If You Respond To An Unknown Text, Can They Track You? Exploring Privacy Concerns & Protective Measures

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Do you receive text messages from phone numbers that aren’t in your phonebook or you can’t recognize? Do you worry that you could be tracked or monitored if you respond to them? It’s okay to be worried, as phone tracking is a serious issue. 

A few months ago, my next-door neighbor asked me if he could be tracked if he responded to unknown texts. He was concerned because he noticed that his phone started lagging and heating up frequently (signs of phone tracking) after he responded to an unknown text. 

I shrugged it off at first, but after thorough research and talking to a few digital security experts, I understood his POV better. So, in this guide, I’ll explore the vulnerabilities associated with responding to unknown texts and things you can do to avoid being tracked online.  

Key Takeaways

  • There are potential risks associated with responding to unknown texts or answering unknown phone calls.
  • There are different signs to know if someone is tracking your phone; look out for them and take the necessary steps to stop your device from being tracked.
  • Spam blockers are great tools for preventing you from unwittingly responding to scam texts and calls.

Can Someone Track You If You Respond To An Unknown Text? The Verdict 

An unknown text message on the phone

Yes, someone can track you if you respond to unknown texts. Merely replying to texts as simply as a “hello,” downloading a photo, or clicking a link from an unknown text could give hackers access to your private information. 

Nowadays, it is very common for cybercriminals to use text messages to lure individuals into providing sensitive information. They send compelling texts that may be too hard to ignore, such as promising you a job, proposing friendship, or impersonating your friend/family, etc. 

Sadly, if you’re not careful, you may unknowingly provide these scammers with enough information to track, impersonate, or defraud you by just responding to their texts.  

How Tracking Works With Phone Calls & Scam Text Messages From Unknown Numbers

A transaction information text message on the phone lock screen

From my research, I discovered that unknown texts are often accompanied by malware (with keyloggers) embedded in links, images, etc., used to track the recipient’s digital behavior and steal data, such as your geolocation

Taking any action, such as clicking these malicious links or downloading images onto your phone, can put you at risk of being defrauded or tracked, including your phone’s keystrokes (what you type on your phone) and bank app passwords

In other words, scammers can obtain and analyze your metadata, such as your timestamps, login credentials, and geolocation, via text messages. When put together, these details could provide them with the necessary information they need to track your online activities. 

This was the case with my neighbor, as he revealed that he had downloaded a couple of images from unknown texts out of curiosity. This is how his phone and digital footprint were compromised

The same also goes for answering calls from unknown numbers. When you answer a phone call from an unknown number, you are admitting that such a number is a live, active phone number, giving scammers more leverage to contact you.

A hacker can also record your voice and use it for voice-messaging phishing campaigns that will make it look like a phone call or voice note you could make, impersonating you for as long as possible. 

Tips To Stay Safe & Avoid Being Tracked 

A man using his phone

As long as you have a digital footprint and you actively use your mobile phone, it is important to ensure your safety and minimize your risk of getting tracked. The following tips below will prove helpful for you:

Stay Alert & Informed

I, for one, believe that staying alert is arguably the most important tip to staying safe online. When you receive a text message or phone call from an unknown sender, don’t be quick to open it. Instead, exercise some restraint and verify the sender’s/caller’s identity before taking any action. 

One of the scam texts my neighbor got was supposedly from a real estate company offering discounts on some leases. A simple check of the contents of the message and the said company’s website would have helped him confirm the sender’s credibility and save him from being a victim of identity theft.

Another effective way to not fall victim to tracking via unknown texts or phone calls is to familiarize yourself with phishing tactics. Knowing what tactics are frequently used keeps you in the light and lets you know what to avoid and watch out for. 

Be Wary Of Links/Attachments & Messages/Calls That Demand Urgency 

Perhaps you are unable to verify the sender’s identity, or you have already opened the text before remembering the need for safety. Your next point of call is to check for links and attachments and to avoid them

I discovered that, often, links and attachments are tools used to deliver spyware to devices. So, I strongly advise against clicking links or opening attachments embedded in unknown texts. 

