How to Trace Cell Phone Numbers

Five Methods:Finding a Phone Number for FreePay to Have a Phone Number IdentifiedFinding an Unknown or Blocked NumberAvoiding ScamsTracking a Cell Phone Location

Finding the owner of a cell phone number is tricky, since these numbers are not listed in public databases. You do have quite a few options, especially if you are receiving harassment calls you can report to the police, but there is no single guaranteed method.

Method 1
Finding a Phone Number for Free

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    Call the number. Explain to whomever answers that you've been receiving calls from the number. Politely ask who they are. If they tell you, no need to continue! If they don't, try one of the methods below.
    • Try having a friend call or using their phone. If you have called repeatedly and gotten no answer, it's possible that the other party is choosing not to pick up your calls. Calling from a friend's phone or a payphone can help rule out this possibility.
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    Search public databases. If you're wrong about the number being a cell phone, it will likely be public information. Search the white pages in the U.S., or use a search engine to find your own area's public database.
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    Use a search engine. The phone number's owner or associated institutions may have posted the number on a personal or corporate website.
    • Include the area code of the phone number you're looking for. Try several formats, such as XXX-XXX-XXXX and (XXX)XXXXXXX.
    • If your first search is unsuccessful, try a few different search engines.
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    Search a social networking site. Enter the phone number in the social network site's search bar. Many Facebook users in particular have privacy settings that still turn up their "private" number in public searches.[1]
    • If you suspect it is someone you have dealings with online, search the site where you exchange chat or information with them, such as on the site's forums.
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    Use a deep web search engine. Also called "invisible web" search engines, these are designed to find results that more mainstream options pass by.[2]
    • Deep web engines are typically specialized, so you'll need to find one that's useful for your search. Try searching (on a regular search engine) for an index or guide to deep web search engines.

Method 2
Pay to Have a Phone Number Identified

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    Start with free reverse cell phone lookup services. If you tried the free methods already (which you should), you've likely already found advertisements for these services. Start by only trying the free services; these are unlikely to work but are an easy first step.
    • Do not sign up for any free trial that asks for your credit card number or other personal information.
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    Cautiously evaluate the services. Many "reverse cell phone database" websites that charge a fee to conduct the search will try to scam you or give you unhelpful information. [3]
    • Enter false or familiar phone numbers to test for accuracy. Search for a couple random strings of numbers (in the correct phone number format). If the search still comes up with "results", especially GPS location, it's likely a scam or joke site.[4] Similarly, you can enter your own phone number and see if the results are accurate.
    • Search for reviews of the company. An online search for the company name can reveal complaints from scammed customers. For a more official perspective, you can search the better business bureau directory for detailed records of the company's response to customer complaints.
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    Pay the fee for their service only after exhausting free options. These sites typically run the same searches you did when you tried the free methods, so paying money is very unlikely to turn up new results and may result in your information being stolen or your credit card overcharged.
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    Hire a private investigator. Even after you've tried all the above options, you will often still not have the information you need. Hiring a private investigator is an expensive option, and you'll want to research several options before selecting one. Make sure you get an estimate and detailed information on terms before you hire anyone. A refund is often available in the event the investigator fails to find the information you're looking for, but ask about this in advance.

