Guns, Gams & Gumshoes

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Three Tips for Conducting a Reverse Phone Number Lookup

Posted by Writing PIs on September 5, 2015

(Image licensed by Colleen Collins)

There’s lots of ads out there for free phone look-ups — often what you get is some free information (such as the possible geographical location of the phone carrier), then they ask you to “click here” and for $1.95 or $34.95 (prices vary), you can get the full report on this person.

Buyer beware.

There’s no magical 100% correct database out there that’ll spit out the latest and greatest information associated with a phone number. We’re not saying you can’t get correct information. You might. But you, the buyer, should know that you are paying for information that could be outdated, input incorrectly into a database, or the phone number might have been correct at one time but has since been ported to a new carrier.

Saying all that, here are three tips to conduct a reverse check on a phone number:

Type a phone number in Google for a quick reverse number search (Image licensed by Colleen Collins)

Type a phone number in Google for a quick reverse number search (image licensed by Colleen Collins)

Tip #1: Run the phone number in Google. Google remains the most comprehensive, free public search engine. Search results reflect every document, website, blog, resume, ad (such as Craigslist), and other online places where that phone number displays.

We once found a person who was on the run by conducting a reverse cell phone number search in Google. Although she had disconnected her cell phone service, that number was still listed on her MySpace site, which she had kept public (not private), meaning anyone could read her comments. Although she had worked to cover her tracks, she was taking the time every day to log into her MySpace account and chat with friends. And we were taking the time every day to read where she’d eaten lunch, what time of day she drove into a certain town, what motel she was staying at, and more.

Tip #2: Check the carrier, geographical region for the number. There are sites that offer free checks for type of phone line, carrier, and geographical region of the phone number. One site is Phone Validator, another is SpyDialer, the latter also offering options to hear the person’s voicemail message and look up the phone owner’s name and photo.

Again, keep in mind that the information returned is only as good as the database, and there’s no guarantee how recently the information has been updated. For example, I just ran my personal cell phone number in SpyDialer, and although it got my first name correct, it displayed a photo of what appeared to be a restaurant along with a man’s name. Perhaps he (or the business) had this number before me.

Tip #3: Hire a private investigator.  A qualified PI is experienced at digging for information and can interpret its accuracy or legality. To find a PI in your area, contact the professional investigators’ association for your state: Private Investigator Associations by State (

Related Article

Last winter, Shaun (now a criminal lawyer), cross-examined an investigator during a trial. Key to the case was the owner of a cell phone found at an apartment. The investigator said it belonged to the guy whose bedroom he found it in. Problem was, there were multiple bedrooms and roommates at this residence, with recent parties in the apartment attended by others, so deciding ownership solely on where the phone was left was flimsy evidence. Shaun then asked the investigator if he’d run a reverse on the phone. That story is here:

Investigator Takes the Stand: Tales from a Trial

Have a great weekend, Writing PIs

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