How to find out who owns a phone number

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In many cases, you may need to match a phone number to a real person’s name. You may have received an SMS from an unknown number. You may have seen a call from an unlisted contact repeatedly pop up on your partner’s home screen. Whatever the case, here are some of the best ways to figure out the name of the person behind a number and understand how or why they’re contacting you.

How to determine if it is a real number

There are many apps and online services that can give you a secondary phone number, like the voice of google and Free text. Some of them will add a little note at the bottom of text messages, like “This message was sent using [app name]but not all do. If the person is using a disposable number or a third-party app to contact you, it will be harder to tell who they are, but it might tell you if their motivation is shady. Your first order of business is to determine if this is what they are doing.

The first step is to save the number as something like “Mystery Caller”. If you have an iPhone, open a text thread with your new contact. If you have the iMessage option, rather than texting them, they are using a real iCloud account, which is a strong signal that this is their real number. If you only have the option to text them, that doesn’t automatically mean you’re dealing with someone using a third-party messaging service; they might just have an Android.

We’ll cover your reverse lookup options in a moment. Some reverse lookups can tell you if the person is using a real phone number backed by a mobile carrier, but this becomes risky due to the scope of these services and the different terms used to describe mobile phone numbers, prepaid numbers, etc. If you’re feeling bold, block your number using the old *67, then call the person. In some cases, a third-party provider will play a sound that says something like “Hello. Please put your name after the tone, and Google Voice will try to connect you.” If you don’t hear something like that after a ring or two, it could be a sign that the person is using their real number.

How to reverse lookup for a phone number

There are many reverse phone number lookup sites online that you can use to glean information about your mystery contact. You may need to pay some money here. White pages offers reverse phone lookup, for example. I just entered my real phone number and it correctly revealed my hometown, where the number is registered, and noted that it is a number associated with a cell phone. When I clicked the button offering to reveal the owner’s name, I was asked to pay $9.99 for a single report or $2.50 per month for regular access to reports.

I then entered a phone number that I know is a Google Voice number. It didn’t show me any location data (although the area code, which a third-party user can choose, is in Manhattan) and identified it as a “landline”. If you receive text messages from an unknown number that comes back as a landline, you can assume it is a third-party app.

Further research, such as Intelius, can give you lots of information about someone for a fee, but may not always return results for third-party apps. If your contact uses their real phone number, you’ll be able to get insights, usually paying around a dollar for a one-time report (though Intelius may add a service fee of around $3.99).

Use the apps you already have

This is where things get fun. Using reverse search tools is effective in many cases, but there are other methods, especially if you don’t want to pay, don’t trust these sites, or aren’t getting results. Social media is a great tool here.

We already told you you can use Snapchat to find out who’s calling or texting you by saving the person’s number, then going to your friends’ suggestions, where you’ll see them at the bottom of the list (if they have a Snap). When using Snapchat, be aware that it will automatically fill your Contact Name for them, so you might see them as “Mystery Caller”. Looking at their username can help you figure out who they are. (This is also true on Clubhouse and Signal. You’ll see their contact name, not their real name, but at least you’ll know they’re contacting you from the number they use for their social media.)

instagram used to suggest people whose number you had saved, but it’s not so reliable anymore. TikTok is a good choice because it will suggest you follow people who are in your contacts and you can click on their profile (with the view your profile option turned off) to see if you recognize them, but be careful here. TikTok has also started suggesting reverse contacts, meaning your target may receive a suggestion to follow. you. TikTok shows users why each suggested follow appears. You’ll notice that some of your suggestions say “From your contacts”. In some cases, the suggestion will say, “You are in their contacts.” If you are looking, for example, for someone who flirted with your friend or loved one, you could give yourself away like that.

Finally, the GOAT: CashApp. You can type a phone number in CashApp and it will show the associated account, if the person has one. If they have one, you won’t see your contact name for them because, in most cases, people have their real names (or initials) on finance-related apps.


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