If you’re wondering how to trace unknown phone numbers, it can be challenging to know where to start. When someone withholds their phone number or calls from a VoIP, it may feel like there’s nothing you can do to uncover the caller’s identity. Fortunately for you, we’ve put together a quick guide to tracing unknown calls so that you can find out who has been contacting you.
The Impact of Nuisance Calls
Nuisance calls disproportionately affect the most vulnerable people in society. Police Scotland estimate that 40% of all calls received by the elderly are either nuisance calls or scams. Even if you’re not considered vulnerable, some unwanted calls can still be annoying and distressing. You might feel violated or unsafe when you receive threatening, abusive, or incessant calls.
Scam callers are particularly vicious when it comes to impacting the mental health of their victims. These anonymous callers will pose as a legitimate company, like BT or Microsoft, and manipulate their victims into giving them remote access to their computers. From here, the scam could proceed in several ways, but it usually ends up with the victim’s bank account emptied.
Though not scammers, some people still make nuisance calls for financial gain. Telemarketers call hundreds of people in a single day attempting to sell some sort of goods or services.
Depending on the product, these calls vary in legality. Although often reasonably innocuous, the stress that repeated telemarketing calls causes can build up over time. It’s not unusual for these calls to come from the same source.
Finally, some people seek to cause worry and upset with no other apparent motive. These kinds of calls can be the most disturbing, making the victims feel particularly frightened. In these cases, it’s best to keep a record of incoming calls, including the dates and times of contact, and to show law enforcement your call logs as evidence of harassment.
How to Trace Anonymous Calls
The method you’ll need to use to trace an unknown caller depends on what kind of call you’re receiving. This guide will take you through the most common call tracing methods and what you can do to uncover callers yourself.
Withheld Numbers and Anonymous Caller ID
When you receive a call from a withheld number, it will probably look like this:
The function of withholding numbers is designed for professionals like Lawyers and Doctors who don’t want their number to be publicly available. By calling their clients and patients with a withheld number, they’re able to keep their number hidden. Unfortunately, this feature is open to abuse by malicious callers.
Fortunately, however, there are ways to trace these, even if it may not seem so at first. If you’re in the USA or Canada, the first thing you should try doing is dialling *57 as soon as the call ends. This will take you to a menu giving you instructions on how to trace the caller. It may be a free service or incur a small cost, but this depends on your phone provider.
If you’re in the UK like us, *57 may not work for you. In these cases, it’s best that you contact your phone company and explain that you’re receiving nuisance calls from withheld numbers.
They can stop withheld numbers contacting you, and they’ll also be able to conduct a trace on whoever is attempting to contact you. They may or may not be able to divulge the caller’s information, but they will be able to hand it over to the police on your behalf.
Unknown Landline and Mobile Phone Numbers
If someone calls you from an unknown number that is not withheld, the first thing you should try is looking the number up in a search engine. If it’s a legitimate business’ number, then you’ll get to the bottom of who is trying to contact you. Likewise, if it’s a known scammer’s number, it will appear on warning sites, which rate the toxicity of caller numbers.
Unfortunately, tracing some numbers is not as straightforward as this. Pay-as-you-go mobile numbers are only traceable by the police. Sometimes, the caller will avoid revealing their identity when topping up the phone by using cash to pay, for example. In these cases, it probably won’t even be possible for police to trace the call.
It’s never been straightforward to reverse-lookup a registered personal phone number, but thankfully there are ways of doing this. Online databases allow reverse phone lookups for a fee, which will enable you to find the registered owner of a mobile phone or landline number. These caller ID services provide the best way to reverse search a mobile number.
Tracing VoIP Calls
Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) is a way of making calls through a broadband connection. Many businesses use them, as they offer a much cheaper alternative to the copper wire infrastructure needed for traditional phone lines. Sadly, many people also use them for illegitimate purposes, as scammers find the ability to spoof and change phone numbers quite attractive.
It is possible to trace a VoIP phone call, but it requires a significant amount of technical knowledge. You can use open-source network analysis software like Wireshark to trace the true origin of some VoIP calls. If the caller is using a secure VPN, then this becomes much more challenging.
In cases where the caller has gone to enough lengths to conceal their IP address, then you’re looking at grey-hat hacking as the way to uncover their identity. We can’t and don’t condone this because it is illegal.
Get Professional Help
If you’re struggling to get anywhere with your unknown number trace, then it might be worthwhile enlisting the help of a professional. Private Investigations UK offers number tracing services with a turnaround of fewer than 72 hours. Not only is it faster to hire a private detective to conduct a number trace, but it also guarantees more accurate results.