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Ways to Tell If Your Car Is Being Tracked & What to Do

Ways to Tell If Your Car Is Being Tracked & What to Do

Andrew McMennamy

GPS trackers for vehicles are small devices that make use of the combined technology of global positioning system (GPS) and cellular networks to determine and monitor the location of a vehicle in real time. Not all GPS vehicle trackers are meant to be hidden, but a lot of them are small and lightweight enough that they can easily be overlooked by the unsuspecting and untrained eye. In fact, many of these devices tend to be smaller than a deck of cards. Their small size and portability easily gives them the function of being used as a tool for spying on people.

Like how it is with other products of technology, GPS trackers can be used for both legitimate and not-so legitimate (that is, questionable and maybe even unethical) purposes. With that said, even law enforcement agencies and private investigators have seen the advantage of using such devices in their own line of work, provided that they get the appropriate warrant first.

It’s not just police officers and private investigators who take advantage of the many benefits of GPS tracking devices as even ordinary people as well as company owners and managers use such devices for a number of reasons, although most of these reasons don’t call for keeping the device hidden.

Common Uses of GPS Car Trackers

  • Fleet Management – Many owners and managers of companies who operate a fleet of vehicles make use of GPS trackers in order to track the location of their vehicular assets in real time and to monitor the driving behavior of their employees in the field.
  • Delivery and Taxi Dispatch – Operators of taxi services as well as those in the delivery business also see a lot of advantage in harnessing the innovative technology offered by GPS car trackers. They can use such technology in improving the quality of their services, ensuring faster response time and increased employee productivity, and increasing levels of customer satisfaction.
  • Supervising Teenage Drivers – Parents of teenagers who are just learning how to drive can keep tabs on their child even if they are not by their side all the time. With a GPS tracker, not only can they track where their teen is at a given time but they can also be alerted anytime their child is engaging in any type of reckless driving behavior such as speeding, hard-accelerating, or hard-braking. Lastly, you can also be alerted if they go beyond a preset geofenced zone or get involved in an emergency with the help of an SOS button.
  • Locating a Parking Spot – When we’re out and about, one of the hardest things when driving a car can be looking for our parking spotthat is, finding where we parked our car. This can be a particularly difficult thing to do especially if you’ve parked in a huge area such as a mall.
  • Theft Recovery – We think it won’t happen to us until it doesvehicle theft. But such occurrences are more common than you’d think. We don’t want to wait until it actually happens because what do we do then? One of the best ways to prevent vehicle theft is by installing a reliable and efficient GPS tracker like Tracki in your car. In cases of theft, time is of the essence as you don’t want your vehicle to end up being disassembled and sold for parts. Before the thieves can get far, you can already determine their location and recover your car with the help of a GPS tracking device.

2 Main Types of GPS Car Trackers

All GPS vehicle trackers are typically sorted into two categories: active and passive. Active trackers are those devices that use GPS to ascertain the specific location of a device and then use cellular connections to transmit that location. They do all this in real time. Passive trackers, on the other hand, typically just record and store location data and can’t be able to transmit the said location data in real time.

When someone has set up an active GPS tracker on your car, it means that they will be able to track your movements in real time with the help of a computer, a smart phone, or tablet and an Internet connection. Depending on the brand and model of the device they have installed, they may also be able to view your route history in the past, specific details of your driving behavior, and other relevant information.

On the other hand, if someone has hidden a passive GPS tracker on your vehicle, they won’t be able to get any real-time information about your route and location. The only way they’d be able to get the information stored in the passive tracker is if they actually retrieved it and accessed the data recorded on it. 

A lot of trackers are designed to operate with power sourced from a car’s electrical system. But there are others that operate from a battery, making them the ideal tool for spying as they are extremely difficult to trace. While there are some devices that are open to detection, provided you have the right tools, a lot of them will still need the help of a professional when it comes to their detection.

Additional Considerations When Dealing with GPS Vehicle Trackers

In addition to understanding the basics of GPS vehicle trackers and how to detect them, there are several other important considerations to keep in mind.

1. Legal and Privacy Implications

Before deploying or attempting to detect GPS trackers, it's crucial to be aware of the legal and privacy implications. Laws regarding GPS tracking vary by jurisdiction, and in many places, consent may be required before tracking someone's vehicle. For instance, while employers may have the right to track company-owned vehicles for fleet management purposes, tracking personal vehicles without consent could lead to legal repercussions. It's essential to research and understand the relevant laws and regulations in your area.

