What is a Reverse Search?
A reverse search is used when you want to use one piece of information to find another related piece. For example, a reverse phone number search matches a phone number to a person’s name or address. The searching and matching process is the same whether the number is a landline or cell phone. A reverse address search matches an address to a person or a phone number.
Who uses Reverse Searches?
The most straightforward answer is…everyone—anyone who needs to match one piece of information to another. For example, a person receives a call from an unknown call. They can use an online reverse search tool to look up the number to find out who is calling.
Of course, some people work in certain professions and use these tools much more frequently than the average person. Examples include law enforcement, emergency services, skip tracers, private investigators, collection agents, and many more.
Private investigators run phone number searches for various reasons: searching for missing persons, conducting background investigations and employment checks, tracking down a debtor, locating a witness or expert for a court trial, or as a part of everyday business.
How to Run a Reverse Search
Numerous websites provide easy access to online search tools. See below for a list of sites that offer reverse search tools. To run a search, visit the site and locate the appropriate search form (usually front and center on the page). If you have the individual’s name and need to match a phone number, enter the individual’s first name and last name. If you only have a partial name, enter whatever you have.
To get access to billions of online public records, see BeenVerified.
If you know the city and state, enter that too. Leave the city/state fields blank if you want to search the entire country. The database will generate a list of results. Look through the names to see if you found a match; if not, conduct another search using different parameters.
If you have the first and last names, you’ll get the best results by running an online People Search using BeenVerified (see below). This simple online tool will search billions of public records in just a few seconds.
How to Get the Best Results
A few time-saving tricks will help you save time and get more accurate results.
- Make a list of your information, such as first name, last name, phone number, address, etc. It may be helpful to type the information in a Word document or text editor. You can cut and paste the information into search forms as needed.
- Use multiple websites and search tools to access potentially different public records sources.
- If you don’t have the full phone number, search using partial information to narrow down results to a particular area code and call prefixes.
- Do a Google search to see if the number shows up on any websites, discussion forums, comments, social media posts, etc.
List of Reverse Search Tools
Several reverse search websites provide quick access to billions of public records. In addition, you can find searchable versions of the white and yellow pages. Multiple numbers can be searched at no cost. The following are some of the more popular sites.
- BeenVerfied – BeenVerfied provides access to billions of public records. Their search forms are easy to understand and use. Also, their results are of high quality.
- Intelius – Intelius offers a reverse search for landlines, cell phones, and unpublished numbers. Their search pulls other information associated with a registered phone number. If available, the data includes the phone type and carrier, the owner’s name, location, address history, age, relatives, and more (if available).
- Spokeo People Search – Spokeo is a people search engine that aggregates and organizes vast amounts of people-related information from various public sources. The public data is amassed and presented in an integrated, coherent, and easy-to-follow format. It is an excellent resource for private investigators.
Other Options to Checkout
- Addresses.com – Addresses.com includes address lookup tools such as People Finder, White Page data, Yellow Pages, Public Records, Criminal Records, Reverse Directory, Zip and Area Codes, Phone Book Search, and more.
- AnyWho – Provided by AT&T, allows you to search addresses for people, places, and businesses. AnyWho provides a free White Pages People Search to quickly look up phone numbers in the White Pages phone book. The phone directory is updated weekly with the most current White Pages listings to help with your people locate. AnyWho White Pages lets you find someone’s phone number by name and location. Reverse Lookup enables you to enter a phone number and determine who it belongs to. You can also perform Yellow Pages queries to find local businesses.
- Pay Phone Directory – Pay Telephones have been slowly phasing out for many years, but some still exist. The Pay Phone Directory website offers information on thousands of pay telephone numbers in the United States, Canada, and other countries.
