You get a call from a phone number you don’t recognise. There’s a good chance it’s just a scammer, but it could also be a legitimate business or a person you know. Rather than answering the phone or calling the number back, there are a few quick ways you can identify just who it was who tried to call you.
Google—or another search engine, like Bing, if that is what you are into—is the first place you should turn when you see you have been called from an unknown phone number. Just plug that number into Google or your search engine of choice. You can type the number in either the form “555-555-5555” or 5555555555, and you should see similar results.
If the number is associated with a legitimate business, you should see that businesses’ website appear in the first few results. However, If the number appears on that business’s website, you know it is real.
If the number is a home landline phone number someone has registered through the traditional phone book system—in other words, if it would appear in a paper phone book (remember those?)—there is a decent chance you will see that person’s name in the search results, too.
If a scammer uses the phone number, however, you will likely see links to websites like whocalled.us, 800notes.com, and whocallsme.com. You can also visit these websites directly and plug in a phone number if you like—but they will usually appear when you perform a typical Google search for a phone number associated with scams.
These websites allow users to comment, and people often leave comments about their experiences. Skim through them and, if the phone number has been calling many people with a similar scam, you will get an idea that the number is associated with a scammer. You can block these scammers from calling you in the future, too.
Take the comments with a grain of salt and be sure to double-check whether it is a real phone number associated with a legitimate business if you think it might be.
Look Up the Number on Facebook
Not everyone knows this, but Facebook is an excellent way to perform a reverse lookup of phone numbers. Google usually will not help you if you are trying to find a phone number associated with an individual, but Facebook often will. You do not even need to be Facebook friends with the person whose phone number this is.
That is because Facebook has a setting that allows people to be looked up by their phone number, and it is enabled by default. Even if people hide their phone numbers on their profiles, they often allow people to find them using their phone number.
Just head to Facebook and type the phone number into the search box. There is a good chance someone’s name will appear if that phone number is associated with that individual. If you see someone’s Facebook profile, they have that phone number associated with their Facebook account, and you know who tried to call.
It won’t always work, as some people have disabled this feature and other people do not use Facebook at all. Nevertheless, it will work a surprising amount of time. If you see a “We could not find anything for [number]” message, that number is either not associated with a Facebook profile or the person has disabled the lookup feature for their account. However, really, it is incredible how often this works—and it will work even when you cannot find the person associated with a phone number in any other way.
Find Public Information
Websites like whitepages.com can provide some additional information about a phone number. They will be able to associate a phone number with a person’s name and address if that information is available in the phone book—which it will not be, for most phone numbers.
However, they will also be able to show you the geographical location where the phone number is registered, whether it is a landline or a cell phone, and the phone company associated with the phone number. This information can give you some idea of who may be using a phone number.
This type of information is freely available on many different websites. Websites like these often ask for additional payment to try to find more information about a phone number—even the White Pages website does this—but we have not used these services and cannot vouch for them. We would recommend sticking to the freely available information.
If you still cannot identify who tried to call you, you may want to try calling them back or forget about it. They will probably call you back if it is essential.