How To Find Someone’s Phone Number Online

Younger readers won’t remember this, but there was a time when finding someone’s phone number was extremely easy. There was only one phone company, and nobody had cell phones – just landlines. Every year, the phone company would print a huge book of all the numbers in an area – in a big city like New York, it would be one book for every part of the city – and every person and business was listed in the book. Every household and business got a free copy of the book, delivered to their door. You could opt out from being listed and a few people did, but for the most part everybody was in the book.

As we all know, the world has changed a lot since then. There are still phone books, but they’re just for business numbers, and most people just throw them away; Google is easier to use, right there on our phones, and updates every second of every day, not just once a year. The downside of this, however, is that finding someone’s phone number has become significantly more difficult. We tend to give our numbers out sparingly, because anyone who has our number can call us anytime (and often does). But there are many times when we have a real need to get a stranger’s number (or even a friend whose number we have lost) and with no central list of numbers, this can be tricky.

It’s not impossible, however. In this article I will show you several good techniques for finding someone’s phone number online.

Find a phone number online

The approach you take to finding someone’s number is going to depend on the relationship you have with that person. The closer and/or friendlier the relationship is, the easier it’s going to be to get the number. If you’re looking for a number for your best friend since elementary school, your search is trivial: contact literally anyone in your mutual circle of friends and family and say “hey I lost Bill’s cell number, what is it?” and they’ll hand it right over. If you’re a bounty hunter looking for a number for the number of the guy you’re trying to track down and hand over to the authorities, you may find people slightly less cooperative.

Internet search engine

Start with Google or Bing. Search engines forget nothing, and there are a lot of phone numbers just sitting out there in the indexes. Try variations on a person’s name; “Bob Jones” may go by Bob in day to day life but use “Robert” online, or vice versa. Another tip: try searching for their old phone number if you have it. If you know their employer, you can probably find a work number from which you can get a personal number if this is a friendly search. Basically, try searching for anything that links to that person.

Reverse image lookup

If you have a picture of the person whose number you’re looking for, you can use a reverse image lookup to identify them and perhaps provide current contact details.  Go to Google Image Search, upload the image and add ‘&imgtype=face’ to the end of the search string. This is more useful if the person you’re looking for is or was active online. Links to the various places where that person can be found may follow.

People-finder websites

There are a number of websites that make their living by providing personal (but technically public) information about people online, usually for a fee. If you are looking for a lot of numbers, then a premium subscription to one of these services is well worth the investment, as they tend to do a pretty good job and typing in one name is a lot easier than doing an extensive search yourself. Some services offer low-cost one-off searches, while others are expensive from the get-go. Every service has its own strengths and weaknesses. Some of the most popular search sites include Instant Checkmate, Spokeo, PeopleFinders, and Intelius. Because you’re just looking for a phone number, not necessarily an entire background report, you may even be able to get that information for free from some of these sites in the “teaser” results they provide without charge.

Social media

Social media is a data harvester’s dream and the biggest data harvesters are of course the platforms themselves. Even if you have closed your account or don’t put much information on there, you would be surprised at how much is out there. Use the major networks, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, LinkedIn and WhatsApp. Snapchat may not yield much as it’s a newer network but is worth trying. Search for a user with their old phone number, name, address, city, username, old nickname or other pertinent detail you may know. You can use their old school, college, employer, army unit or whatever.

If that doesn’t yield results, do the same for their brother, sister, wife, husband, girlfriend or boyfriend. While the person you are looking for may not have a social media presence, their significant other or family member might. There is a decent chance that you can find a link to the person even if you cannot find the person themselves. You may be able to get the number from that link if you can identify them.

Emergency services

If you are looking for someone after a disaster, the Salvation Army and the Red Cross both do good work in reconnecting people with their family and friends. This won’t work if you aren’t legitimately connected to the person whose number you want to get. For the US branch of the Salvation Army, click here, while UK users can try here. The Red Cross family reconnection service is here.

Finding someone’s phone number isn’t easy these days, but with some work and common sense, it’s achievable. Do you have any tips on getting a number when you’ve lost one or never had it? Share them with us in the comments below!

(Related articles: how to find someone using a cell phone number, how to trace a phone number, how to block unwanted phone numbers, and how to use Google Voice as your number for outbound texting.)

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