How Do I Trace Anonymous Cell Phone Text Messages?

By Jason Gillikin

It's 3 a.m. and your phone starts beeping---someone is sending you a text message. But who? You look at the phone and see "ANONYMOUS CALLER" on your screen. Five minutes later, another message arrives. Then another. What do you do? Tracing anonymous text messages can be a challenge, but anti-cyberstalking laws make it easier than ever to stop harassing texts.

Reverse Directory Searches

If you get a text message with a phone number that is unknown to you, try a reverse-directory search. There are dozens of websites that allow users to plug in a telephone number and get at least general info about a number, including the number's city of origin and cell provider. Because most cell phones are not listed in public directory information, it may be necessary to pay a small fee to a specialized search company to conduct the search using special databases, but select which search company you use carefully to avoid being ripped off.

Cell Providers

Sometimes text messages can be sent anonymously, either through a Web interface or by means of special anonymizing technology. Call your cell-phone provider if you get harassing texts. Your carrier can provide a report detailing the sources of your calls and texts, including mobile-to-mobile texts that might not display on your phone.

Law Enforcement

If someone is stalking you by text message, file a police report. Your local law-enforcement agency has the power to track down people who use anonymous Web portals to send threatening texts. Most states have anti-cyberstalking laws that make sending harassing text messages a crime, so calling your local police department is a good first step in stopping the abuse.

Short-Term Fixes

It may take police some time to track down your anonymous correspondent. Until then, because most cell providers cannot block individual texts, you may get some relief from having all text-message services shut off on your phone for a few days. Avoid the temptation to respond in anger (many anonymous texts can't be answered anyway), and wait for the machinery of law enforcement to work through your complaint.