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 is used to match a phone number to a person’s name, or to an address. The searching and matching process is the same whether the number is a landline or cell phone number. A reverse address search is used to match an address to a person or a phone number.
Who uses Reverse Searches?
The simplest 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, there are people who work in certain professions who 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 a variety of reasons such as: 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
There are numerous websites that provide easy access to online search tools. See below for a list of sites that provide reverse search tools. To run a search, simply visit the site and locate the appropriate search form (it is 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.
If you know the city and state, enter that too. Leave the city/state fields blank if you want to search then 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 name and last name, you’ll get the best results by running an online People Search using BeenVerified (see below). This simple online tool will search through billions of public records in just a few seconds.
How to Get the Best Results
There are a few time-saving tricks that will help you save time and get more accurate results.
- Make a list of the information you have, such as first name, last name, phone number, address, etc. It may be helpful to type the information in a Word document or in your text editor. That way, 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 entire phone number, search using partial information to narrow down results to a particular area code and calling prefix.
- 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
There are a number of reverse search websites that provide quick access to billions of public records. In addition, you can find searchable versions of the white pages 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, their location, address history, age, relatives, and more (if available).
- Spokeo People Search – Spokeo is a people search engine that specializes in aggregating and organizing vast quantities of people-related information from a large variety of public sources. The public data is amassed and presented in an integrated, coherent, and easy-to-follow format. It is a great 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 so you can quickly look up phone numbers listed 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 lets you put in a phone number and find out 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 useful 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 with access to the complete Yellow Pages (and business white 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 number listed in the telephone directory do so for a reason. They prefer to remain anonymous to avoid many of the 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, simply call the number. You can either be yourself or pretend to be someone else to avoid recognition. When they answer, ask for a person with an unusual name not likely to be there. Say something like “Hello, is Ricky Bobby there? No? Are you absolutely 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 keep a record of every call and text message sent from a registered number. It is fairly easy to get a record of your personal cell phone usage. Simply login and 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 fairly simple process if you share the same cell phone plan. If so, then just follow the process used to get access to your own cell phone records. Check your monthly cell phone bill, or register an online account to get instant access to real-time phone records.
If you do not share the same phone plan, you need to contact the service provider for assistance. In case the phone company refuses to give out the information, you might have to get a court order or subpoena to access the records. If you want to monitor your child or employee on their cell phone, see mobile phone spy tracking software.
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 pages 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 of the counties in the area.
Looking up a number required physically 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.