Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Cellular Numbers

The aptitude of consumers regarding their mobile phones is far greater than it was just a few years ago. With that said, we have found there is a tremendous amount of misinformation and confusion regarding the phone number of a customer's mobile device, the accessibility to information on that number and who may be able to access that information. The following are some of the most frequently asked questions regarding this, and the answers pertaining to them.

How to buy a desired mobile number?

There are a couple ways to go about this, but perhaps the easiest would be to set up a new "vanity" phone number with the digits "xxxx170571". Then have that new number forward to your mother's mobile phone. Doing this would allow her to keep her current phone/number and also allow the new number to ring to her existing phone.

Vanity numbers have been used for years by businesses (i.e. 1-800-Flowers or 1-212-Lawyers). Until a few years ago, vanity numbers were cost prohibitive for most individuals. However, new toll free extensions and technology have made them affordable enough for individuals too.

Registering a vanity number is relatively easy. There are a number of websites which can help you register a toll-free number, & are two which I am aware of but there are numerous others (just try searching for "toll-free phone numbers" or "toll-free vanity number").

If you don't need a toll free number or would prefer a local phone number you might try Google voice. It is a free service that Google provides whereby you can set up a phone number with them, and either have the calls forwarded to you or have voice mail messages transcribed.

Finding an old love -

A reverse phone lookup may be able to assist you in finding the location of your lost love. For information on this visit our article here.

Does it make a difference in the ability to find someone, what type of phone the person uses or who the telephone service provider is?

The Answer: It depends. We had noted in our reverse lookup article that finding information on cell phones can be much more difficult than landline numbers, and that is still true. While it makes no difference who the phone manufacturer is (Motorola, Apple, LG, HTC, Samsung, etc) it can make a difference who the service provider is (for example Verizon Wireless vs. Boost Mobile). This is because some service providers, like Verizon Wireless, offer the majority of their customer's service under contract. Other providers, like Boost Mobile, offer service primarily through prepaid plans.

Prepaid cell phones, in general, tend to have less identifiable information about the owner than do contract phones. This is not because more or less information is made available by the service provider. Rarely, will any service provider ever make information about its customers available. More likely, the cause for this is the length of time in which someone typically maintains the same cell phone number when it is under contract vs. when it's a pre-paid phone.

The longer the number belongs to the same person the more likely that information is going to be picked up by information brokers and made available via a phone lookup.

What can be done when you know someone's phone number?

Besides the obvious, calling you, there are a few things that someone could do either unintentionally or intentionally. First, let us say, few people or businesses will ever deliberately do anything that would be perceived as annoying or harassing with your cell phone number. However, there are those that may not follow common courtesy or comply with certain laws pertaining to telemarketing to cell numbers.

Now, in some cases a phone number is used as a lesser security measure, making sure someone is who they say they are. If someone uses your name and cell phone number claiming to be you, it can be a hassle for you, as well as jeopardizing your privacy. Here are a few examples of something someone could do under that circumstance:

If your cell phone number is known to someone it could be used by a caller id "spoof" site to make it appear like you are calling someone when you really are not. Spoof sites are generally designed for gag/pranks. Nonetheless, this can be bothersome if used by someone without your permission. Note that these sites can also spoof names, so having someone's phone number is not a requirement.

There are contests run all across the country, all of the time. Often the prize giveaways can be very enticing. Most of these contests require a phone number with the application process. Sometimes filling out an application like this can have unwanted consequences, such as sales calls, unwanted mail, etc (Before, submitting an application like this it is very important to read the terms.). Should someone use your information to apply for such a contest, it can be confusing and an annoyance to you.

While these are unlikely to ever impact you, out of precaution, you may want to limit your cell phone number to just trusted sources, friends, and family. Asking them not to give it out freely is also a good idea. Make sure that you are not openly listing it on social networking sites either. Here is why.

