What is a reverse phone lookup?
A reverse phone lookup is a simple way to track a phone number by typing in the phone number to a search engine or directory and seeing what listing comes back associated with that particular number. There are several ways to look up a phone number on the Web; in this article, we'll use Google.
Google and reverse phone lookups
It used to be possible to use Google's phonebook search operator to do a reverse phone lookup. However, as of November 2010, Google officially shut down the phonebook operator, due to the large numbers of people finding themselves in Google's index and sending in requests to be removed. This has made tracking a phone number a little bit less intuitive, however, you can still use Google to do a reverse phone lookup:
- Type the full phone number (including area code) into Google's search box; i.e., 555-555-1212.
- You'll see the number listed at dozens of different phone directories. Unfortunately, since Google changed the way they list phone numbers, this is what we have to work with.
- If the number is attached to a business, that business (usually) will show up in the first five search results.
- If the number is attached to a private household, the address most likely will not show up attached to the number. However, if that person has placed their number anywhere else on the Web, perhaps at a social networking site, than that listing will show up (for more on how to track people across different social networks, read 15 People Search Sites).
You can also use Google to find addresses and phone numbers, and here's how:
- Simply type in the person's full name plus their zip code, for example, "john smith 97204".
- This brings back a name, phone number, address, and a Google Map with directions to the residence.
How to remove yourself from the Google phone directory
While Google doesn't seem to have a public phonebook listing anymore, they still make it possible for you to remove your information (if it's listed) from their directory.
Visit the Google Phonebook Name Removal page to have your information removed. However, do keep in mind that this will not remove your personal information anywhere else it might be stored on the Web (see Ten Ways to Protect Your Web Privacy for more information on Web security).
Not always possible to find a phone number using Google? Yes.
Finding a phone number on Google using this method isn't foolproof. If the phone number is unlisted or originates from a cell phone, the number most likely will not be found online. DO NOT pay for this information if prompted - the sites asking you to do this have access to the same information that you do. If you can't find it, the likelihood of these sites having different information is very slim.