Got a phone number but don't know who it is? Maybe you've seen strange numbers showing up on your teenager's cell phone bill. Or maybe you picked up a number to call about an investment - but you suspect a scam. Or maybe you found a mysterious number in your wife or husband's things. For dozens of reasons, we find ourselves with a telephone number - but no name.
You're itching to find out who it is. Not just for curiosity's sake. The safety of your family or the security of your bank account could be at stake. You need a way to discover just whose phone number you have.
There's good news. You've got options. I'm a professional writer and researcher. I've discovered four different ways you can find out who's hiding behind any phone number. You can:
- Call, pretending to be someone else
- Look it up in a published crisscross directory
- Befriend (or trick) someone at the phone company
- Go online and search
Let's see what's involved with each approach and discover when they work best...
Call the Number
It's the simplest thing you can do. Pick up the phone and call. But pretend to be someone else to avoid recognition. When they answer, ask for a person with an unusual name not likely to be there. Say something like "Hello, is Lilly Becky there? No? Are you absolutely sure? Well, who am I talking to then?" Be a little forceful. Even sound angry, as if you think they're lying to you. This approach can rattle the other person and make them reveal their identity.
Avoid this one if you're not comfortable acting. And make sure you don't call from a number that can be traced back to you!
Look in a Crisscross Directory
Crisscross Directories have been around since the late 1800s. They're like phone directories. But they organize their listings by phone number, or street address, instead of name. These directories are still available in print form even though most of the information is also now available by computer.
Such cross-references are primarily designed for business use. Usually, sales departments rely on them to conduct direct marketing, build lists of sales leads and gather business intelligence.
The drawback is that they're expensive - costing in the hundreds of dollars or more. Still, you can usually find copies in your library, especially for the local area you live in. If you're looking beyond your own town, you probably won't be able to use the free version in the library.
Get an Inside Connection
Having a buddy on the inside of the phone company was classic approach for TV detectives. If you recall the Rockford Files or Mannix or any other old private eye show, they were forever pulling over to a pay phone and calling their friend, Ginger or Susie or Maggie, at the telephone company. The friend would dutifully give them whatever information the PI needed to pursue the case.
Interestingly, this method actually works - even if it's a little on the shady side. If you know someone at the phone company, you can probably talk them into helping.
Unfortunately, they probably won't help you once a week like on the TV shows. At some point your friend's better judgment will take over. You'll be left with nothing but numbers again. (Makes you wonder, doesn't it, just what the detective had that you don't)
21st Century Answers - The Internet Search Solution
When it comes to finding out who's hiding behind a phone number, the best way I've found is online search. Yet, search takes time. And not finding what you want quickly gets very frustrating.
To help, a number of businesses exist to make reverse phone searching quicker and easier. These businesses have already found the best sources for reverse phone searching. They take you directly to the databases that have the information you need. You can find out names, addresses, and much more, starting with just a phone number.
Some of these Reverse Phone Lookup services are free. The better ones cost a little. Quality always does, in my experience.
If, in your case, it's not that important to get accurate information fast, then give the free services a shot. They're mostly supported by pay for performance advertising, like Adsense, which doesn't earn them much. That means the free services rarely have the money to invest either in buying data access or in creating more usable interfaces.
In my case, as a professional, getting quality information quickly is important. I pay the small fee and get reliable information.
But, even if I didn't write for a living and were just casually looking up phone numbers from time to time, I'd still go with a paid database service. The cost is minimal. Often a small, one-time fee covers one to three years or even longer. If I only looked up a number once or twice a year, it would still be worth it in time saved.
As important as it can be, finding out personal information with just a phone number used to be nearly impossible. Today it can be quick and easy. I've found four approaches that work, but one proved the simplest and most effective. It's using a quality, reverse-phone-search service online.
In a future article I'll talk about some of the reasons reverse phone search can be so important in these times. You might be surprised to hear how it not only can satisfy curiosity, it could even save your life.