2. Types of Trackers and False Positives

While many GPS trackers are small and discreet, not every suspicious wire or device found on a vehicle is necessarily a tracker. It's important to distinguish between harmless components and potential trackers to avoid false positives. Exploring the different types of trackers available, such as magnetic trackers or advanced models with additional features, can help in understanding what to look for during inspections.

3. Counter-Surveillance Measures

For individuals concerned about being tracked, there are several counter-surveillance measures that can be taken. Investing in anti-tracking devices or regularly scanning vehicles for unauthorized trackers can provide peace of mind. However, it's important to note that some passive trackers may evade detection by handheld scanners, emphasizing the need for thorough and regular inspections.

4. Ethical Use and Industry Regulations

Considering the ethical implications of GPS tracking is essential, regardless of whether it's for personal or professional use. It's crucial to weigh the potential benefits against the risks to privacy, trust, and relationships.

Additionally, certain industries may have regulations or standards governing the use of GPS tracking devices, such as transportation or private investigation sectors. Familiarizing oneself with these regulations can help ensure compliance and ethical conduct.

5. Future Trends and Community Resources

As GPS tracking technology continues to evolve, staying informed about emerging trends and advancements is important. Integration of artificial intelligence for predictive analysis and the development of smaller, more discreet trackers are just a few examples of where the technology may be headed.

Additionally, seeking out community resources, such as online forums or organizations dedicated to GPS tracking technology, can provide valuable insights, support, and guidance.

How to Find a Hidden GPS Tracker on Your Vehicle

If you’re having doubts that someone may have installed a tracking device on your car, you’ll need to get hold of some tools to confirm your suspicions. Some tools you can use are a mechanic’s mirror, a flashlight, and a mat that you can use to slide under the vehicle. You should also take note of the following instructions:

Examining the Exterior

  1. Take your car’s owner’s manual and a flashlight. Some of the cheapest trackers around are pretty obvious, but take note that not all devices are built the same way. With some devices, the only hint you’d find is an out-of-place wire. It’s good to have your manual on hand so you won’t risk yanking just any important part of the car.
  1. One of the places you’d need to check is the undercarriage of your vehicle. Get your mat, lie down with your back on it, slide under your car, and shine your flashlight into its underside. Look for any suspiciously shaped objects that don’t look like they’re part of the car, such as taped-on objects, boxes, and antennas.
  1. Another spot you’d have to check is the wheel well, especially under the plastic guard, to check if it’s bent or loose. If a hidden tracker has been hidden there, you’d definitely discover it.
  1. A tracker can also be placed in the front and rear bumpers of a vehicle. Make sure you examine these sections closely as anyone could discreetly slip in a tracker in the bumpers.
  1. Check the roof and the hood. These are the spots in the car that are the least likely spots for a tracker for obvious reasons: there is usually no way you can hide a tracker on the common hood of a car and an engine is usually too hot. However, because these are the least likely places, this makes them the ideal spots for hiding a tracking device, and there are ways that a person can hide such a device in the cases of an SUV or any other tall vehicle, there are ways that a device can be hidden on top of it in plain sight, especially if it has a sunroof. Similarly, disarranged wires leading to the car battery may indicate the presence of a tracking device.

Examining the Interior

  1. Look inside the car’s upholstery, especially the removable parts such as the headrests and seat cushions. Likewise, do the same with the carpet and the seats. Use your flashlight to illuminate the parts underneath the seats. When it comes to the two front seats, check them for anything that strikes you as out of the ordinary.
  1. Examine the area underneath the dashboard. With most car models, you can easily disassemble the glove compartment and panel below the steering wheel. If you come across a loose wire, that’s an indication that it connects to an antenna that’s been taped on or glued.
  1. Check the back too as most trackers are unable to receive signals through metal. Don’t forget to examine the areas right under the rear window before checking the metal trunks and the spare tire.

More Helpful Tips

If you’ve checked both the exteriors and interiors of your vehicle but still haven’t found any trace of a tracker, there’s a good chance there might not be one installed on it. However, if you’re still suspicious, here are some more tips you can try:

  1. Get in touch with a professional. You can hire people who know how to find such things, such as a car mechanic who has had experience in finding trackers, a car alarm installer who sells trackers and would know how to install and find one, and even a private investigator.
  1. Sweep your vehicle for GPS tracker signals using handheld detectors. Such detectors are quite pricey, so you have to be willing to pay the price or at least have the budget for it. Take note, however, that passive trackers, which store information for later retrieval, are able to hide from such sensors. 

Post updated on April 30, 2024. 

Author information:
Andrew McMennamy

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