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What Is a Reverse Phone Lookup?

Head sihluette with question mark on smartphone screen

A reverse phone lookup service is today’s answer to finding out who is calling you without answering. It’s pretty easy for finding numbers coming from a landline, and it’s usually free. Identifying callers using cell phones, however, is a little more complex, and might come with a price.

How Does It Work?

The best way to find out where a phone call came from will mostly depend on whether the number is coming from a landline or a cell phone caller. Before cell phones, numbers were traced through directories provided by major telecom companies. Now, you can trace the number on the web if it’s from a landline, or use an app or service online if it’s from a cell phone or landline.

3 Pieces of Information You Can Find

1) Finding a Name

If you’re receiving a call from a landline, you can easily go online to identify the name of the person or business associated with the number. That’s because phone companies that provide landlines still maintain directories of all registered numbers. WhitePages.com is the online phone book for landline numbers.

Senior woman searching yellow pages and holding telephone

It’s very easy to find the name of a landline caller through WhitePages.com. Simply type in the number in the search bar on the homepage and you will find the name of the person or business. To find the name of a caller using a cell phone, you can use an app or one of the many online services.

Services that identify the names of cell phone numbers have to do a little more information gathering for you because service providers aren’t regulated the way phone companies are. They don’t keep their numbers in a large, singular database, or share their customers’ information with each other. These services typically charge a fee.

2) Finding an Address

When tracing a call from a landline, the address of the caller is almost always listed along with the name of the caller or business. With whatever service you use to trace a cellular number, the address of the call will show up in the same way. Lookup services sometimes show former addresses.

3) Finding a Location

WhitePages.com will find you the address and zip code associated with the number and sometimes list the neighborhood. Some services that trace cell numbers can pinpoint the caller’s geolocation. Paid options might provide you with email addresses, social media profiles, and the caller’s photo.

Reverse phone lookup search performed in a web browser

Is There a Free Reverse Phone Lookup Service?

WhitePages.com will not charge you a fee to trace the number of a landline. There are other free services for landline numbers like Anywho.com. They work from a database of local phone companies and provide names and addresses of callers.

Services and apps that trace cell numbers might charge a one-time fee of around $15, or an annual fee of $40 for unlimited searches. These services typically let you type in the number on the home page search bar and search for free, but then ask you to pay a fee to get more information. 

Free Vs. Paid: What Is Best For You?

Free Options

Facebook is still the world’s biggest social media network, and the odds are highly likely that whoever is calling you has a profile. Many people list their phone numbers on their “About” pages of their profile, so you might have success searching the number on the Facebook search bar. You won’t find it if the person has restricted their profile with privacy settings, however.

Additionally, you never know what might turn up by Googling a number. If the number has ever been posted on a social media profile or anywhere else online, it might turn up in a Google search. You might identify a scammer who has been reported online this way.

hand phone, who is calling , Telephone and question mark who is calling

Apps

Both Apple and Android have a variety of reverse phone lookup apps available through their respective app stores. Some are free to download, but charge for added features. Popular options include Truecaller, Call App, and Reverse Phone Check.

Free Option Benefits

You have nothing to lose by using a free service. It might provide just what you need. If the name of a caller is all you need to know, then this just might do.

Free Option Limitation

Free apps usually just offer very basic information about a caller. Some offer a little more than others. Number Guru, for example, claims to provide a caller’s name, address, and geolocation at the time of the call.  It identifies callers from U.S. landlines and Verizon Wireless subscribers.

phone blacklist icon for mobile application

Paid Options

Paid options can help you find a lot of background information about a caller. CheckThem will find the caller’s name, and their address history, social media accounts, and other personal information. CheckThem’s service comes with a reverse phone lookup tool that identifies a caller by finding them through a search of millions of public records.

Paid Option Benefits

Services that charge a fee can provide many features to help you screen callers. You can integrate some apps with your phone to function as your phone’s primary caller I.D. feature with reverse phone lookup capability. Other apps have features that detect spammers and telemarketers and automatically block them. Some apps block unwanted text messages.

Paid Option Limitations

There are some numbers that will be hard to trace, regardless of the service. It is hard to find information from someone using a prepaid phone for example. A paid service also won’t protect you from phone spoofing. This is the practice of the caller finding a way to place a call that will be identified on a caller ID as a number different from the one they’re actually calling from.

Getting on the Do Not Call List

If avoiding unwanted calls is your main concern, your best bet is to get your number on the National Do Not Call Registry. You can register online at donotcall.gov. Look for a confirmation reply in your email once you do so.