Also, be on the lookout for messages and calls with a tone of urgency, prompting you to take action within a limited time to avoid missing out on a juicy deal. Although sometimes valid, such messages are often illegitimate. Besides my neighbor’s ordeal, I have received a couple of fraudulent investment calls myself, and they always reek of urgency. So, be wary of them. 

Use Spam Blockers

Consider using spam blockers to ward off spam texts and calls. After receiving a couple of scam phone calls, I had to install a spam blocker to help detect spam calls and reveal their ID, helping me avoid them at all costs. 

I also suggested the same to my neighbor, and that has significantly helped him minimize the frequency of spam text messages and calls sent to his phone.  

Regularly Update Your Device’s Operating System & Applications 

Regularly updating your device’s operating system is a great step to boost your cyber security and stay safe. Mobile updates for Android or iOS devices go beyond fancy new features but also upgrades in security patches. 

These patches address security vulnerabilities on your device, reducing your exposure to cyber threats. I have long cultivated the habit of updating the operating systems and applications on my mobile devices. I advise you to do the same, as it can be very helpful in the long run.

What I Do Not Recommend: Giving Out Your Phone Number Without Reservations  

In a nutshell, I strongly recommend that you refrain from giving out your phone number carelessly to just anybody at every opportunity. Doing so puts you at risk of sharing your phone number with scammers, giving them the avenue to easily contact you. 

Also, refrain from including your phone number on random, unverified online survey forms. Scammers populate the dark web with phone numbers obtained from survey forms, among other places, so be cautious about whom you give your phone number to and where you use it online.  

FAQs

Can I respond to a text from an unknown number?

You can respond to text from an unknown number. However, until the identity of the sender has been verified, it is not advisable to respond to texts from an unknown number. Do your due diligence first to authenticate the sender before you respond.

Can someone hack your phone through a text?

Someone can hack your phone through a text by including malicious links or attachments that, once clicked or downloaded, can be used to hack your phone. 

Safeguard Your Digital Information

Responding to texts from unknown numbers can deliver malware or spyware onto your device, compromising your security. Likewise, your location can be tracked by simply answering unknown calls. So, I strongly advise that you:

  • Do some investigation before you answer calls or respond to texts from unknown numbers. 
  • Install a spam blocker to help minimize the frequency of these spam text messages and calls.

I hope you enjoyed this article and got some clarity on how tracking via calls/text messages works. Drop your comments/questions below, and share this across all digital channels so others can learn.

About The Authors

  • Raji Oluwaniyi

    With over 7 years in the tech industry, Oluwaniyi has transitioned from being a mere tech enthusiast to becoming a seasoned technical writer. He began writing in 2019, and has worked with esteemed tech blogs, including MakeUseOf, PrivacySavvy, and TestGorilla. Furthermore, his career reflects his desire and ability to help people navigate the tech landscape with technical pieces, including user guides and product documentations. In his free time, you can find him diving into tech newsletters or going for evening rides. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

  • Jenn Peters

    Jenn Peters is an experienced content manager and editor who holds a degree in English and certifications in Social Media Marketing and Copywriting from the College of Media and Publishing. She has been working for TechUntold since 2018. In addition, Jenn works as a content editor for Valnet across 7 company sites, publishing numerous articles weekly. Connect with Jenn on LinkedIn.

Photo of author

Raji Oluwaniyi

With over 7 years in the tech industry, Oluwaniyi has transitioned from being a mere tech enthusiast to becoming a seasoned technical writer. He began writing in 2019, and has worked with esteemed tech blogs, including MakeUseOf, PrivacySavvy, and TestGorilla. Furthermore, his career reflects his desire and ability to help people navigate the tech landscape with technical pieces, including user guides and product documentations. In his free time, you can find him diving into tech newsletters or going for evening rides. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

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