I’ve been recording my telephone calls since the mid-80′s so I think it’s about time I write a tutorial on how to record your phone calls. There are a lot of different reasons you might want to record your phone calls. The obvious reason on this web site is comedy – recording funny prank calls so that other people can hear them. Maybe you’re forgetful and just want to keep a record of your phone calls for later review. If you run your own podcast show, these recording methods work great for podcasting telephone calls. Or maybe you’d just like to tap and record someone else’s phone line, or even a public phone. This page should hopefully show you everything you want to know about tapping phones and recording phone calls.
Before we begin, you should know that tapping phones without permission is obviously very illegal. Recording a phone call, even your own, is possibly illegal too. This site does not condone breaking and state or federal laws when tapping and/or recording a phone call. There are state laws and federal laws that you should check before you start recording phone calls. A good source for checking this is Can We Tape which is a great guide to state and federal laws.
The federal Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968, 18 U.S.C. Sec. 2510 et seq., prohibits the willful interception of telephone communication by means of any electronic, mechanical, or other device without an applicable exemption. In the absence of more restrictive state law, it is permissible to intercept and record a telephone conversation if one or both of the parties to the call consents. Consent means authorization by only one participant in the call; single-party consent is provided for by specific statutory exemption under federal law. 18 U.S.C. Sec. 2511(2)(d).
That’s just federal law. Your own state law might have stricter laws on taping. And if you’re calling someone in another state, THEIR state might have even stricter laws on it. In the end, if you get into some kind of trouble over recording a phone call, they can use whatever federal or state law they want against you. Even if it’s a state law from the state of the person you called and not your own state.
Speakerphone: If you don’t want to spend any money, this is probably the cheapest possible way you can record phone calls. Use a speakerphone and set a tape recorder or your PC’s microphone right next to it. It works and you might get some good quality recordings out of it. But as you know, speakerphones are annoying to the people you call and you have to take turns talking, as opposed to being able to talk at the same time with any other method. Instead of using a speakerphone, you should at least spend $5.49 on a suction cup microphone…
Induction Coil Mic: This method of recording is nice because it’s portable and can be quickly hooked up to almost any telephone, even a pay phone. You don’t have to have access to the wiring of the phone, you just stick the suction cup on the back of your phone’s handset and plug the other end into a tape recorder, stereo or your computer. If you have a phone handset that has electronics in the handset (i.e. the dialing keypad is IN the handset) then you might end up with interference in your recording. It’s best to use the suction cup on a phone where the handset is separate from the rest of the phone. But if you don’t have a choice, try positioning the suction cup in different places, like on the side of the handset or on the top. You can even stick it on the opposite side, where your ear normally goes, as long as you can still hear the conversation okay. If you do this, you’ll probably need to wrap some tape around the suction cup and phone to hold it on. You can buy the suction cup phone recorder at Radio Shack for $5.49. The part number is 44-533.
In-line Recorders: This device has always been my favorite method of recording phone calls and has almost always produced the best quality recordings. An in-line recorder plugs into any phone jack in your house and will record phone calls from any phone on that same line. These are great for tapping lines – you could hide one of these in a closet with a tape recorder and nobody would ever know that their phone calls were being recorded. If your tape recorder has a “remote” jack on it, this device will automatically start your tape recorder each time a phone in the house is picked up. Then it will stop recording when the caller hangs up. Radio Shack carries 2 different models and I’ve never been able to understand what the difference is between them. I own both of them and they both appear to do the exact same thing even though one is more expensive than the other. The expensive model is $27.49 and claims to be “smart.” The part number is 43-2208. The cheaper model is $24.19 and it’s part number is 43-228. Go with the cheap one. Or buy this very similar product from Amazon.com
In-line Phone Cassette Recorder: This device works just like a regular in-line recorder but it has the added convenience of having a tape recorder built into it. You can either hook it directly into the phone line so it will record every phone in the house, or you can hook it to your phone’s handset so that it only records from your phone. It can be activated by voice or it can just start rolling tape whenever a phone is picked up. I had a problem with the voice activation, though, because the first word would always be half cut off. It wasn’t quite sensitive enough. These can also be picked up at Radio Shack for $79.99. The part number is 43-473.
Olympus TP-7: This is a very useful device for doing covert recordings in public – we used it for most of our Wal-Mart prank calls when we picked up the phones in their stores to talk to customers. The TP-7 sits in your ear and looks like the old cell phone earpiece people used before we had bluetooth earpieces. The other end plugs into a standard microphone jack on a digital recorder or other recording device. Then any phone you put up to your ear will be recorded. This works best on land line phones, but will also work on most cell phones. Click here to buy this from Amazon for under $20.
