Need to get a person's cell phone number. It's probably an iPhone.
June 4, 2013 7:56 AM   Subscribe

First things first: I'm not a stalker and I won't do anything illegal. I've found the person who is almost certainly my birthmother. I need her cell phone number. I believe it's an iPhone. I also have an iPhone, for what it's worth. Please note: this question is not about whether it's a good idea to contact this person. Nor is it about whether I should contact her via an alternate method.

It's not on Facebook or LinkedIn. Free directory sites like give an old, now disconnected landline, even though she remains at the address associated with that number. She may, like me, have abandoned landlines in favor of using her cell exclusively.

I've paid to get basic info from sites like Intelius and Radaris. They have only the landline. Only her defunct landline appears in so-called celll phone directories I've found online. I know her credit reports and utility bills would contain her most recent phone number(s), but I have no legal way to get them, and I'm not asking for them. I don't know anyone who knows her phone number, or that has any in person way of getting it.

Are there library-held databases that could help? Little-known websites? iPhone apps? (I've found none.)
posted by ImproviseOrDie to Technology (20 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I've done this sort of thing before with long-lost acquaintances. You'll have better luck with good old fashioned detective work.

In my case, my research on my old friend's LinkedIn and Facebook pages turned up a number of volunteer organizations she had worked with. I called the one that was most recent, explained that I was an old friend looking to catch up and if they knew how I could get ahold of her.

They gave me her phone number, I called her and much joy was had.
posted by DWRoelands at 8:02 AM on June 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

Are there library-held databases that could help?

Speaking for the library databases that I know, the answer to this is no. Libraries were known for having criss-cross directories and reverse directories (get a person's # by knowing their neighbors or address) but they don't have this sort of information.
posted by jessamyn at 8:05 AM on June 4, 2013

Did the info sites possibly give you a valid email address? If so, since you're both on iPhones, could you possibly try calling via facetime?
posted by ndfine at 8:05 AM on June 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

How about Lexis Nexis? My husband is a reporter and uses it for work and it is amazing how many cell numbers he can get with it. It's not free and there is no guarantee that her number is there but it could be worth a shot. Not sure how a person gets access to it though since his is through work.
posted by polkadot at 8:10 AM on June 4, 2013

Are you (or someone you know) Facebook friends with her? If so you could post the old "I've lost my phone and all my contact info, PM or text me your number so I can put it in my new phone" type message and see if she bites.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:16 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you have her personal email you can send an imessage to her email (it will show up in her phone just like a normal imessage).
posted by amaire at 8:22 AM on June 4, 2013 [4 favorites]

If she works in a professional sort of job she might be in Jigsaw. That will get you her work number, which may also be her cell number depending on what her job is.
posted by COD at 8:38 AM on June 4, 2013

Have you tried poking around in Skype for persons with her name?
posted by Namlit at 8:55 AM on June 4, 2013

To expand on the point above that you can text the right email address and it will show up as a text via iMessage, if that's going to function properly the send button will turn from green to blue.

I'm also suspicious that if you have that working correctly and you just scroll to the top and press "call" it will call the phone number "paired" to their iMessage, but I haven't tested that. I just seriously remember seeing that work some time because I was thinking "wow that's kind of a privacy fail"...
posted by emptythought at 9:10 AM on June 4, 2013

Have you tried directory assistance (411) from your cell provider? It's a pay service, usually around $1.99/minute, but AT&T at least offers quite a bit of help for the money.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:11 AM on June 4, 2013

Cell numbers are excluded from directory assistance by statute. You can get them added even if you want to. So it won't be there.
posted by alms at 9:20 AM on June 4, 2013

I used to work at a foreclosure law firm, where my job was to skip trace borrowers who had defaulted on their mortgages. We used a website someone mentioned above, Lexis Nexis, and it will absolutely, for sure, give you that person's most recent number. Everyone working at the law firm had a license to use it. From what I understand it's not cheap, but if you want exactly what you're looking for Accurint (Lexis Nexis) has it.
posted by ThaBombShelterSmith at 9:21 AM on June 4, 2013

Mod note: Folks, this question is edgy enough, can we stick to ethical answers please? Thank you.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:37 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

You could send her a letter and ask for her phone number.
posted by thylacine at 10:41 AM on June 4, 2013 [6 favorites]

I use a browser add-on called Rapportive to test out combinations of name+initial+company and find an email address. Once you have a positive match for the email address, you can iMessage her if she does, indeed, have an iPhone. Message me if you'd like a link to a post on my blog that details how to do this.
posted by OLechat at 12:11 PM on June 4, 2013

I can't tell whether jessamyn's criss-cross directory suggestion actually would work here, since you do have the current address; however, it seems unlikely that it would have a cell number if the pay services you used only had the outdated landline.

And yes, I recall there being address/phone number seeking information on pay sites like Lexis or Westlaw when I used those services. You can probably call Lexis for example on their 800 number, explain you are looking for a phone number and that you can pay by credit card, and ask if one of their help desk people can run the search on the appropriate databases for you. It doesn't guarantee you won't get the same non-working landline but it could work. Good luck!
posted by onlyconnect at 12:39 PM on June 4, 2013

Response by poster: Update & some answers:

Lots of old-fashioned detective work such as DWRoelands mentions is already underway. She is 65. She has a Facebook presence (and I can access some of it), but there's not much there.

I do have neighbors' names, based on property record searches, but I'm looking for a cell number, which it appears these criss-cross dbs don't have.

Since I wrote this question, one search turned up 4 email addresses in her email history. Good data for me, but the goal is to call, not email. First contact in this situation usually works better via phone for Reasons. Email/Facebook/snail mail is truly a last resort.

411, Skype, Jigsaw: nothing.

I'd completely forgotten about Lexis, and a friend of a friend searched it for me. The phone number he turned up is the one that's disconnected.

I will probably pay a PI if I can't find a working phone number. If you have other ideas, I'm all ears. Thanks for your suggestions so far. Really, thank you. This is the search of my life.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 3:57 PM on June 4, 2013

This is a longshot, but: have you tried calling that disconnected landline? Sometimes, just sometimes, disconnected lines will have a message about "please call x number". Depending on how long it's been, you might get lucky.
posted by easily confused at 5:17 PM on June 4, 2013

Response by poster: This is very happily resolved, I'm pleased to say. I have spoken to my birthmother, and much joy was had!

I never did find her cell. Yes, I did call the defunct landline but the recorded message had no forwarding number. In my sleuthing I turned up an acrimonious divorce and some court cases that made me realize she might have a damn good reason to actively suppress her phone number. She didn't suppress it (merely switched to cell only), but that's what I began to think.

So I bit the bullet and sent her a message on Facebook instead. I thought she would take days or weeks to answer, if ever. It took her an hour and a half! And her answer was kind, loving, and full of all her contact info.

We spoke for over an hour last night. She's funny. She apologized for my being so short. We'll be meeting on Saturday. She told her other kids about me years ago. She thinks they'll be thrilled. She's thrilled. I'm thrilled.

Much joy was had, Metafilter!
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 2:05 AM on June 6, 2013 [23 favorites]

posted by easily confused at 1:10 PM on June 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

« Older Suggestions for podcast serials?   |   First World Problems: Academic edition Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.