HOWTO: Reverse Directory Lookups

Category: Search-Engines

How can you find a person or business if all you know about them is a phone number, street address, or email address? What if all you have is a photo? This type of search is called a reverse directory search. Learn about the free and fee-based reverse search tools you can find online...

How to Do Reverse Directory Lookups

Normally, you know a name and you want contact information, but in some cases you have contact information and need a name. Maybe you found a scrap of paper with a phone number on it, and can't remember who it was for. Or you may have someone's street address or email, but no name to connect to that info. In some cases a reverse lookup is easy and free, but sometimes it will cost you money.

I always like to start with free, so try a search engine search first. A Web page containing a phone number, email address, or street address may bear the owner's name as well. Put the search string in quotes to avoid results with parts of the string scattered all over the page, i.e., "720-555-1111" or "123 Main St Anytown NJ" with the quotes. If you don't get any useful results, try it without the quotes.

Enter an email address in Facebook's directory search page. With about a billion million members, you have a good chance of getting lucky. You don't even have to be a Facebook member to search.

Reverse Directory Search

The White Pages Reverse Phone directory will give you the name of the person associated with a landline phone. Cell phone lookups are difficult, because the mobile phone providers do not make this information public. If you have a street address, try the White Pages Reverse Address Lookup. It can tell you the names of people or businesses associated with an address. Here's a cool featureā€¦ enter just the street name (omitting the street number) and WhitePages will tell you everyone who lives on that street! Note that the White Pages site also has numerous tabs and links for other types of searches. But most of those require a fee or subscription to a third-party reverse directory search company.

If you already know the name or the person or business you're researching, see my article Free People Search Tools for more tools to help you find them.

MelissaData is a company that specializes in address verification software and services. Although their primary market is direct mailers who use the U.S. Postal service, you can use their Address Verify Lookup page to learn some interesting tidbits about a given address. Plug in a street address, and it will tell you whether it's residential or business, the associated telephone area code, time zone, congressional district, and school district. If you're a paid subscriber, you can also get the property owner's name, the assessed value, square footage, and data concerning the mortgage and real estate taxes.

Google Reverse Image Search and Tineye use search-engine and image recognition technologies to locate online images similar to the one you provide. Both can (sometimes) find web pages that bear the image of a person you are seeking. It's an imperfect technology, but the service is free.

Are Paid Reverse Search Tools Reliable?

Reverse cell phone number searches are offered by many sites. I have not found one that is truly free. Typically, a site will search for a phone number and tell you if it found a matching name. Then you're asked to pay $5 to $25 to get the name. See my related article Reverse Mobile Phone Number Lookup for more info on mobile phone lookups. Reverse email searches work much like reverse phone number searches. But again, always try Googling the number or address first.

Is it worth paying the fee? That's a gamble. I looked up a street address at which I have not lived for over 20 years at - and yet there I was, it said. runs this disclaimer at the bottom of its subscription page: "Available information varies by email address. Access to Email Finder does not guarantee you will find all details about an address." In short, you may very well pay for outdated, worthless information. Read all of the fine print to see if there is a money-back guarantee should your search prove unfruitful.

You may have to give up your own personal information, too. Some reverse directory search sites require you to register your name, address, phone number, and/or email address to get the information you want about another party. This is one way such directories strive to expand and keep their records up to date. Of course, you don't have to give accurate information; but neither does the person you're seeking!

Do you know about other reverse search tools? Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "HOWTO: Reverse Directory Lookups"

Posted by:

16 Jun 2014

I've had success with It's like the old days when dialing 411(remember those days?)would connect you with a live operator who could provide names, addresses or phone numbers - provided they were not unlisted. is free but if the phone number you seek for instance, is unlisted, there are third party advertisers on the page who claim to have the info for a fee, with the disclaimer you mentioned about outdated information.

Posted by:

will asay
16 Jun 2014

I've used Argali Yellow & White for over a decade, you can use it free for the first ten lookups in one month; past that you are asked to subscribe--or wait until the next month. i don't know how I got along without it.

Posted by:

16 Jun 2014

I've used with success several times to find info for landline numbers.

Posted by:

16 Jun 2014

There are two apps for android (and maybe i.O.S), the first is Number Book, and the other is True caller, and yes, they are free.
In most cases the results were acurate.
But beware, they copy your address book and use it in their database.

Posted by:

16 Jun 2014

MelissaData is more accurate than the US post office data base for the address I looked up. I'm impressed as most data bases seem to treat USPS data as 100% accurate.

Posted by:

17 Jun 2014

Thanks Bob ... Not does this article, give me info, for looking up "odd" phone numbers, that most of us accumulate, given enough time ... But, it very may well do me some real good, for Rent Negotiation Time.

Knowing what the mortgage payments are, as well as the taxes, I think, will make for possible good agreement. Listen, I do understand that rent needs to be more, than any mortgage payments or taxes ... But, there is always the risk of being "over charged", just because. What we pay right now, is reasonable ... Notice, I didn't say a bargain, just reasonable. With us, being on a fixed income, the rent needs to stay pretty much the same. In all honesty, anyone who rents, need to have the monthly rent payments to stay the same or only go up a couple of bucks and I do mean, a couple of bucks.

Posted by:

20 Jun 2014

The best phone nr. search engine, straight and reverse is probably "Argali White and Yellow" - . It is free for up to 10 searches per month, or have ti register and pay for it if you need more than that. Have been using the free ver. for years, 10/month is actually more than enough for a modest home user.

Posted by:

24 Jun 2014

For cell phone info I have used spy dialer ( with mixed results. It calls the number you put in but it doesn't let the cell phone owner know you call. It then records their voice mail message and plays it back for you. If the person just leaves the generic VM on the phone then it doesn't do you any good, but if they have a message like "Hi this is Jack Black and I can't take your call right now..... " Then you know who called you...but it's free so it's worth trying it.

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Article information: AskBobRankin -- HOWTO: Reverse Directory Lookups (Posted: 16 Jun 2014)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved