BBB warns to be careful of ‘stalkerware’ apps that can give others access to your phone

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HONOLULU (KHON2) — The Better Business Bureau is sending out a new warning about “stalkerware” or apps that can give another person access to someone else’s phone. They saw a large number of cases in 2020.

It starts with someone getting into another person’s phone and downloading a surveillance app on it. With the app, they can have access to their whole device and follow that person’s every move. Roseann Freitas with the Better Business Bureau said there are numerous types of apps that can be used for surveillance. Some of the top “stalkerware” apps include Talklog and the Spy Phone app.

So that means the GPS. That means your text messages, all of your incoming, (outgoing) phone calls… (They have access to it).

Roseann Freitas, Better Business Bureau

The BBB said over 50,000 Americans fell victim to “stalkerware” last year, and domestic violence shelters noted that 75% of the people that came in to those shelters had some kind of tracking device or app on their phone.

Freitas said in most cases, the app was installed by someone the victim knew, and many victims are often unaware that this type of app or “stalkerware” is even on their phone. There are, however, a few tell-tale signs.

“It can actually slow down your device. It can take up a lot of storage space. It can cause it to be glitchy, signs that maybe something is running in the background on your device,” said Freitas.

To prevent this from happening, the BBB recommends being careful with who you share your phone with and to check it often.

“Whether it’s an IOS or an Android phone, go and check and make sure what apps are actually on there. Make sure you know who downloaded them and look at their permissions, and the privacy … Doing that once a month, checking what is on your phone, and should it be be there,” said Freitas.

If a person finds out that they have a “stalkerware” app installed, Freitas said they should report it to the police and remove the app. She said they can also contact their cell phone provider to get it removed.

“It’s really important for people to understand that this could be on their phone, especially if they are in a situation where they feel threatened, and someone is trying to control their life,” said Freitas. “So, it’s important that they understand this could be on that device, so they need to be very careful what they share on that device and what they’re sending out.”

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