Reverse Directory Lookups: Searching in Reverse

Category: Reference

Can you find the name of a certain person or business if all you know about them is a phone number or street address? What if all you have is an email address or a photo? This type of search is called a reverse directory lookup. There are other tools to help you search backwards, to find people, places, names, photos, songs and more. Learn about the free and fee-based reverse search tools you can find online...

How to Do Reverse Directory Lookups

Usually, you know someone’s name and you want their contact information, but in some cases it's just the opposite -- 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. Perhaps you missed a call from a number you don't recognize. 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., "201-555-1234" or "123 Main St Anytown CA" with the quotes. If you don't get any useful results, try it without the quotes.

If you’re searching for the name associated with an email address, you can enter an email address in Facebook's search box. With over a billion million members, you have a good chance of getting lucky. But this only works if the person you're looking for has their email address listed as public on their profile. ThatsThem’s Reverse Email Lookup is free and offers to find people using an email address. Feed it an email address, and it will return an associated name, phone number, and physical address. I tried it and found that sometimes it’s deadly accurate, and sometimes it’s dead wrong. You might find it useful, but I would recommend that you verify the results.

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. But more often than not lately, I’ve found that WhitePages will return a search result with a link to their paid Premium service. ( owns and, so don't bother going there if you've already tried Whitepages.)

Fast People Search is a service I have been using more often, use when other people search tools come up empty or ask for money. It can do lookups by name, phone, or street address. The site says it includes "landline, cell phone, business and residential phone numbers, as well as information for addresses and people all across the U.S." I've found it very useful, with the understanding that some of the information it returns may be incorrect or outdated.

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 Check 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 owner, telephone number, email address, 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.

MelissaData's address search will show you all the addresses on a street, but does not include the names. Homemetry also has the option to research a street address, and will give you names of other nearby property owners.

Cell phone lookups are difficult, because the mobile phone providers do not make this information public. But here's a sneaky method that sometimes works. To find the owner of a cell (or landline) phone, try Spy Dialer. It calls the number you enter, but it doesn't let the owner know you called. It then records their voice mail message and plays it back for you. If the person has an outgoing message like "Hi this is Joe Sixpack, I can't take your call right now..." then it's likely you've found the owner. Finding the location of a mobile number's owner is more difficult, due to number portability and other factors.

Google Reverse Image Search, Bing Visual Search, and Tineye use search-engine and image recognition technologies to locate online images similar to the one you provide. They 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.

Shazam is a reverse audio search that will identify a song, given a snippet. Shazam works best on mobile devices, and can be accessed via the Google app on Android phones. Just tap the microphone icon, then click "Search a song", and you can play, sing or even hum a tune to be identified.

Quite often, I'll recall one line of a song, but I can't remember the rest of it, or the name of the song. To find the song that's eluding your memory, do a search like this: lyrics like a watercolor in the rain. Oh yeah, it was "Year of the Cat," by Al Stewart!

Maxmind's GeoIP Lookup is useful if you have an IP address, and you want to get an idea of the geographical location of the user assigned that address. See my article Is Your Home Address Exposed Online? to find out if your IP address will reveal any details about your physical address.

My article Here's How to (Maybe) Trace an Email will help you trace the path that an email traveled to get to your inbox.

Are Paid Reverse Search Tools Reliable?

Reverse cell phone number searches are offered by many sites, but in my experience, they are either unreliable or require a lookup fee. 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. 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. BeenVerified is another site that offers to help you "Search People & Public Records." They promise to "cross-check billions of data points and dozens of data sources" but you have to endure screen after screen of fake progress bars and spinning circles, before they hit you with the news that in order to see your search report, it requires a membership costing $26.89/month. So you may very well pay for outdated, worthless information, or get suckered into a monthly subscription you didn’t want. Read all of the fine print to see if there is a money-back guarantee should your search prove unfruitful.

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 "Reverse Directory Lookups: Searching in Reverse"

Posted by:

27 Sep 2023 is another free resource for not only finding out who is calling, but there's also an option to listen to the voicemail message anonymously. In addition, you'll find out if it's a cell number, landline or VoIP and the location.

Posted by:

28 Sep 2023

So, this article is one big advertising. You know, none of these services are going to give you any information for free. You have to sign up, pay up, and hope you get something reasonable. Most of the time what you'll be doing is just paying them to take YOUR information. Oh, JP - there is nothing "free" about But thanks for advertising it.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Sorry, but you're just wrong. Please give an example of one of the services mentioned that does not offer a free lookup option.

Posted by:

03 Oct 2023

Responding to Mr. Editor.
Saying "free lookup" is just like saying "free download". Sure, you can click the button for free a thousand times, but you're not getting anything useful.

> reverse-address-lookup: Entered my full phone number, got names of two people in other states that have different area codes (… and that was at the risk that my phone number is now on another spam list. Thanks). Entered the local Walmart’s address and the got the some name of someone who's not likely to live inside the Walmart. Entered that name and got the address of someone in another state.

> White Pages Reverse Phone directory: Entered the Walmart’s phone number. Got links for getting name, address, etc. When I click on these links it wants money.

> Entered address of Walmart. Got information of a person at a property with 17 bathrooms (real useful). Clicked on button for full information on the person. This took me on a wild goose chase of asking me questions and long wait times with a progress bar to tell me it’s searching. Finally it came back with the age for that person and a location in some other state. Then I clicked on “open report” button and I got on another run-around …. you should get the idea.

> As for Mr JP's I gave it Walmart's phone and it came back and generically said "Walmart". Impressed. Then I asked for more information and after a pretend search delay it first asked me for my email, and then a pop-up asked for money.

> Your other links were pointless variations of the same waste of time.
The point is, I can do a Google search for “people search” or “phone search” and get hundreds of links to sites claiming to provide such search services. But I won’t ever write an article about that and tell other people to waste their time.

Anyway Mr Editor, thanks for your article and giving something to read when I get bored with Leave-It-To-Beaver re-runs.

Posted by:

03 Oct 2023

RE: I've never been asked to provide my email address or money, but then I only search for the name and occasionally the voicemail message. Good to know not to ask for more information.

Posted by:

04 Oct 2023

??? Fast People Search is ALWAYS free! Get back to your Leave it to Beaver re runs.....

Posted by:

Ed Morris
25 Oct 2023

Here are some really worthwhile additions to my list of search tools. is another one that has been helpful for me.

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