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Archive for the ‘Online Detective Sites’ Category

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 But you, the buyer, should know that you are paying for information that could be outdated, input incorrectly into a database, or the phone number might have been correct at one time but has since been ported to a new carrier.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

All rights reserved by Colleen Collins and Shaun Kaufman. Any use of the content (including images owned or licensed by Colleen Collins and/or Shaun Kaufman) requires specific, written authority. Any photos noted as being in the public domain are copyright-free and yours to steal.

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Online Detectives Sites: Don’t Waste Your Money

Posted by Writing PIs on December 13, 2009

You want to find someone (a long-lost relative, friend, business acquaintance, etc.).  Or maybe you want to do a background check on your nanny, see if  your applicant has a criminal history.  Or perhaps it’s for a more personal reason–you’re dating someone special, want to make sure she/he is really who they say they are.  You’re tempted to use one of those advertised online detective sites that promises to get you that elusive address, background history, phone number, email address, whatever.  Seems so easy, and best of all, you can do it from the comfort of your own home.

Don’t do it.

We know, it’s only going to cost you $19.95 (or $29.95 or $35.95 or more), but odds are you’ll be wasting your hard-earned money if you pay for their data.  Why?  Let us count the ways:

1.  Instead of access to the information you want, many of these detective web sites only offer links to other databases or websites (that cost more $$) for the information.   This sets you up for a lot of time, frustration, and money trying to find the information you want.

2.  Online detective databases advertise “timely” and “accurate” information, but you, the buyer, don’t know how often they update their information, or even if it’s accurate (after all, it was originally human fingers that typed in data–and being human, mistakes happen).  Maybe they purchase their data from yet another online database, and who knows how accurate that third-party vendor’s data is?

3.  Online detective databases are just that: online and impersonal.  There’s no live person interpreting the results or answering your questions.  You’re left with a chunk o’ data, and no one to tell you what’s relevant, if that “Sally Jones” address is actually the same Sally Jones you wanted to find, if the phone number you got is actually ported and although it once belonged to Sally, it now rings to Harvey Duncan, etc. etc. etc.

4.  Some statistics claim 97% of all detective web site offer little in the way of actual information, and that their information has been obtained through other outdated database and directories.

In summary, although it’s not impossible to find correct information on the Internet, it’s not a wise option.  Far better to cut the “middleman online database” and go to a reliable, expert source, such as a private investigator who can do the research, verify the accuracy of the information, and answer your questions.   Not sure how to find a qualified PI?  Check your state’s professional private investigator organization, ask a friend or ask your attorney for recommendations.

Posted in Online Detective Sites | Tagged: , , | Comments Off on Online Detectives Sites: Don’t Waste Your Money

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