Search Backwards: Reverse Directory Lookups
Can you find the name of a 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. 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.
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. (Whitepages.com owns 411.com and Switchboard.com, 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 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 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. If you know of a tool to provide all the names and addresses on a street, please post in the comments.
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 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, 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 Spokeo.com - 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…
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 16 May 2022
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Search Backwards: Reverse Directory Lookups (Posted: 16 May 2022)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved