How to Look Up Phone Numbers: Everything You Need To Know!

Jacquelyn Bulao
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Updated · May 14, 2023

Jacquelyn Bulao
HR and Customer Relations Expert | Joined October 2021

I am a natural-born connector, known for long-standing and effective business partnerships. I am fue... | See full bio


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Do you know to know how to look up phone numbers? We do. Keep reading to understand what this reverse phone lookup is for and when it can be useful.

What Is a Reverse Phone Lookup?

A reverse phone number lookup is the process of obtaining a person or organization’s background information using a telephone or mobile number.

It’s only one of the many ways to do a background check on someone or a business. But a reverse landline or cell phone number lookup is more straightforward and promises more quality results.

Phone numbers can effectively unmask their owners better than almost anything, it can help you find the address of the owner. They are difficult to fake and can be costly to maintain.

With number portability, individuals and businesses can retain their phone numbers when changing telecom companies.

The combination of all of these factors helps increase the accuracy of reverse mobile or telephone number lookup results.

How To Look Up Phone Numbers?

First things first, a reverse phone number search answers the question: Who does this number belong to? Not How to look up phone numbers?

Don’t confuse a reverse cell phone lookup with a cell phone lookup. The latter is a means to find cell phone number information and can be any other background check method.

To carry out a successful mobile or telephone number search, you need a complete phone number, to begin with.

Generally, it consists of 10 digits. More specifically, three number groupings:

  1. Area code. It is made up of three digits. It identifies the general geographic region of a phone number’s owner.

By and large, there are two types of area codes: toll-free and local. The former is synonymous with 800, 844, 855, 866, 877, and 888 area codes. They’re called as such because it’s the receiving party that pays for the call, not the calling party. Any other area code (except for 900, which is a “toll” number) is a local one.

  1. Prefix - also made up of three digits. It further narrows the location of the phone number’s owner.
  2. Line number. Made up of four digits, it directs calls to a particular phone line.

People write phone numbers differently. Some enclose the area code with parentheses and then hyphenate the other two groupings. Others use hyphens across the board.

Fortunately, you don’t have to worry about any special characters when using a reverse phone number lookup app. You can just copy and paste all of the 10 digits and get quality results as long as you enter them in proper order.

A phone number can also have an 11th digit called country code. It precedes all of the three groupings.

The country code assigned to the United States and Canada is 1. You don’t have to type it in when doing a reverse telephone lookup if your people search service provider uses US and/or Canadian databases.

In the US, you don’t need different services for landline and cell phone numbers. There are two main reasons why generic reverse phone search tools can work for either:

  1. North American telephone and mobile ones don’t necessarily have distinct prefixes.
  2. Number portability makes it impossible to distinguish landlines from cell phone ones at a glance.

To perform a reverse phone search, you can use apps developed by background check companies. They specialize in building and maintaining repositories of information about individuals and organizations from various sources.

Some of the records background check firms obtain cost money. That’s why they generally sell subscriptions or charge per search.

Strictly speaking, you can use publicly available search engines such as Google and Facebook to do a free reverse phone lookup.

Google indexes countless web pages that may include the contact details of some individuals or companies, you can even look up Google voice numbers. Facebook, for its part, encourages its users to add phone number information for, ironically, privacy purposes.

The problem, however, is that the search engines of these tech companies don’t guarantee quality results.

Considering the hit-or-miss nature of free reverse phone number lookup options (which we discussed at length here), you’ll end up empty-handed more often than not. You can’t solely rely on them.

Do Reverse Phone Lookups Work?

In most cases, premium and free reverse phone number lookups can be useful in the following circumstances:

  • You want to know more about a person or a company whose cell or telephone call you missed.
  • You receive a call or text message from an unknown sender.
  • You are keen on revealing the real identity of a scammer.
  • You want to know about the person your child is texting or speaking with.
  • You want to double-check the legitimacy of a seller or merchant.
  • You wish to verify the information about a person or business.
  • You hope to learn more details about a potential date, a future roommate, or a new neighbor.

And more.

But do reverse phone lookups work? A resounding yes! 

They can successfully give you the ownership history of the landline or mobile phone number you enter.

Moreover, you may learn practically everything worth knowing about the owner. Besides name and age, reverse phone number search reports can contain the following:

  • History of residence (current and past addresses)
  • Photographs
  • Possible relatives and associates 
  • Employment history (name of employers and places of work)
  • Educational information
  • Digital presence and online activity (links to social media accounts, websites, blogs, etc.)
  • Criminal history (traffic violations, arrest records, etc.)
  • Assets owned (such as real estate properties, vehicles, businesses, etc.)
  • Liens (UCC filings)
  • Bankruptcies

Background check companies aren’t equal. Some have larger and more comprehensive online databases than others. That’s why some could produce reverse number search report with phone details and location data.

Usually, the length of the report you want to get will dictate its cost. Most probably, you’ll have to buy a complete background report to get everything a reverse telephone lookup tool was able to pull up.

But then again, you may not need too much information for your research. When comparing background check companies, find out the kinds of personal details they include in their basic reverse number lookup reports and how they charge to minimize your expenses.

