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Do those reverse phone number look-up websites actually work?
March 5, 2014 8:39 AM   Subscribe

Do those reverse phone number look-up websites actually work? I think I have a stalker on my hands.

Over the last week, I've been getting explicit text messages from a number unknown to me. After asking "who is this?" twice, with no answer, I have decided that this is a crazy person and will not respond to them. They have used my name in the texts, so I know it's not a wrong number. I plan on blocking them, but I would still like to know who it is. It's a local area code, so that isn't very helpful in identifying them.

I've done the thing where I have a friend call to see if they answer or have a voicemail message--but they don't answer and their voicemail is automated. I've also googled the number to no avail. I'm wondering if any of those reverse look-up websites where you have to pay actually work--I'm willing to throw a one-time fee at this to get an answer.

I'm not worried about my safety so much, and I live in NYC so calling the cops would be useless, but really I just want to know in order to be aware of a person I should avoid.

Any ideas on how to identify this person using their phone number?
posted by greta simone to Grab Bag (20 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Yes, they actually do work.
But, no, they don't really work since most (all?) of them require payment before they show you any usable information.

Ages ago, I stumbled across a reverse-lookup site that was free and actually gave you the results...name, address, etc. Sadly, when I went back to it, it had become paywalled like the rest.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:47 AM on March 5 [2 favorites]


You don't need their phone number to identify them. If they know your name, you already know them. I say this not to be glib but to encourage you to honestly consider who is probably doing this. That person who has no reason to do it but you suspect anyway? That's who it is. Pay attention to your gut instincts, and keep a closer eye on your phone number.

Don't reply to the text messages or keep calling the number. They will stop eventually.
posted by tooloudinhere at 8:49 AM on March 5 [2 favorites]


Yes, pay the fee and it works.

I don't understand the other comments above mine or how they help you.

Once you find out who it is, take a screenshot of the info, just in case one day you do want to go to the police or file for an order of protection or whatever.

Go ahead and block once you have the info.

In your shoes, I would want to know, too. Likely, it is a total stranger, or worse, a pay as you go phone with no name attached to the account. If it is the latter possibility, you should file a police report just to start a paper trail.

You should still block the number.

Best of luck.
posted by jbenben at 8:55 AM on March 5 [2 favorites]


There are spoofing sites, if your person is using one, that actual number won't help.

Notify the Annoyance Call Bureau with your cell carrier and tell them what's happening, you should also file a police report (you can probably do this over the phone, call the non-emergency number of your local police.)

It's a bit of a hassle, but if it turns into something bigger (and I hope it doesn't) you've started the ball rolling.

Don't pay for this service, turn it over to the authorities.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:58 AM on March 5 [3 favorites]


I honestly don't know who it is. I've been thinking of who it could be and there is not a soul that I even suspect. I have casually dated a lot of people over the past few years (and slept with a few--I only mention this because the texts are sexual in nature), all of whom didn't go past a few dates, so I erased their numbers. My guess is that it's one of those people? But I couldn't begin to figure out which.

I told them to stop contacting me and that this is harassment. Hopefully that will scare them away.

Are any of the look-up websites better than any other?
posted by greta simone at 9:01 AM on March 5


Perhaps a long shot, but have you tried searching your email for that phone number? Just in case this is someone you know, who once emailed "call me at this number."
posted by jessicapierce at 9:04 AM on March 5 [7 favorites]


Are any of the look-up websites better than any other?

I'm going to re-iterate, call the Annoyance Call Bureau with your cell carrier, they'll have access to that info and it won't cost you anything.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:06 AM on March 5 [2 favorites]


Waaay back before the Web, public libraries often had reverse phone books. I wonder if they still do, or rather if they pay for the on-line directories.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:07 AM on March 5


all of whom didn't go past a few dates, so I erased their numbers.

For future reference, I never delete any numbers. Always best to have it, even if you put a 'Z' in front of it so it drops to the end of the list. Space is free, right?
posted by Brockles at 9:07 AM on March 5 [4 favorites]


there is also the possibility it could just be a top up card phone in which case no reverse number bank will do any good
posted by edgeways at 9:09 AM on March 5


I've used one of those sites. I did pay - I think it was $3.95, and it gave me an accurate name. I can't say that will always be the case, of course!
posted by peep at 9:10 AM on March 5


You can also search a phone number on facebook (just type it into the search bar, no spaces or dashes). If this creep is a facebook friend of yours and they have their number listed in their profile, that will find them.
posted by phunniemee at 9:11 AM on March 5 [1 favorite]


Your question about "do these reverse number lookup sites work" has been answered, so I offer the additional data - from personal experience - that NYC police do in fact take harrassing phone calls very seriously if things escalate to him making actual threats. (what's more, they respond real fast, and if you're lucky they assign you a detective that reminds you of Elliot Stabler on Law and Order and that's awesome.)

So if he does escalate to that point, then do by all means call the police.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:12 AM on March 5 [4 favorites]


I have searched email/facebook/harddrive/dating website messages, even had friends search their contacts in case it is someone we have in common. Nothing yet.

The Annoyance Call Bureau with AT&T will not let me identify the caller; they will only assist in helping me to block the number (which I can do myself).

In the past I have kept most numbers, but I erased some just because I kept accidentally calling the Matt I dated instead of the Matt I work with, for example. But in the future I will do that 'Z' thing that Brockles mentioned.

Ok, I did a reverse number look-up, and this number is 'Spoofed'. It is my understanding that this means they are using some program so that a fake number shows up in my caller ID.

Awesome.

Any other ideas?
posted by greta simone at 9:44 AM on March 5


And the police won't take a report over the phone so I have to wait until I'm home to have an officer come over. The texts are not threatening, but are harassing. Will they even take a report?
posted by greta simone at 9:55 AM on March 5


They may; in my experience they took my case pretty seriously. Although, my case was much more clear-cut (the caller proved he knew my exact address and made very definitive and violent threats), but they definitely didn't try to blow it off or imply that I was overreacting or anything.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:00 AM on March 5


And the police won't take a report over the phone so I have to wait until I'm home to have an officer come over. The texts are not threatening, but are harassing. Will they even take a report?

Yes they will.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:01 AM on March 5 [1 favorite]


Will they even take a report?

Not only will they take a report, but they will help you start collecting data. Every jurisdiction has a police trace number (in most places it is *59), which you dial immediately after receiving the text or phone number, and it is logged in police records.

If after a few weeks, the police see that you have logged a bunch of calls, they will check into it.

I went through this several years ago, and by using *59 and with police help, we got the person doing it.
posted by Flood at 10:57 AM on March 5 [3 favorites]


The texts are not threatening, but are harassing. Will they even take a report?

Yes, and it's good to go ahead and make a report now to document things in case there's any escalation.
posted by yohko at 12:15 PM on March 5


Document, document, document. Do not delete anything. Take note if the texts arrive at a certain time or on certain days. Keep anything slightly odd that you may find in your email folders. Screencap anything vaguely unusual happening on social media. Document, document.

I had something similar happen to me ten years ago. I had problems getting the police to take it seriously, but I think they are much more clued up nowadays.
posted by kariebookish at 3:01 PM on March 5


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