Cell Phone UsageCordless And Cellular Phones: Is Everybody Listening?

Be aware. It's easy for others to listen to calls you make on cordless or cellular phones . . . and you may never know your conversations may be monitored.

In most cases, your cordless or cellular phone conversations are probably overheard only briefly and accidentally. But there are people who make it a hobby to listen to cordless and cellular phone calls by using radio scanners. Since others may be listening to your conversations, be especially careful not to talk about financial information on a cordless or cellular phone.

Cordless telephones operate like mini-radio stations. They send radio signals from the base unit to the handset and from the handset back to the base. Signals from cordless phones can be picked up by a number of other devices including radio scanners, baby monitors, radios and other cordless phones. The signal carrying your conversation can usually be transmitted and overheard up to 1/4 mile away, or more.

How Do I Prevent My Calls From Being Overheard?

Cellular telephones send radio signals to low-power transmitters located within "cells" of five to twelve miles in radius. Because the signal carrying your conversation travels so far, it is easy to randomly intercept cellular phone conversations using advanced radio scanners. However, it is difficult to locate and follow specific conversations since as your automobile travels from cell to cell, the signal carrying your voice is transferred to the nearest transmitter. Also, cellular phone conversations usually are not picked up by electronic devices such as radios and baby monitors, although they may be received by televisions and radio scanners.

Currently there is no inexpensive way to ensure privacy on either cordless or cellular phone calls. If you are discussing a private matter or you simply do not want others to listen to your call, it is best to switch to a standard "wire" telephone. Be sure both you and the person you are talking to are on standard phones.

Cordless phones with 10 channels and which automatically switch between channels are not as easily monitored as one-or two-channel molds. Neither are the newest cordless phones which use a higher frequency and have as many as 30 channels. However, anyone using a radio scanner can eavesdrop on cordless phone calls whether you use a 10-channel or the newest 30-channel models. Digital cordless phones are now available which give a high level of protection against eavesdropping, but these are more expensive than the analog phones. Digital cellular phone networks will provide greater privacy than current analog systems, but are several years from being widely available.

If you are concerned about being overheard by a baby monitor, walkie-talkies or a home intercom system, turn it off. You might want to consider using a "wired" unit instead.