Over the years, there have been a number of TikTok videos, blog posts, and even articles in new tech publications regarding the “secret” iPhone *#21# surveillance reporting code. The problem is that the code is neither secret (a Google search gave me 25 billion, yes billion, of results) nor does it tell you if your iPhone is tapped, spied on, or bugged. So what is the *#21# code and what information does it reveal?
What is the *#21# iPhone passcode?
OK, first of all. You can enter this code on an iPhone or Android device, and it will work for some people but not for others. This is because it depends on the service provider rather than the device. If that doesn’t work, you’ll either get an error message or sometimes a voicemail telling you that the number doesn’t exist. If it works, however, it will return a “tuning query report” which, sure enough, looks like a secret dive inside the smartphone that reveals spying activity. Except it isn’t, and it isn’t.
What is numbering *#21# really does?
When you dial *#21#, you are actually activating a feature access code that quickly tells you the call forwarding status for your phone. This is a quick way to see what, in the case of that particular “setting query code”, your call forwarding settings. That’s it, no more no less. So, of course, it will reveal whether voice calls, data calls and SMS calls are forwarded. But it will be through your phone’s settings rather than federal authorities setting up a wiretap or spyware installation monitoring your every move. It’s possible that a partner or someone with access to your device has changed your call forwarding settings, so there’s some use to the code.
That said, if you were concerned about such harassing activity, it’s quite simple to go to Settings | Telephone | Call forwarding and check whether it is enabled or not. You’ll also find out where your calls are going, so it would be pretty poor spying from the standpoint of not getting you arrested. This is also not how most spyware works because, again, it would be too easy to spot, track, allow law enforcement to do their job. This is definitely not how law enforcement does their job when it comes to wiretapping.
Some other “secret” codes you can try
There are many other such codes which can be used to get various technical reports on your smartphone. Again, whether they work for you will vary. However, if you want to try them, here are some of my favorites.
*3001#12345#* returns a field test report, which basically means an in-depth query of your connection to your service provider. It is very technical as it is not intended for ordinary users but rather for engineers to test cellular signal strength and other things that help them troubleshoot. If you’re a smartphone geek, this is a fun dive into this otherwise hidden world.
*#06# returns the IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity) and Embedded Identity Document (EID) numbers of your device. These are unique to your device, and you’re often asked for an IMEI when you trade in a smartphone using one of the many online outfits that buy them, for example.
*#31# reveals your caller ID status. If you want to make an anonymous call, you can use *#31# followed by the number you are calling, and your caller ID will be retained for that call.
There is a list of 100 such codes to be found on Gadget Hacks, but don’t expect them all to work for you and at your own risk, of course.
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