How Reverse Phone Lookup Works

Web sites such as let users enter a phone number to obtain more information such as the caller's name and address.
Web sites such as let users enter a phone number to obtain more information such as the caller's name and address.
Image courtesy of

If you've ever looked at a phone number on Caller ID and wondered whose number it is, reverse phone lookup is for you. You can find out the person's name and address by using free reverse phone lookup or reverse phone directories available on the Web.

While working with reverse phone numbers is cheaper and easier for landline numbers, you also can get information about cell phone numbers with reverse cell phone lookup.

Consider a few likely scenarios:

  • When you check Caller ID on your phone, you see you missed a call from John Rogers at 513-555-1771. Who is he, and where is the 513 area code?
  • You're cleaning off your desk and find a scrap of paper with a scrawled phone number on it -- no name, just the number. You know you wrote it down quickly while you were on the phone, but you don't remember whose number it is. Save and add to your contact list, or just toss?
  • Your cell phone shows a call from a number you don't recognize. Should you call back, or is it a wrong number or sales call?
  • Your primary physician refers you to a specialist and provides the doctor's name and a phone number to call. Where is the new doctor located, and how do you get there?
  • You see several calls on your phone bill to a unknown number. Have you forgotten making the calls, or are they in error?

These are just a few of the situations in which reverse phone lookup can help you. How does reverse phone lookup work? Is there a charge for using these services? Go to the next page to learn more.


Free Reverse Phone Lookup

Google Phonebook­ has a reverse directory feature, which shows a name and address for phone numbers.
Google Phonebook­ has a reverse directory feature, which shows a name and address for phone numbers.
Image courtesy of Google

Reverse phone lookup works best if you start with a landline number for a business or residence. Before the Internet, phone companies published reverse phone directories, or reverse white pages, by specific town or area and made them available to the police, libraries and others.

These books listed businesses and residences, but they didn't include unlisted, fax or cell phone numbers. Paper reverse directories in some areas -- like Hill-Donnelly's Cross+Search Reverse Phone Directory for Las Vegas and Vicinity, 2005 -- can still be bought used at online auction sites like and [source:].

The Internet's speed and convenience brought an end to paper directories and made reverse phone number lookup another search engine function. Many options are available online for free reverse phone lookup of landline numbers. Here are two:

  • Using Google or another search engine, type the phone number in the search field with the numbers separated by hyphens (for example, 622-555-1777). Hit enter, and you'll see results. The Google Phonebook result shows the phone owner's name, street address and a map link showing the exact location. With a search engine, you may get a result for some, but not all, unlisted numbers. Below the Phonebook result, you'll see any other searches found that include the phone number. These may lead you to more information about a person or a company's Web site.
  • Type "reverse phone lookup" in the search field. Hit "Enter," and you'll see listings for sites that provide reverse phone lookup. Go to the site, and type in the number. As with a search engine, you'll usually be given the person's name, street address and a link to a map for driving directions. You may see a "for more information" or "advanced search" function. These usually are paid functions that can provide unlisted and cell phone numbers for the person, as well as other personal information. If you want these services, you can pay for each search individually or pay an annual fee for unlimited number lookups.

Among free sites, here are three of the largest:

  • -- This site receives more than 37 million unique monthly visitors in North America. At the start of 2008,'s database covered more than 180 million Americans, or more than 80 percent of U.S. adults. International numbers also can be searched. Besides name, address and map, this site provides the phone number owner's approximate age. It also provides similar information for neighbors. For a fee, you also can get background information on the phone owner.
  • -- Operated by AT&T, and its business arm,, work off a database of information from local phone companies. Unlisted numbers aren't available; international numbers can be searched. Provides name, address and map, plus additional information for a fee. receives an estimated 3.3 million U.S. unique monthly visitors.
  • -- Owned by Intelius, provides name, address and map with additional information available for a fee. An estimated 11 million U.S. monthly unique visitors visit every month.

Next, let's look at how you can do reverse phone lookup for cell phone numbers.

Reverse Phone Lookup Sites

Reverse phone lookup databases lets you see who called -- just by entering a phone number.
Reverse phone lookup databases lets you see who called -- just by entering a phone number.
Image courtesy of

Reverse phone lookup sites -- like, and -- are plentiful and free for landline phone numbers. But reverse phone lookup doesn't come free for cell phone numbers. In fact, the whole concept of reverse phone number lookup changes when phones go mobile.

Cell phone numbers are issued by individual mobile phone companies rather than by an interlocking system of regional phone companies, as landline numbers are. That makes phone numbers and user information harder to access and turn into a searchable online database. At the same time, many cell phone users treasure their privacy and don't want just anyone to be able to reach them on their cell phones.

While some cell phone users just want to be left alone, others -- particularly those who've abandoned landline phones -- would like to find friends and contacts through reverse phone number lookup or an online directory. That's also true of other cell phone users who simply want to know who's calling when they see an unfamiliar number on their phone.

Fortunately, reverse cell phone number lookup is easy, although not free. To do a reverse lookup, just type "reverse cell phone lookup" into the search area of Google or another search engine. You'll see listings of Web sites that provide this service. Go to a site, and type in the phone number. To get the phone user's name and address, you'll be asked to pay a one-time fee, often about $15, or a yearly fee of $40 or more to cover unlimited reverse phone searches. If the fees seem too high, check another Web site. Reputable sites will not charge for searches that yield no information.

The largest provider for reverse cell phone number lookup is Intelius Inc. Intelius calls its service "Cell Phone Caller ID" and provides available information for each number that may include name and address, as well as unlisted, VoIP (voice over Internet protocol) and business numbers for the phone user.

Making cell phone numbers more accessible in the future may seem logical to some, but it's viewed as an invasion of privacy by others. In early 2008, Intelius announced it had created an online directory of 90 million mobile phone numbers, approximately half of those in the United States. However, faced with cell phone users' privacy complaints and a potential lawsuit by a wireless phone company, Intelius quickly discontinued the service. A company official noted that the market isn't ready for an online cell phone directory [source:].

For lots more information about reverse phone lookup and related topics, follow the links on the next page.

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