- Phone Validator – The Phone Validator is a valuable tool that allows users to learn if a phone number is a landline or a cell phone. The site also allows users to automatically run the phone number through directory assistance and Google to develop new leads. Phone Validator is available at
- Pipl – Pipl’s query engine helps you find deep web pages that cannot be found on regular search engines. Pipl is designed to retrieve information from the deep web. Our robots are set to interact with searchable databases and extract facts, contact details, and other relevant information from personal profiles, member directories, scientific publications, court records, and numerous other deep-web sources.
- Whitepages.com – This site is a global directory with an index of e-mail addresses and phone numbers. Formerly known as BigBook, SuperPages, and Switchboard. Whitepages.com provides users access to the complete Yellow Pages (and white business pages) for the United States. The site has a nice feature of a map interface that can plot an address to street level or select phone numbers in a mapped area. Also, see a list of links to white page search tools.
- Yellowbook.com – Private detectives can use this website to search for businesses through the yellow pages business phone book. See a list of yellow page search tools.
How to Find Unlisted Telephone Numbers
There is no easy way to find unlisted phone numbers. Individuals who don’t want their phone numbers listed in the telephone directory do so for a reason. They prefer to remain anonymous to avoid many calls from telemarketers and scammers. However, even unlisted numbers find their way into records systems, as people may list them on applications, resumes, social media profiles, etc.
Some database information providers compile contact information from alternative public records sources, which may pick up some unlisted numbers. Paying to access such services may increase the likelihood of a match.
Call the Number
This is somewhat of a manual version of a reverse search. To match a phone number to a person, call the number. You can be yourself or pretend to be someone else to avoid recognition. When they answer, ask for someone with an unusual name which is not likely to be there. Say something like, “Hello, is Ricky Bobby there? No? Are you sure? Well, who am I talking to then?”
If you’re comfortable with it, be a little forceful. Even sound angry, as if you think they’re lying to you. This approach can rattle the other person and make them reveal their identity. Avoid this one if you’re not comfortable with acting. And make sure you don’t call from a number that can be traced back to you!
Is the process different for cell phone numbers?
Cell phone and mobile device companies record every call and text message from a registered number. It is pretty easy to get a record of your cell phone usage. Simply log in, view your account history online, or call the mobile carrier’s support line for assistance. Via your online account, you can see a detailed list of incoming and outgoing calls, call times, number of minutes, and other information.
Accessing a family member’s cell phone records
If you need to uncover records for one of your family members, it is a relatively simple process if you share the same cell phone plan. If so, follow the method used to access your cell phone records. Check your monthly cell phone bill, or register an online account to get instant access to real-time phone records.
You need to contact the service provider for assistance if you do not share the same phone plan. If the phone company refuses to give out the information, you might have to get a court order or subpoena to access the records. See mobile phone spy tracking software if you want to monitor your child or employee on their cell phone.
Historical Information: Before the Internet
Before the internet age, looking up a phone number was a much more manual process. The easiest method was to call “information,” which uses the number 411. Using that number, people could provide the name of a person or a business, and a directory assistance operator would look up the number on their behalf. In many cases, an automated voice would read the phone number back to the caller.
Occasionally, the directory assistance operator asks for more information, such as the difference between two people with the same name or the street address. In addition to 411, people relied on printed phone books. Printed books for both the white and yellow pages were distributed to all homes and businesses in the country. In addition, the local library kept copies of the books for all the counties in the area.
Looking up a number required physical searching through the book, which was arranged in alphabetical order to find the name and number of the person you were seeking. Everyone in the county was included by default but could opt out by submitting a request to the phone company. If you needed the number of a person living outside the local area, calling information was the best option.
Check out our collection of Background Check resources for finding people.
If you have any questions about how to run a reverse search, please leave a comment below.
Could you recommend a good detective school in So. California, the San Diego area? Are there good distance learning schools?
Check out our Private Investigator Training page for information on distance learning options https://www.einvestigator.com/private-investigator-training-2/.
Also, visit the California Association of Licensed Investigators website at cali-pi.org and review the professional certification page.