Where Can You Conduct a Reverse Phone Lookup?

There’s an abundance of people search sites on the market. But not all of them provide a reverse phone lookup service.

You can, however, turn to:


Intelius is a Seattle-based information broker that has been in the business for 18 years. Its cell phone number lookup membership $29.95 a month. But you can test it out for five days for just $0.95.

With this subscription, you can search as many times as you want. But you may also get an option to sign up for an auto-renewing 30-day $4.99 plan with this browser-based reverse phone lookup app instead.

Intelius, a pillar of digital identity company PeopleConnect, has modified its pricing strategy from the last time we reviewed it. But its search capabilities are still as reliable as ever.


Unlike Intelius (its sister brand), TruthFinder offers its reverse cell phone and telephone number lookup service as a subscription. It comes at $4.99 a month.

You need a separate membership for TruthFinder’s background checks. The above subscription (which may come with a 5-day paid trial for $1) allows unlimited reverse phone number lookups only. For the brand’s reports, although impressively substantial, you have to pay an extra $2 to download your own copy in PDF.

Check out our in-depth review of TruthFinder to learn more about its features and plans.

Like other brands under the PeopleConnect umbrella, US Search doesn’t offer free reverse phone lookup services. That’s because it updates its online databases daily with premium records.

At the time of writing this piece, US Search has two offers.

The first costs $1.99, turns into a monthly subscription of $19.86, and comes with unlimited phone lookups and access to detailed online reports. You have the option to download and print them.

The second costs $4.99 and entitles you to unlimited searches and free phone number lookup reports. It’s a monthly membership fee, not a paid trial price.

You’ll notice that these prices are slightly different from those we observed in our detailed US Search review. But the features are still the same.

Instant Checkmate

Instant Checkmate’s regular telephone and cell phone lookup price has also changed from the first time we evaluated it. From $4.99, it has climbed to $5.99 a month.

Like a typical PeopleConnect brand, Instant Checkmate’s phone lookup subscription includes unlimited searches and online report preview.

It likewise offers a 5-day trial membership for $1.99, which becomes a $6.99 monthly subscription. It can give you full product access and free phone reverse lookup reports over the internet.


One of the leading background check brands not controlled by PeopleConnect, InfoTracer offers a web-based search engine and a mobile app.

It doesn’t sell its reverse number search service à la carte. It provides unlimited lookups and reports for $19.05 a month.

To give this reverse phone lookup app a whirl without paying a relatively high fee upfront, you can get a honeymoon deal of just $3.95 for the first seven days. You only have to pay for the regular plan once the discounted introductory period ends.

Again, InfoTracer’s current prices are somewhat different from the ones we recorded the first time we tested it. But fluid pricing is just the norm in the highly competitive informative brokerage business.

Conclusion - How To Look Up Phone Numbers

Without a doubt, a reverse phone lookup is a powerful search method. There’s little to no information that will remain hidden.

Choose a fitting website and dive deep into the reports. Time to solve some mysteries!


Is there a free way to look up a phone number?

Yes, there is. Google and Facebook are prime examples. Both tech giants free-to-use search engines for sifting through their massive online databases. They sell the data they collect from their users to advertisers to keep their platforms free for all. These companies don’t guarantee to return substantial results, however. That’s because Google can only scour the Surface Web. It’s the portion of the Web that’s readily accessible by the general public, which represents about 10% of all. The remaining 90%, which includes most public records, are searchable only on the Deep Web—the side of the internet regular browsers can’t access. Therefore, the majority of information about people and businesses is out of Google’s reach. When it comes to Facebook’s search engine, it can retrieve only the personal information its users are willing to share. Also, Mark Zuckerberg and the company don’t meticulously verify the identity of its users. So, even if you find a Facebook account, there’s no telling whether the information linked to it is genuine and accurate.

How can I find out who a number belongs to?

You can turn Google or Facebook into a free phone number search tool. But there’s a slim chance that you’ll find the right phone number owner and get considerable background information about this individual or organization. A surer bet is to use an information broker with reverse phone lookup capability. But do reverse phone lookups work? Compared to free options, premium ones are more promising. That’s because background check companies consolidate public records from dozens of sources and pay any fee data custodians may demand. More importantly, information brokers can produce comprehensive reports.

Is there a legit way to lookup a phone number?

Whether you want to know how to look up phone numbers or how to identify a phone number’s owner, there are legitimate apps to achieve your goal. Furthermore, legally registered reverse phone number lookup app operators can keep your transactions confidential. They may even provide you (along with other consumers) an opt-out option to remove your sensitive data from their online databases. Running a background check using a telephone or mobile number may raise ethical questions. But you won’t get into any legal trouble as long as you don’t use any information you obtain maliciously.


Jacquelyn Bulao

Jacquelyn Bulao

I am a natural-born connector, known for long-standing and effective business partnerships. I am fuelled by my passion for human resources and my genuine love of connecting with others. To date, my knowledge & determination to transform information into action & initiatives have contributed to my successful career. HR is something that I live and breathe, and I know the impact it has in transforming businesses; and the lives of those who work inside it.

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