Police Scanner & Cordless Phone: If you happen to own an older cordless phone (900 MHz or 10 channel or 25 channel), you might be able to record phone calls directly from your police scanner. Simply figure out the frequency that your phone is on by scanning the 900 MHz range while you’re on a call. You can also get the frequencies for the 10 & 25 channel cordless phones on this page. One you’ve got your conversations playing through your scanner, you can hook the earphone outputs directly to your tape recorder or computer. Or you can just set your scanner next to the tape recorder or the computer’s microphone and hope for the best. If you own a 2.4 or 5.8 GHz phone, don’t even bother trying.
Modems & Software: If you have a voice-capable modem in your computer, you might be able to record phone calls directly from the phone line that’s hooked to your computer. One program I know of that does this is Call Corder. I’ve never tried recording phone calls like this so I’m not sure how well it works. There’s lots of other software packages for doing this but I’m not going to list them all since I don’t know much about any of them.
JK Audio QuickTap: This device connects between your telephone and it’s handset. It won’t work in a telephone that has the dialing keypad in the handset. The dialing keypad must be on the phone. Once connected, you plug it into your audio recording equipment. This device is supposed to contain a nice mix of both sides of the conversation. You can buy it for $59.00 from jkaudio.com but you may find it cheaper if you look on Google and Ebay.
THAT-1: Connect THAT-1 between your telephone and handset for quick access to audio in and out of the telephone. Simply unplug the handset coily cord form the base of your telephone and plug it directly into the THAT-1. Then, using the supplied cable, connect the THAT-1 back to the telephone. Now connect your audio equipment or powered speaker using the RCA jacks. The grey pushbutton selects which audio will be sent into the telephone (OUT = talking on the handset, IN = sending audio in through the RCA jack). The output RCA jack contains a nice mix of the audio from both sides of the conversation, as well as the tones being pressed on the keypad. The volume control adjusts the volume of the signal going to your powered speaker or tape recorder. The THAT-1 will work with many different types of analog and digital PBX and ISDN telephones. The receive side of the THAT-1 (audio From Phone), will work on any telephone. To send audio into the telephone (To Phone), the telephone must have an electret type microphone in the handset. If your telephone has a round mouthpiece or if you intend to use theis product on many telephones, you should consider our model THAT-2, which is compatible with more telephone systems. You can buy it for $150.00 from jkaudio.com.
THAT-2: Connect THAT-2 between your telephone and handset for quick access to audio in and out of the telephone. The THAT-2 is the big brother of the THAT-1, which is very popular with news reporters for its small yet rugged design. Over the years weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve heard from many of our customers that they liked the THAT-1 but would prefer professional XLR jacks and compatibility with more telephone systems. Here is the answer… The THAT-2, a passive handset interface with professional and consumer jacks, separate input and output volume control, a selector switch for the different types of telephone systems, and still no batteries or AC needed. Simply unplug the handset coily cord form the base of your telephone and plug it directly into the THAT-2. Then, using the supplied cable, connect the THAT-2 back to the telephone. Now connect your audio equipment or powered speaker to the RCA or XLR jacks. The grey pushbutton selects which audio will be sent into the telephone (OUT = talking on the handset, IN = sending audio in through the RCA jack). The output jacks contains a nice mix of the audio from both sides of the conversation, as well as the tones being pressed on the keypad. The THAT-2 has a three-position switch which accommodates electret, dynamic and carbon telephone handset microphone types. The THAT-2 will emulate the type of microphone that is in the handset and allow you to send audio into many different types of analog and digital PBX sets, as well as ISDN telephones. You can buy it for $225.00 from jkaudio.com.
JK Audio Inlinepatch This unique hybrid works with your telephone to give you more control over interview recording and playback. The Inline Patch is a little box that connects between the base of an analog or cordless telephone and the wall jack. You can continue to talk on the phone and get access to audio on both sides of the call. The unitÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s two back-to-back hybrids give you complete control of audio from both sides of the call. Audio input jacks let you mix sound bites or music into your conversation. One stereo output jack provides your voice on one channel and the caller’s voice on the other channel. A second output jack contains a mix of both voices. The Inline Patch can also be used as a simple phone-line hybrid coupler. The Off Hook/Norm switch lets you seize a phone line without using a telephone. This switch can be remote-controlled with a simple contact closure.
You can buy it for $270.00 from jkaudio.com but if you search around on Google or Ebay you may find it cheaper.
Once you select the recording device that’s right for you, chances are you’ll need a tape recorder or a digital recorder to go along with it. When it comes to those, there are hundreds of different possibilities. They all do pretty much the same thing, but it’s hard to say exactly which one is for you.
When choosing a tape recorder, your primary concern, aside from the price, will probably be the length that it allows you to record. Some will only work for an hour, while others will work for 20 hours. Some will only record when someone is talking on the line, which makes the recording device last for days, sometimes even weeks. Also, make sure it has a microphone jack since that’s what you’ll plug your recording device into. Take your time, and choose what’s best for you.
