How Can I Find Out Who Called Me for Free?
What do you do when you miss a call but don’t recognize the number of the caller? Without a voicemail that tells you who called, the unknown can weigh on your mind, wondering who it was and whether you missed something important.
Finding out who called can be challenging. Should you use a reverse number lookup service, or could the caller ID number create a new set of headaches for you?
Reverse Phone Number Lookup
It’s possible just to plug the number of the caller into a search engine to see if it comes up as belonging to a local company or individual. Unfortunately, that attempt to discover the caller’s identity often becomes a maze that delivers no concrete information or resolution. If the calling persists you may want to block the number through your service provider.
Some services offer legitimate reverse phone lookup services, such as on Recordsfinder.com/phone, which returns much more information for phone numbers than a name that may leave you even more perplexed. By culling information from millions of public records and online sources, Recordsfinder's phone lookup tool can provide much more than the name of the individual to whom the phone number belongs, including:
- names of other people associated with the number;
- email addresses;
- physical addresses;
- social media profiles;
- businesses associated with the phone number, and
- online activity of the owner.
The breadth of information is helpful to figuring out if you’ve had contact with the caller before, when, and in what context. Perhaps the caller has looked you up through a social media chat and is seeking further input or to hire you based on the knowledge you’ve demonstrated in a group discussion, whether it’s about genealogy, cooking, or technology.
Spam and Scam Issues
There are millions of calls made every day by automated dialers that seek to scam people out of money around the world. Unfortunately, technology makes it possible for these scammers to “spoof” phone numbers, tricking caller ID into displaying a phone number that appears to be from your town, which makes people more willing to answer the call. Beware that they are even able to spoof caller ID to show “US Govt” or “Soc Security Admin” or “USTrust” in order to impersonate officials of the government or trusted sources like a bank.
Some businesses have legitimate reasons to use “spoofed” numbers, including to shield personal cell phone numbers from caller ID when making business calls.
If you suspect a scam phone caller, write down the number and report it to the Federal Trade Commission. The ftc.gov website is also a clearinghouse for scam phone call information.
There is a danger in returning calls made from unknown numbers. Although it seems to be the most direct way of finding out who called, simply calling back may open you to further scams:
- if the caller is a scammer seeking to pry money out of you, your return call confirms that the number is legitimate and you are inquisitive, therefore a potential target;
- at times even asking or answering one question placed to an unknown number may cost you in connection fees although it may not be clear that you’re calling a foreign country;
- oftentimes scammers place “one ring” calls to numbers just to tempt people to return a call, then launch a ruse depending on what they know about you, and
- if you’re able to use a phone number to lookup its owner, scammers can do the same to you, targeting your age group and demographic with specific pitches.
If the individual calls you again, you can engage them while calling the number back on another line to determine if the number was spoofed/faked or if they’re actually physically present at the location the number appears to be from (proven if your call back comes up “busy”).
The Don't Call Registry
Millions of scam phone calls are placed to people every day, prompting many people to “screen” calls with an answering machine or voice mail (listen to any message left and decide whether to call back later). The U.S. Federal Trade Commission offers a Do Not Call Registry that helps to eliminate some unwanted commercial calls, but scammers don’t pay attention to that because they seek to take money from you illegally.
Common Phone Scams
Some of the common schemes used include:
Grandparent calls – Elders are a particularly vulnerable group because they often have longstanding landline phone numbers that are the easiest to find and abuse. Some vicious scammers will claim to be police holding the individual’s grandchildren who are in need of bail money. If you receive one of these calls, hang up and find the number for the law enforcement entity with jurisdiction in the area the caller claimed to be from, or call the homes of the grandchildren allegedly in custody in order to determine if the call is legitimate.
IRS or Social Security scams – Callers who claim to be from the Internal Revenue Service or Social Security Administration may demand some sort of immediate payment, sometimes saying that your Social Security number has been “suspended.” Keep in mind that government officials do not call individuals regarding payments of any kind. If pressed, hang up and find the number for the government agency to confirm the caller’s identity. Never wire money or send prepaid credit or gift cards to people claiming that will release your debt.
Romance scams – Manipulative scammers may be able to get key pieces of information about you from a reverse phone number lookup. They may know the names of family members, your address, your profession, and age. Using this information they may pretend to be a “lonely heart” looking for a date or just someone to talk to. Before long, they may be calling you frequently and sharing deeply personal information, pretending to “fall in love.” Soon they are asking for money to come visit you or to pay a debt so they may join you on a vacation. Once they get the money they will find reasons to ask for more and more. Unfortunately, thousands of lonely vulnerable people are tricked by romance scams every year, and because they are embarrassing, few report them.
Text scams – If you receive a text message from an unfamiliar number, do not click on any links it contains. Such unwanted messages may launch malware on your cell phone and may be used to hack your linked accounts. Simply delete the message without responding to the message.