If you are still looking for more added security, you may want to try setting up a free Google Voice account. By doing so, it possible to help protect against unwanted calls by segmenting which number you give out to whom. You can also blacklist unwanted numbers. This eliminated the possibility of having to change a phone number due to harassment or other privacy issues.

Someone finding my number -

Currently, none of the major cellular service providers offer a subscriber directory. If this person in fact found your information online, it would have been using a private site.

Information data brokers often aggregate consumer data from online forms, property records, even public posts made online (such as those made on social networks). This information is aggregated and frequently sold to companies that provide Internet white pages, online detective and background check services. These services may make the information available for a fee or sometimes for free by supporting the site with ads.

Now, due to privacy concerns, some of these sites implement filters to limit certain types of information from being displayed (such as cell phone numbers and email addresses). Others may be more liberal with the information they display. So, as to your question about how they found your information when you could not, it likely has to do with the two of you using different sites to search for your information.

For more on searching for cell phone numbers by name, see our article on cell phone number lookups.

About long phone numbers -

These numbers, like short codes, were developed for the telecommunications industry to provided a dedicated, unique number for SMS messages. Occasionally, these are also used for "outbound" phone calls (like what you experienced).

The codes were added to preserve ten digit phone numbers but also provide companies an easier way to sell services via mobile messaging. If you have ever seen one of those "text this word to #55555" commercials, this is good example of how companies often use them.

Now, there are a few differences between the two (besides the length). According to, they are less expensive and quicker to obtain than short codes. From our understanding, long ones are also supposed to be unique to a business where short ones can potentially be used by more than one company.

Hopefully, this helps explain why a number may be more or less than ten digits.

Providing a number to an employer -

An employer will always request some kind of contact information when taking applications, since they may have no other way to get a hold of the chosen new employee. It can be any form, although giving an email address only could affect the outcome of your application. A phone number is often the primary way employers contact prospective employees. Though in recent years many individuals have made their cell phone numbers their primary avenue of communication, requesting it specifically is not the norm.

Anytime you are applying for a job be sure to perform a background check on the company and their origins. There are many job scams out there to date which function to gather personal information, collect "start-up capital" for a work-from-home setting, or to steal an identity completely.

You will need to provide some kind of contact information after the company checks out, but if you do not wish to use a cell phone number, you should not have to provide it.

Can a service provider change my phone number without my permission?

While a service provider has the ability to switch a phone number at any time, I have not heard of this being done before to a customer in good standing.

When you enter into a contract with a service provider they provide you with a phone number and phone service. In turn, you provide them with payment for this service. While the phone number is owned by the service provider and not you, the number is often specified in the contract and it would therefore be a breach of contract for the service provider to change it.

Call busy, call forwarding -

Call forwarding is a way for someone to specify a second phone number for a call to ring through on when you are away from your primary phone. If call forwarding was turned on, the person calling you would have been automatically routed to another number without them knowing. Many small businesses use this so that calls to an office phone number may ring through to a mobile number when someone is out on location.

If you did not intend to have call forwarding set on your phone, you can usually deactivate it by dialing *73. Some service providers may require additional steps so if that does not work you may need to check with them.

Can I block a number from calling?

If you only need to find the phone number in order to block it, you may not need to find the number after all, although it can make things easier. There are two different methods commonly used for blocking numbers.

The first method of blocking a number is by contacting the telephone service provider and requesting it be done. Most service providers have an option for blocking numbers, however, some charge for the service. When you contact your service provider you can either provide them with the number of the caller (assuming you know it) or you can ask them to search for the number by using the time which they called you. Note, not all service providers will offer this.

The second method of blocking a number is by using a program to block a number or unknown caller when they reach your phone. If a dialer is calling your cell phone and you have a smart phone there are a variety of programs available for blocking numbers, labeling callers and delivering automated responses to callers. Below are links to both the Android and IPhone app stores where you can search for these:

Finding a number after a call has taken place is often very difficult. Typically, law enforcement needs to be involved before this information can be obtained. If this person continues to call you may want to consider utilizing caller ID at least until you identify the caller or involving law enforcement.

