Phone Number Tracing: An Introduction

George Jul 11

Run a phone number trace.Phone number tracing, also referred to as a reverse phone lookup, can be very useful when you receive an unknown call. If you've received a call or text from a mysterious number, you might wonder if it's that job you applied for last week, a friend or family member whose number has changed, or maybe it's just an annoying, and potentially dangerous, phone scam.


Why Use Phone Number Tracing?

Phone number tracing is useful when you need to know whether or not you should respond to a mystery call or text, and how to respond to it. If it's a job opportunity, a client, or a customer calling you, you don't want to sound unprofessional. On the other hand if it's an automated message, a telemarketer, or a phone scammer, we're pretty sure you'd just rather not answer. This is where phone number tracing comes in handy.

You can run a phone number trace on any number that's unknown to you to find out who is behind the call or text. In CallerSmart's community phone book we have hundreds of millions of up-to-date U.S. phone numbers that you can search for more information.

Can I Use CallerSmart for Phone Number Tracing?

Yes. Our community phone book has over 600 million phone numbers from all of the countries in the North American Numbering Plan Administrator (NANPA). We've compiled dozens of the best public and private data sources for phone book listings and combined all that data with a community of users who compete to make sure the listings are accurate, useful, and comprehensive. We have free, up-to-date results available for millions of numbers in our phone book, and we also offer the option to search private databases for more information.

Our phone book provides caller ID name information, also referred to as CNAM, iPhones do not display this information. This is part of the inspiration behind CallerSmart, we wanted to solve this problem and help our users stay safe from unknown and annoying calls. 

What Is the Difference Between Caller ID and Caller ID Name Information?

Caller ID (CID) is a service that allows a caller's information, such as their number, to be transmitted to the receiver's phone equipment. When a phone call is received, a display will show the phone number, and if available the caller's name, on the receiver's phone. Most voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) applications provide CID and CNAM information. The phone carrier of the caller is the responsible party for sending the phone number from where the call originates.

The identifiable information provided is known as the Caller ID Name (CNAM). CNAM, which contains up to 15 characters, show's a calling party's name to help the call recipient identify the caller. When receiving the information, the initiator's phone company utilizes a modem to send the character information to the receiver's caller ID.

A CNAM dip is the action taken to look up the name from the Caller ID of the received phone call. The carrier of the call recipient will "dip" into a CNAM database in order to attach a name to the caller.

CID combined with CNAM information will contain the caller's phone number and name. Once the phone call starts its process, the data is then transferred through a modem. This information allows customers to avert unwanted calls from solicitors while ensuring that an important call is never missed. Having the information is also useful when blocking non-essential phone calls.

It's important to note that CID and CNAM information can be manipulated by scammers and spammers with caller ID spoofing.

What Is Caller ID Spoofing and How Does It Work?

Caller ID spoofing is when a caller changes the CID and CNAM information that displays in order to disguise their true identity to the call recipient. Scammers frequently use this technique to fool their victims into giving away money or valuable personal information.

While caller ID spoofing is not illegal, using it in a malicious or fraudulent manner is prohibited by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). In the Truth in Caller ID Act, it is illegal for any person or entity to disseminate misleading or inaccurate caller ID information with the intent to defraud, cause harm, or wrongly obtain anything of value.

The spoofing act is committed when the call originator changes their caller ID information that will display and impersonates an official from a bank, credit company, government organization, charity, etc. The act is performed using various technologies but the main one is the usage of VoIP and PRI (Primary Rate Interface) lines. Employing the use of this technology makes it easy for scammers to spoof a call since they are able to choose the phone number they wish to display.

With telemarketers, the FCC requires that the company display its phone number to the receiver including displaying the name of the company distributing the goods and services. They must also have a number that the consumer can see displayed in the event the caller does not wished to be contacted anymore.

What Are the Different Ways in Which Caller ID Can be Spoofed?

There are multiple services, like SpoofCard, which allow individuals to spoof their number. Number spoofing is only illegal when it is being used in a malicious nature.

