2 seconds. That’s how short it can take to miss a phone call. If you’ve been on the receiving end of a couple of spams or robocalls in the past, then your hesitation to return a missed call from an unknown number is understandable.
Once upon a time, we had phone directories – white pages, as they were called – where phone numbers and details of their owners were made readily available. It would have been easy to verify unknown numbers before making the decision to get back to them. Then the internet happened and paper-based directories became redundant.
So here we are.
Table of Contents
What Is a Reverse Phone Lookup?
At its most basic form, phone number search services allow you to discover the identity of whosoever’s number you’re searching for, the same way the white pages worked. This way, you can learn whether a missed call is important and should be returned, or ignored.
The “reverse” part was added to the concept because ideally, a person would know the name of a person, and then seek their phone numbers. But in this case, the identity of the person’s missing, and the phone number’s available – hence “reverse”.
How Does Phone Lookup Tools Work?
To understand how reverse phone lookups work, you need to first understand how phone numbers are arranged. When landlines were a thing, the 10 digit numbers were split into a 3-3-4 scheme, with the first 3 indicating city, the next 3 indicating the network provider or neighborhood and the last 4 digits, the owner of the number.
Back then, you could call a phone directory, provide the landline number, and basic details of the owner will be provided. Phone lookups, like Spokeo, are the digitized version, so essentially work the same way. You enter a cell phone number into a website’s query, and information about the owner is provided to you – as long as the owner didn’t make their details private.
Depending on how they got access to their user database, different lookup sites will provide different types of “extra” information.
Benefits of Using a Cell Phone Lookup App
There are many reasons why anyone would need a reverse phone lookup, including:
— Uncovering the mystery behind unexplained high phone bills to unknown numbers;
— Trying to find a person or business you were referred to but don’t know how to locate;
— Avoid returning missed calls from telemarketers;
— Detect and block fraudulent numbers.
Bottom line is that being able to identify the owner of a phone number will either help you avoid a world of hurt, allow you return calls to only numbers you trust or help you locate those you need to.
Laws and Regulations That Affect Phone Search
Depending on the quality of service provided, a phone lookup can provide information that at first glance seems to infringe on privacy laws. But these “directories” are still in existence, so are they legal and is the information provided obtained legally?
The short answer is yes.
The US Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and it’s EU counterpart, the GDPR all have regulations on the type of information firms can display, and online directories like Spokeo have to adhere to them, otherwise, they’ll be fined. The UK’s one of the few exceptions. Only law enforcement officers are allowed to use these services there.
Some of the laws in place prohibit lookup services from obtaining data illegally, so most of them access public data either from government sites (like criminal and employment records) or through companies (cell phone networks) who have the legal right to obtain certain kinds of information.
Even information from your business and social media accounts can be used, as long as you made it publicly available. After gathering all these data, they’ll then create a profile for each person, which can be accessed using one key – a phone number.
Phone lookup services are obligated by law to notify their users (in the terms and agreements) about various restrictions in place with regards to using the information provided.
For example, information obtained from these platforms shouldn’t be the determining factor during employee or tenant screenings, insurance or credit assessment and other sensitive issues – they should be cross-checked.
Ascertaining the identity of a caller has never been easier. Whatever your reason is for looking up a person’s identity, you can find needed information and ensure you only keep in touch with the right people.
Olga Andriichuk works as the content manager at Spokeo. Her field of expertise includes business, marketing, and tech. In her spare time, she enjoys yoga classes and exploring new destinations.