I keep getting calls from a number that the name and number are both blocked, on my online bill it just displays blocked and all 0′s for the number,how do i find out who is calling me or the number that is calling me?

The 0's you are seeing on your online bill are simply how your service provider is choosing to deal with blocked phone numbers.

It can be extremely difficult to identify the incoming caller of a blocked phone number, especially for non-law enforcement. This can be frustrating for someone like yourself who is receiving these calls. On the other hand, blocking ones number before making an outgoing call is a fairly simple process, dialing *67 before the phone number will usually accomplish it.

Now, if you are determined to find out more information about the caller, you may want to take a look at our previous post (here). That said, if these calls are little more than a nuisance to you, the best strategy may be to have your service provider deny the blocked calls. Most phone providers now offer this service and while a few charge a small fee some make it available for free.

Is it possible to stop political calls?

If you haven't already, before we go any further, you need to register your number with the government's Do Not Call Registry . The National Do Not Call Registry will stop most telemarketing calls that are generated with a tool called an auto-dialer.

With that said, it won't help you put an end to political calls. When law makers passed the current Do Not Call Registry laws they granted a few exemptions, most notably political campaigns and non-profits are exempt from following the registry.

This exemption has not been without controversy. In fact one organization, the Citizens for Civil Discourse, even built a website with the intent to build voluntary do not call lists which are forwarded to political parties in an effort to influence their calling practices.

While it is unknown what effect this will have on political dialers it is one measure that you can use to try and prevent some of these calls. If you would like to register your phone number, you need to visit

How do I find information with a missing digit?

If you're not sure which number/digit is missing (ie first number, last number, etc) you may be out of luck. There is no system/tool that allows you to input nine digits and get back all the valid phone number combinations. Even if you found a company or website that could do this, the list of possible phone numbers would be very long.

If the missing digit is at the end of the number not the beginning, there are only 10 possibilities some of them may not even be real numbers. I suppose you could always try them each and see if you find the person you are looking for that way.

Now, if you suspect the missing number is in either the first three (area code) or the second three (exchange code) and you have an idea where the call is coming from, you might be able to use our tool here to try and reverse engineer the phone number. It may take a bit of work, but it is possible it could help.

Law enforcement phone traces and "pinging" -

In order to perform a trace of a telephone call, the police need to request the compliance of the telephone companies or wireless service provider. Unlike how they deal with the general public, these entities will allow the authorities to search their logs. The computers at the company keep a database of routing information of all calls for a certain period of time (hence the reason you can perform a "dial back" or "redial" by dialing *57 or *69). Landline calls still pass through a "switchboard", so the originating location is always known to the company.

When a trace needs to be done for a number without knowledge from either party, the phone company will be asked by the police to feed the number into the computer. Then the machine will then forward information on those numbers to the authorities.

With a cell phone trace, the inquiring agency will request the wireless service provider access three towers/ antennas to go one step further and triangulate the actual current position of the mobile device.

The public is not allowed unrestricted open access to these logs, data, or records because of privacy laws and public safety.

Cell phones emit signals to cell phone towers even when you're not talking or otherwise using them. If a cell phone has power you can assume it is sending signals to the nearest towers. Doing this allows the phone to indicate the service quality to the user (ie the number of bars displayed on most phones), but it also offers the ability to "ping" the phone.

A ping uses these signals to help determine the location of a cell phone. Originally, this was done by calculating the distance the phone is from various towers and triangulating the position, but nowadays pretty much every cell phones has a GPS location system built in, so pinging them produces a much more precise location.