Click here for a large selection of tape recorders
Here’s a short video that demonstrates how to use a few of the methods featured above:
Wireless Phone Recording Controller: Using this device is probably the best way that you can record your cellular phone calls. The only requirement is that you have a 2.5mm jack on the phone and a hands-free headset. This device plugs in between the 2.5mm jack and your handsfree headset. You plug the other end into your tape recorder, stereo or PC. It works great and makes perfect quality recordings. As good as the quality normally is on your cellular phone, anyway. You can buy this at Radio Shack for $21.99. The part number is 17-855.
ScanRec: ScanRec is a FREE program designed for recording activity on your police scanner. The thing that makes this such a good program is that it only records when it hears something. So you can hook your recording device to your computer and leave this program running all day, unattended. You won’t end up with an mp3 full of hours of silence since it only records what it hears. And unlike some VOX recorders, this program won’t cut off the beginning of your sentences. You can download this program here.
Cool Edit: Cool Edit is the software I use to do almost everything related to sound, including recording phone calls from my in-line recorder. Unfortunately this program is not free but it’s well worth the money. Or in my case, the Kazaa download. If you end up making a crappy quality phone recording, Cool Edit can even clean up the audio for you by removing hiss, background noises, etc. It will convert your phone recording into mp3 files small enough for use on a website. I always encode my mp3s at 32kbps which is perfect for phone calls. Anything higher will be too large of a file size. Anything lower will start to make your phone calls sound bad. Always stick to 32kbps!
TNI Box: On the outside of most houses you can find a little grey box called the Telephone Network Interface (TNI). These boxes are almost always unlocked and can be opened with a flathead screwdriver. Once opened, you’ll see a jumble of wires and several RJ-11 modular phone jacks plugged in. Each RJ-11 jack represents a phone line in the house. You can easily pull out the jack and plug your own phone into it and start making all the free calls you want. But you can also set up a phone tap from the TNI box. Using an RJ-11 “Y” adapter, plug in the existing RJ-11 jack to one side and then some kind of phone recording device to the other side. You can click the picture to see a larger version, showing an in-line adapter plugged into this TNI box. You can plug the inline adapter to a voice-activated tape recorder or even an FRS radio so that you can listen to their phone calls from miles away. The only problem with this method of tapping is battery life…so if you’re lucky there will be an AC outlet nearby to plug your tape recorder into.
This section used to tell you simply that you couldn’t tap a cellular phone. Yes, the government can tap your cellular phone but the average citizen cannot do it. But a few people emailed me to tell me that I’m wrong so I’m going to post their thought here.
From Orm Haka: It’s not possible to tap a cell phone, but you can buy a real cell phone with a built-in listening device at good espionage stores. These enable you to listen to everything going on with the telephone. You simply pick one that is exactly the same model and color as the target cellphone, copy all the information into it, put the targets SIM-card into it (and pray the target doesn’t know his/her own phone identification number), and you’re all set. The price is from $1000 – $2000. The phones are usually Nokia/Sony Ericsson of the latest models. There’s also a model where a cellphone has an extra system function for remotely tapping analogue landlines.
From J: It is possible to tap cell phones. there are different ways. One is using a PC, a cell phone, and the software. The software catches the “waves” over the phone. As you know, today’s cell phones transmissions are encrypted. The software decrypts that because the code is a joke. The only problem is to get the software for “normal” users. The trouble for finding that is very high.
How about a police scanner? I see people listening to cellular conversations using a police scanner in the movies! Yes, used to it was possible to listen to cellular conversations using an ordinary police scanner. But right around 2000, we all started buying digital cell phones instead of analog cell phones. And then, in 2007, analog service in the U.S. was completely shut off. So today you are not going to be listening to any cellular phone conversations on your police scanner. It’s just not possible anymore.
A little update about wireless phone eavesdropping…a company called Flexispy is offering a package that will monitor cell phone usage and send the data back to you via the internet. It will send you just about everything including all of their text messages, their call history, call duration, email headers and even eavesdrop with the phone’s microphone when it’s not even being used. The software only works on certain mobile phones but it appears that support for more phones is slowly being added. To use this software, you need to have access to the phone you want to eavesdrop on so that you can install the software. The software costs around $150.
This is a question that seems to be asked a lot in the comments section so here’s my pitiful attempt to answer it.
First of all, some people will tell you that there’s a phone number you can call that will tell you if your phone is tapped. People email these numbers to me all the time. They say that you call it and you’ll hear a contant tone. If the tone does a certain thing, your phone is tapped and if it does something else, your phone isn’t tapped. This is stupid. Those tones are called “sweep tones” and they’re used by phone company technicians. They have nothing to do with tapping anyone’s phone. If someone tries to tell you that they have a number that detects taps, hit them. Hard.
