In today's digital age, with over 15 billion cell phones around the world, it's not uncommon to find yourself questioning, "Who called me from this unknown phone number?" After all, with such a staggering number of mobile devices in circulation, mistaken dials and misentered contacts are bound to happen.
However, not all incoming calls from unknown numbers are innocent mistakes or prank calls. A growing percentage of these calls are spam, with telemarketers and scammers aiming to take advantage of unsuspecting victims. If you've noticed an increase in unknown callers reaching your cell phone number, it might be time to delve into the mystery.
A spam-blocking mobile app like Burner can be an effective frontline defense, as it filters and blocks calls from unknown numbers. But for persistent spam calls, a more investigative approach may be required. Read below to learn why you might get so many calls from unknown numbers — and how to find out who those numbers belong to.
Why Random Numbers Might Be Calling You
The truth is that many calls from unknown numbers aren't simple mix-ups. With an estimated 50.3 billion spam calls made in 2022, an alarming 30% increase from previous years, it's clear that this issue isn't disappearing anytime soon.
What’s particularly concerning about these robocalls is that authorities are well aware of the issue, but are limited in their means of restricting them. The introduction of the Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (TRACED) Act in late 2019 aimed to mitigate the ever-growing menace of spammers. “However, robocalls and manned scam calls continue to be daily disturbances,” notes Joshua Sosin, tech expert and copywriter.
These calls aren't just a nuisance, though — Sosin notes that they can put you at risk of losing life-altering amounts of money. In the past year alone, Americans have lost an estimated $30 billion to phone scams. Scammers, typically using algorithms to find ideal targets, dispatch automated bots to dial millions of numbers randomly. Answering such a call triggers the scam attempt, often culminating in requests for your financial information. “Always be extremely cautious about any unknown caller asking for any personal information. Keeping this info private is the best way to avoid a devastating scam,” Sosin highlights.
It’s worth mentioning that the COVID-19 pandemic has become a popular pretense used by scammers. Even if you're savvy enough to hang up as fast as possible after answering a COVID-related scam call, answering the call at all signals to these scammers that your number is active, which boosts the likelihood of getting called back.
How To Identify an Unknown Caller: A Few Options
To stay safe from these scams and protect your personal information, Sosin notes that you should always assume that calls coming from an unknown number are scams.
That being said, if you are curious as to who is on the other end of the line and calling you, there are quite a few options for finding out.
Naturally, if you're pondering, "Who called me from this specific phone number?" your first instinct may likely be to "Google it." Truth be told, a web-based lookup tool is an excellent starting point.
Google can provide a wealth of information about a caller at the touch of a button. Simply input the troublesome telephone number into the search bar, and Google's algorithm will do the rest.
What sets Google apart from other search tools is its scope. Its crawlers index billions of web pages, which include sites dedicated to tracking and listing reported scam numbers. This means there's a good chance that the mysterious number plaguing your mobile phone could show up in the search results.
Bear in mind that the information Google reveals may be limited or fragmented, which brings us to the next step in your investigation.
Use a Reverse Phone Number Lookup Service
Although a Google search is an excellent starting point, it isn't primarily designed for conducting a detailed phone number search. To delve deeper and unearth more precise information, consider using a free reverse phone lookup service. These tools, specifically designed to provide information linked to a phone number, can reveal the caller's identity, including their name, address, and relevant background information. “Make sure to only use legal resources offered by reputable companies when taking this step,” highlights Sosin.
Phone number search services like the ones listed below make it their mission to scan billions of public records and data points to deliver accurate information about the number in question:
- Instant Checkmate
These can be invaluable resources for conducting a more in-depth phone number search, providing a comprehensive background check that leaves no stone unturned.
When using a reverse phone lookup site, all you need is the ten-digit telephone number. The service's algorithm then dives into an extensive database of public records, phone directories, and court records to retrieve a detailed report. While this search might take a bit longer than a simple search engine query, the wealth of information it can potentially uncover is unparalleled.