Law enforcement and 911 operators use pinging frequently to determine the location of someone during an emergency. As for a way to ping a cell phone without using an operator or law enforcement, this can be done but only when the cell phone is part of your own wireless service contract (ie your cell phone or a dependents phone). Some wireless providers, make such a service available for free and easily accessible online, others may charge and may not be available online. You will need to contact your wireless provider for instructions on how they provide this.

For more on this and how tracing cell phones can be used to find missing people, click here.

About recycling numbers -

Yes, a phone number can be reused. Phone numbers are issued to networks who provide service to customers. Customers never really "own" the phone numbers they use, it is better to think of it as a lease arrangement. When the lease is up, (ie customer no longer pays for the service) the network is free to move the number to another subscriber. The only exception to this is if the customer ported the number to a new network prior to canceling service at the old provider.

The sim card is simply a piece of hardware connecting your phone to the network. It does not carry any allegiance to a particular number. Rather, the network dictates which phone numbers connect to which sim cards.

Wireless providers frequently recycle phone numbers of canceled subscribers. Since there are only so many number combinations available to them, this is done to ensure enough numbers for new service contracts. This can sometimes make it difficult for reverse phone lookup companies (more here) to keep their records up-to-date. This may provide an opportunity for you if the previous owner only recently gave up their phone number.

If these companies are unable to identify the previous owner's information and you feel the calls you are receiving are critically important to them, you may be able to explain the situation to your wireless provider and ask them reach out to the previous owner with your message (for privacy reasons it is very unlikely that they will make this person's contact information available to you). This assumes that the provider still has some relevant contact information for this person which, depending on how much time has passed, may or may not be the case.

How to find a current phone number from an old number?

While this may not be easy, it may not be impossible either. Online telephone directories have trouble keeping track of old phone numbers and addresses and as far as I know, records aggregators don't offer historic phone or address searches. That said your best bet may be to use a current address in order to find the cell number you're looking for. This type of search is more commonly offered and available at a number of different websites, it is typically referred to as a "reverse address search".

You can always try running a "reverse phone lookup" in an attempt to find the owner's name and address, then a second search using either the name and location or the address. It's possible that the second search may offer you some additional information such as the owner's new number.

As simple as it may sound to make all this information available under a single search it is not always that easy for directories to do. However, this little trick may be helpful in uncovering more information than you might otherwise.

Since wireless service providers do not provide a directory of their own, data brokers and telephone directories must rely on other sources to identify wireless numbers. Sources such as property records, on and off-line contests, there are even ways in which they can collect information from public social media profiles.

If a phone number is new and the user has not yet used it in one of the ways which data aggregators collect information there is very little chance that you will be able to find the person's phone number. Basically, the older a number is the greater the chance that you will be able to find information on it.

As to your second question on what websites to use, since the editors behind this site have a direct relationship with one of the popular telephone directories, we try to make it a point not to recommend any particular website or service. With that said, if you were to go to you favorite search engine and type in either "reverse address search", "reverse address lookup" or "reverse addresses" I am sure you will find a website offering such a service.

How successful this is depends on a couple of things. First, if the old phone number is being used by someone new. If it is used by someone new the reverse lookup site may have already updated their data. Second, how new the new number is. The newer the phone number, the more difficult it may be to find information, at least until the service you are using updates their database.

Did you switch wireless carriers and is that how you ended up with a new number? If so, you would have needed to port your old phone number from your prior carrier to your new one at the time which you switched. If not, and you are still with your old carrier you may be able to reclaim your previous number, if in fact someone else has not be issued it.

Typically, phone numbers are issued to carriers in block assignments. This is what allows someone to lookup the carrier of a phone number by knowing the first 3 or 4 digits following an area code. While this is becoming less reliable than it used to be (thanks to consumers moving their numbers between carriers) phone numbers are still typically issued in block allotments. What this means for you is, the phone number is most likely with the carrier you had when you were last using it. If you're still with them, I would talk to them about getting your old number back. Good luck.

For more information on keeping a phone number, try taking a look at our article on number portability here.