The best way to detect a physical tap on your own line is to carefully inspect every inch of phone wire in your home. Start from the outside, where the phone line comes from the pole. Open up your grey TNI box and look for anything unusual inside. You can also open up the “restricted” side of the box and check in there. It requires a special alan wrech that you can probably find at your hardware store. After inspecting the outside, go back inside and figure out where the lines are coming from that box into the house. If you have a basement, it’s probably there. Follow every wire, noting anything suspicious. Then look closely at every telephone in your house and trace the wiring back into the wall. Obviously some wires are going to be run through walls and it’s up to you if you want to start busting into the walls.
So you didn’t find anything? Well there’s still a few things to consider. What if the person who’s tapped your phone has actually hidden the tap inside one of the phones? Some of the more advanced taps can be very small and easily fit inside a phone. It’s not very hard to use a screwdriver and take apart your phones. If you’re not comfortable taking things apart, chances are that you know somebody who is. Be sure to take apart both the base of the phone and the handset.
If you live in an apartment building, your neighbors could have access to your phone lines. If they know where the phone jacks on your side are located, they could punch through their own walls and hook up an extension jack in their own apartment. From this extension they could make free long distance calls or they could put a tap on your line and listen to all of your calls. Also, in most apartment buildings all of the phone lines come into one central place from the telephone poles. From there, the lines are run into each apartment unit. At that central location, a tenant could simply add a few wires running from his line to yours and they’d have access to your line. Most phone cables have four wires inside of them – red, green, yellow and black. If you have one phone line, you’re probably just using the red and green. The yellow and black wires don’t do anything. A neighbor in your apartment could hook YOUR red and green wires to HIS yellow and black wires which would create a second line in his apartment. Which would be YOUR line. If you think this is happening, you could ask the phone company to come and check your lines. You could even claim that you’ve picked up your phone before and somebody has been on it so they would know what they’re looking for.
One last scenario – you know those green rectangular phone company boxes you see out in the streets and in back yards? The ones by your house contain your phone lines and probably 100 or so other phone lines of neighbors. People have been known to open up these boxes and hook their own phone into them. It’s easier than you would think for a person to figure out which of the lines in these boxes are yours. They could even do the yellow-black wires red-green wires trick to create an extension of your phone in their house. Even if their house is several blocks away!
With each phone device you hook to a phone line, you draw a little more voltage from that phone line. Radio Shack used to sell “phone tap detectors” that would detect these extra draws in voltage. Apparently it could tell the difference between one phone being picked up and two phones being picked up so you would know if someone is listening in on an extension. I think this would also work in detecting a physical tap on your line. Radio Shack doesn’t sell this item anymore, but you can buy a Tele Safe II Telephone Tap Detector (pictured at the left) which is pretty much the same thing, albeit just a little more expensive.
Finally, there are government taps. If you’re a bad person and the government thinks you need a tap on your line, they can do it and you won’t be able to detect it. It’s done from the phone company’s switch and there’s nothing you can do to prevent it. They can tap your cell phone calls the same way. Your only way to escape government phone taps is to go use a pay phone or a prepaid cellular phone. And stop doing illegal things that makes the government tap your phone, you damn criminal.
Skype is a popular alternative to cell phones and landlines. While there are hardware solutions for recording calls with Skype, it’s easiest to just buy software that will record the calls for you.
- TeleTool 2000 Here’s a device that hooks up to your phone handset and plugs into your PC’s sound card.
- ModemSpy A software phone recorder. I’ve been hearing good things about this one.
- Identifying A Phone Number Here’s another article from phonelosers.org which gives you a few ideas on how to identify unlisted telephone numbers.
The information on this page was written with the intent of showing people how to record their phone calls for fun purposes. You know, things like recording prank telephone calls and screwing with people and stealing their credit card numbers and jumping into phone conversations. But from many of the comments below, you’ll notice that all anyone seems to care about is whether or not their spouse is cheating on them. Wives want to spy on their husbands! Husbands want to record their wives phone calls. What the hell? Buy each other flowers or something instead, people! Put all that phone tapping energy into spicing up your marriage instead.
However, since I’m such a nice guy I’ve decided to put a few links here for you, suspicious spouses. Below are some links that should help you find what you need…
- How To Catch A Cheating Spouse
- How To Catch Your Cheating Lover
- PC Spy Software Do you want to know what other people type on your computer when you are away?
- Is Your Spouse Cheating? Think your spouse might be cheating? Want to see if they’re really having an affair or not so you can get on with your life?
- 101 Signs Your Man Is Cheating Protect your relationship! Know the signs of infidelity.
- Sign Of Cheating
- Adultery, Cheating Spouse Help
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