You've seen them--the flashly online ads like "Free Reverse Cell Phone Look-Up!"--You click on a link and get the name of a carrier, a geographic location, sometimes whether it's a landline or cell displays...but if you want to know more, you must click on yet another link and pay $34.95 (or some other price)!
Not only could the free information be incorrect, you might be spending your hard-earned money for what could be old, outdated, or incorrect data (online databases update their information randomly, and database operators, being human, may have input wrong data). Also, a number may have been ported to a different carrier.
This article offers tips on how to conduct your own reverse cell phone search and get the most up-to-date information possible.
Run the phone number in Google. In the browser, type the phone number in the format 123-456-7890 or 1234567890. Google's extensive search engine is a great place to start. The results will show online places the number displays, from craiglist ads to resumes to social networking sites.
Run the number in other specialized databases. Although it's hard to compete with Google's comprehensive search engine, doesn't hurt to follow up and check the number in other databases, such as:
www.boardtracker.com: A search engine for boards.
www.spokeo.com: A search engine for dozens of social networking sites.
www.searchallcraigs.com: A search across all craiglist sites.
Double-check if the number is really for a cell phone. Sometimes people assume a number is for a cell, when actually it's for a landline. There are dozens of sites that offer free checks for type of phone line--one is Phone Validator: http://www.phonevalidator.com/.
Still no leads? This is when most people pay an unknown online database service that promises background information on cell phone numbers. The results are automated, with no real person to answer questions or review the data for accuracy.
Better option? Hire a qualified private investigator. Forward him/her the information from your own research, and request a follow-up review of his/her results. To find an experienced, ethical investigator, contact your state's professional private investigator organization, ask for recommendations from friends, or contact several attorneys' offices and ask what investigator they recommend for phone searches.
Keep in mind that a cell phone number might have the area code for a particular region, but the person might be living elsewhere (for example, their number might start with a Colorado area code, but they're living in Delaware).