Method 3
Finding an Unknown or Blocked Number

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    Check your call log or caller ID. All mobile phones will automatically identify most incoming phone calls. If you're on a land line (home phone), contact your phone provider to enable caller ID.
    • Consult your phone manual or contact the manufacturer if you don't know how to check the call log for recent incoming phone numbers on your mobile phone.
    • There are ways to bypass caller ID or even trick it into displaying the wrong number. If caller ID is unsuccessful, move on to the following options.
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    Ask for "call return" service. Contact your phone provider and purchase "call return" or "last call return" service. This may require an initial fee and/or a fee each time you use the service.[5]
    • The call return code varies depending on country and phone provider (and may not be available in all regions). Ask your provider for the code or search the internet for "call return code for [your country]".
    • In the United States, this service is also called *69 (after the code used in that country).
    • After the call you want to trace has ended, enter the call return code and you should hear a voice message reading the telephone number of that caller, with the option to return the call.
    • In some regions, call return is available automatically. Fees may still apply.
    • Warning: in some regions (such as California), call return will only return the last incoming call without telling you the phone number.
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    Enable "call trap" or "call trace" functions. If you are receiving repeated harassment calls from an unknown number, contact your phone provider and ask if these services are available:[6]
    • Call trap: After requesting a call trap, write down the dates and times you receive harassing phone calls for the next couple weeks (or for as long as your provider requests). Once you report this information to the phone company they will identify the harassing number and report it to law enforcement.
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    • Call trace: Once this service is enabled, pressing the call trace code immediately following the harassing call will send the phone number to law enforcement. (This code is *57 in the United States; your provider should tell you which code to use if you are in a different country.)
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    • Call traps are usually free, while call traces may cost an additional charge. If call trap is not available, or if the harassment is severe, you may be able to convince your phone provider to give you free call trace service.

Method 4
Avoiding Scams

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    Evaluate paid services carefully. "Reverse cell phone lookup" websites are notorious for scamming customers, either by failing to provide any useful information for their money or by willfully stealing the customer's credit card information.
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    Search for reviews and complaints about the company online. The the better business bureau directory is a good place to look in addition to ordinary search engine queries.
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    Never provide payment information to an untrustworthy site. Do not enter your credit card number if your browser warns you that the website is insecure, if the site asks you to pay using a third party website you've never heard of, or if the site seems "sketchy" and unprofessional.
    • This includes "free trials" that claim your card will not be charged.
    • Try to find a service that has you pay using PayPal or another well-known third-party system.
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    Never enter unnecessary personal information. Your social security number and similar private information is never required for a legitimate phone lookup service.

Method 5
Tracking a Cell Phone Location

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    Track your family's whereabouts. Any smartphone or regular phone with a GPS chip can be tracked. Here are some options for keeping track of your family's location at all times:
    • Contact your cell phone provider to ask if they offer a family tracking plan for an additional monthly charge. This may also come with parental control abilities.[7]
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    • Install a GPS tracking app on your family's smart phones. Some apps allow the user to voluntarily share her location with friends, while others are intended for parents to track children. Browse your phone's app store or do research online to find the app that suits your needs.
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    • Install AccuTracking on non-smart phones. AccuTracking is one of the few third-party location trackers that works on non-smart phones. See their website for which phone models it works with and monthly fee information.
    • If you are trying to track someone's location without his permission, install an app hider on their phone and use it to conceal the tracking app. Alternatively, you can put the tracking app in an obscure folder of their phone to minimize his chance of finding it.
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    Install an app to keep track of your own phone. If you're worried about losing your phone or having it stolen, there are many apps designed to let you track your phone's GPS location from a computer and/or prevent a thief from using it.
    • Browse your phone's app store or search online for a tracking or anti-theft app that works on your device.
    • AccuTracking is one of the few services that can track (GPS-enabled) non-smart phones.
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    Find a lost phone. If you already lost your phone and did not previously install any tracking software, you still have a chance to locate it:
    • Many smart phone manufacturers can automatically locate your phone. Call customer service or search online for instructions for your model. If you have access to a computer, you will likely be able to track your phone's location and/or set it to make a loud sound at regular intervals.
    • Some tracking apps (such as Android's "Plan B") can be downloaded remotely onto your phone from a computer. Make sure to do this before your smart phone runs out of battery.
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    • Your cell service provider may offer GPS location for a fee, remotely activating your phone's GPS chip. This may be your only option for locating a non-smart phone.


  • The first three numbers of a US or Canadian phone number are called the area code. In other countries the area code may be 2 to 5 digits long. You can look up the location of an area code online or in a phone directory.
  • The fourth to sixth numbers of a US or Canadian phone number represent the exchange code. Searching the exchange code will narrow down the location of the caller even further.


  • If you do manage to get hold of the caller on the other end and work out who it is, stay calm and don't get engaged in a heated argument. If they are rude, threatening or nasty, do not keep listening. If they make threats of physical harm, take the matter to the police.

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