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 conversations in range of the target.
An ounce of prevention…
As we’ve often advised, if you are in a conference or client meeting or any other public situation in which you would like conversations to remain confidential, request that all cell phones be left outside of the room, including your own. In high-level negotiations, it’s make sense for the opposition to hire professionals who can easily ping a cell phone and listen in on talks.
1. 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. If you do, the phone will then be registered to your name. If nobody knows your phone number or ESN number then they can’t trace your phone by cell towers.
2. Turn off the GPS.
3. As for ONSTAR, most people in the know disconnect it.
(There isn’t much that can be done, short of removing the unit, regarding silencing your cable box.)
On a final note, in order to ping a cell phone, one has be authorized. Obviously, law enforcement is automatically qualified to request cell service providers to track phones, but so are investigators, bails bondsmen and several other professions.
Our Operatives: Street smart; Tech savvy.
As always, stay safe.
Filed under: cell phone, locate, subject locate, tracking Tagged: | cell phone, cell phone pinging, cell tower, Global Positioning System, gps, law enforcement, Mobile phone, onstar, ping, state troopers, tracking by cell phone