Track Down The Spoof Caller
Interestingly, reverse phone lookup services can also help identify spoofed phone calls — yet another unsavory tactic employed by scammers. In this scenario, the Caller ID displays a different number than the actual source, often resulting in minimal information linked to the displayed number.
If your search returns sparse information, chances are you've encountered a spoofed call. While some reverse phone lookup services provide free searches with limited results, for more thorough exploration, a subscription might be necessary — which means it might be time to break out your credit card. “Be careful to only use reputable reverse phone lookup tools, especially when making a purchase. If you aren’t sure whether a reverse phone lookup service is legitimate, a quick Google search can provide more info,” Sosin notes.
Rest assured, despite the in-depth nature of these searches, they remain completely legal, relying only on public databases and public record searches (like criminal records and employment history). They offer a more detailed and targeted approach to identifying unwanted calls, helping you secure your phone lines from hackers, scammers, and pranksters.
Armed with the power of a detailed report from a reverse phone lookup service, you're better equipped to protect yourself from potential scams and unwanted communication.
Dial *67 After Receiving a Call
In our current digital age, almost every up-to-date phone, whether it's a mobile phone or a landline, is equipped with a Caller ID feature. It provides an instant peek into the identity of the caller, displaying their phone number as soon as the call comes through. However, crafty scammers or private callers have figured out how to mask their numbers, resulting in your Caller ID showing the call as unknown, blocked, or private.
Don't fret: There's a way around this. If you're keen to uncover the identity of the unknown caller, the Last Call Return code "*69" might just be the tool you need. This handy phone feature works by retrieving the most recent caller’s number. Note that it only works for the last call you received and must be employed within 30 minutes of receiving that call.
Once you've dialed *69, a recording should sound, providing the hidden number. It might even offer you an option to redial the number simply by pressing "1". Bear in mind that the precise services offered with the Last Call Return feature can vary depending on your phone service provider. Some providers may automatically redial the last number, bypassing the step where it discloses the number first.
Given the high probability that these calls are attempts at scamming you, it's always safer not to call back the number even once you have it. With the number revealed, you can instead look it up on a phone lookup site for a more detailed background check. These include Intelius, BeenVerified, TruthFinder, and more.
Check Your Voicemail
Regardless of whether your Caller ID displays a number, it's often safer to let the call go to voicemail if you don't recognize the number. After all, why risk engaging with an unknown caller when you can safely discern their intentions through their message? “In addition, if an unknown caller leaves no voicemail, you can usually assume the caller had a scam in mind,” notes Sosin.
Checking your voicemail is a secure, easy, and risk-free method to determine who called you. It might turn out that the caller was a friend or family member using a new phone.
Nevertheless, the unfortunate reality is that the call is more likely to have been a telemarketer trying to sell you something or a robocall attempting to spam you. While spam callers usually don't leave voicemails, some do, making it somewhat tricky to determine the legitimacy of the voicemail. “When in doubt, ignore the voicemail and don’t make a return call. In addition, blocking the number to avoid repeat calls can help you avoid more confusion,” says Sosin.
Once you've confirmed the call to be a scam, it's time to use the call blocker feature on your Android/Apple or an external call blocker app to block the number from bothering you again. Make sure to also update your contact information and look up the number on phone lookup sites, utilizing their unlimited searches feature. As an additional security measure, check your social media accounts and email, ensuring that the scam hasn't extended to your online presence as well.
Frequently receiving calls from unknown or random phone numbers is one of the annoying downsides of owning a smartphone. In general, avoid answering these calls, as they are usually spam. There are plenty of ways for you to find out who is calling after you have their number, and it’s just not worth the risk to pick up. Sosin notes that even someone who is tech-savvy and equipped with plenty of common sense can fall victim to a scam call — protect yourself by any means necessary.
The best way to avoid dealing with these disruptions and minimize your scam risk is to use a spam-blocking app like Burner. You won’t have to worry about constantly receiving unknown calls or potentially getting scammed by blocking all unknown numbers.