The most common forms of caller ID spoofing

  • The caller uses a software or a service to change the name that appears when they make a call. 
  • The caller may block their outgoing calls from showing a name alias, but instead use a geographical location such as just the state name.
  • The caller may use the existing number of a business or person, when a CNAM dip is preformed this incorrect information will display because it is associated with the number the caller has assigned to display when calling.
  • The caller will inappropriately use VoIP services to manipulate their victims. 
  • The caller will use a prepaid calling card. The PIN number that is provided through the prepaid carrier service allows the caller to indicate what their Caller ID name and number will be.
  • The caller will use a technique known as orange boxing, which refers to the use of hardware or software that generates signals that manipulate the call recepients caller ID. This hardware or software copies the signal that is sent by the phones central office making it seem as if there is a call waiting. 

How Can I Detect Caller ID Spoofing?

While it's impossible to tell whether or not a call is coming from a spoofed number when your phone is ringing, you should never give your personal information such as credit cards, bank accounts, or social security numbers to callers who you do not know, regardless of where the caller ID shows the call coming from. Be sure to investigate any unknown phone numbers that call you by running a phone number trace in CallerSmart's community phone book before you decide to answer back. You can see other user's feedback on numbers and check for suspicious behavior.

If you suspect that you've received a call from a scammer using caller ID spoofing, you should report it to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The two easiest ways to reach the FCC are:

Is Phone Number Tracing Expensive?

No. CallerSmart offers free phone number tracing results on many U.S. numbers. In addition to the free results that we have compiled from our databases, we also allow our users to see the community feedback on phone numbers for free.

If you would like more information on a number, we offer the option to purchase credits in order to dig deeper into our paid data sources. This is risk-free! CallerSmart does not charge a credit if we can't find more information.

Once a name is associated with a number we also offer our users the option to purchase a background check. Running a background check is more costly than tracing a phone number. You can find more information on background checks in our guide to background checks.

How Can I Use Phone Number Tracing?

Tracing a phone number is simple using CallerSmart! You can either download our reverse phone lookup app for iPhone, or visit our website to trace a number. Once you have the phone number you want to search you can copy and paste it, or type it, into our iPhone app or our website's search bar. We will display all of the free results that we have for that number.

Can I Block Unwanted Numbers From Calling Me?

Blocking unwanted calls from phone numbers on your iPhone can be done in three easy steps. In our iPhone app we offer a handy guide to show how you can block numbers. You can access this guide by tapping the drop down menu in the left corner of the home screen.  We also have a guide on how to block unwanted calls on your iPhone available on our website.

Can I Find Someone's Phone Number With Phone Number Tracing?

No. You must already have the phone number you want to look up. You can't trace a phone number with the name of the person or business you are looking for.

In CallerSmart's community phone book you can only trace phone numbers. This means you can only look up a phone number in our phone book, and you can't search a name. However, in our iPhone app we do offer users the ability to search for a phone number by a person's name or email. You can find this feature under the drop down menu in the top left corner of the home screen.

Can Someone Find my Personal Information With Phone Number Tracing?

Find out who is calling youPossibly. With phone number tracing a person is only able to search for more information if they have a phone number, this usually means they have a missed call from you. If someone has a missed call from you it could be because you called them, or someone may be using your phone number with caller ID spoofing.

With landline phone numbers there is usually more information that is public in either the white pages or the yellow pages. With cell phone numbers there is less information because there is no equivalent cell phone directory that the phone companies publish. That said, if you have put your phone number on social media sites, like Facebook, or participated in surveys that requested your phone number, then your cell phone number could have personal information associated with it unbeknownst to you.

How Can I Get CallerSmart?

If you have an iPhone or iPad you can download our free reverse phone lookup app. The app allows you to search and identify unknown phone numbers that call you. And if you don't have an iPhone or iPad, you can still access our free community phone book and trace phone numbers for free on our website.