How Do You Find Out an Unknown Caller’s Number?
Even though the vast majority of Americans don’t answer calls unless they know who’s calling, scams from unknown callers are a growing problem. According to the latest statistics [*]:
Americans dealt with a staggering 50.3 billion spam calls in 2022 alone.
If you can uncover a caller’s identity, it’s much easier to establish whether the call is legitimate. You can use third-party apps, call trace services, and options from your phone service provider to track and screen anonymous calls — and block numbers.
In this guide, we’ll explain how to find out who is actually calling you when you’re contacted by an unknown caller, and what you can do to stop threats from unknown callers.
Are Unknown Calls Always Scams? Should You Answer Them?
While 87% of Americans refuse to answer calls from an unknown caller ID [*], scammers know that a small percentage of people could be fooled into answering calls from unknown numbers.
The problem is that not all unknown calls are scams.
Certain professionals, like doctors and lawyers, may withhold their numbers for privacy or security reasons — making you more likely to answer an “unknown caller” in fear of missing an important message.
Here are six ways that scammers block their caller IDs and hide their true identities:
- Spoofing is when scammers use Voice over the Internet Protocol (VoIP) to hide or disguise their Caller IDs. Some fraudsters spoof numbers from trusted organizations, like the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). You might even get a call from your own number. A New York woman lost $900 after a caller spoofed the energy company PSE&G [*].
- Caller ID blocking is a legitimate way to hide your number when making an outgoing phone call. You can keep your number private by dialing *67 before the number. Unfortunately, con artists exploit this method to make scam calls.
- Third-party apps and tools allow scammers to manipulate calls by hiding phone numbers or displaying different ones. These apps also offer additional features like call recording, voice-changing capabilities, and call scheduling.
- The “Hide My Number” feature is available on both iPhone and Android devices (like Samsung and Google phones). When activated, the caller ID displays "Unknown Caller" or "Private Number" instead of a phone number.
- Virtual Numbers allow scammers to use virtual phone numbers or temporary phone numbers. Fraudsters can easily buy virtual numbers through third-party services.
- Request Carrier Services that offer caller ID blocking as part of their service plans. The carrier's customer support may be able to prevent the phone number from appearing on outgoing calls.
No matter how a caller’s number has been hidden, your best approach is to avoid answering and let the call go to voicemail instead. Legitimate callers will likely leave a message anyway.
But because there’s a chance the call could be an important one from someone you want to talk to, you should try to find out the identity of an unknown caller (even if they don’t leave a message).
How To Trace a No Caller ID Phone Call
- Verify the caller's identity using an AI-powered tool
- Dial *69 after an unknown caller
- Dial *57 after a malicious call (Call Trace)
- Call your phone service provider
- Try an alternate third-party app or service
Spam calls — especially “no caller ID numbers” — have quickly become the most common consumer complaint to the FCC [*]. In response to the growing problem of unknown callers harassing Americans, networks and third-party providers have created digital security services for consumers.
Here are five ways to try and establish the identity of a caller:
1. Verify the caller’s identity using an AI-powered tool
Many scammers mask their caller IDs with advanced technology or sophisticated scams. New tech, including artificial intelligence (AI) tools, can help with unmasking an unknown caller’s information — even before you answer the call.
How Aura’s AI-powered Call Assistant protects you:
- Automatically blocks known spam and scam callers. Aura’s AI-powered Call Assistant automatically detects spam callers and automatically adds them to a blacklist — ensuring they won’t harass you.
- Screens unknown callers on your behalf. For no caller ID calls or spoofed or unknown callers, Aura will answer on your behalf to find out who’s calling before forwarding the call to you.
- Filters out spam text messages and dangerous links. Aura also scans all incoming text messages for spam or scam content and dangerous links. Any suspicious messages will be automatically redirected to your mobile phone’s junk folder.
2. Dial *69 after an unknown caller
After you receive a call from an unknown number, this feature allows you to find out the caller’s ID. If callers haven’t intentionally blocked their information, you will be shown their numbers.
Here’s how to uncover the identity of an unknown number:
- Dial *69 after ending your last call. You can decline the call if you haven't answered yet; or simply hang up the phone to end the call. Next, dial *69 and press the call button.
- Listen for the call information. You should hear a recording with details about the previous call — including the phone number, and the time and date of the call.
- Keep a record of the call details. Make a note of the phone number and any other important information, such as what the caller said on the phone (if you answered). If someone using the same number calls again, you can add these details to your report for the police.
3. Dial *57 after a malicious call (Call Trace)
Telephone companies provide a call tracing service to help individuals and authorities track callers. You can use the information from these services to report suspicious unknown callers to authorities.
How to uncover the identity of a malicious or threatening caller:
- End the call. It’s never good to keep talking to spammers, as you might expose sensitive information. Hang up or decline the suspicious call immediately.
- Dial *57. On your phone's keypad, dial *57 and then press the call button to activate the Call Trace service.
- Note the call details. Write down the date and time of the call and any important information about the conversation that you had with the caller.
💡 Related: How To Track Down a Scammer (and What To Do Next) →
4. Call your phone service provider
Phone carriers may be able to help if you get a lot of spam calls. They can provide information about recent calls or offer additional services to help identify and block unwanted callers.
Here’s what to do:
- Gather essential details. Before getting in touch with your service provider, make a brief report of the issue. Ideally, you should be able to supply details about the dates and times of the unwanted calls, plus any other relevant information.
- Ask if the provider can identify the caller. When you talk to your phone carrier, find out if they can help you trace and determine who was calling you. Any information from your service provider may be useful if you choose to make a police report.
- Inquire about additional security features. Check if your service provider offers features, like call tracing or call rejection, to prevent further calls from scammers.
5. Try an alternate third-party app or service
Americans lost an estimated $39.5 billion to phone scams in 2022 [*]. You can use a third-party service like Aura, TrueCaller, or TrapCall to access more advanced call tracing and blocking tools than your phone company offers.
Here’s what to do:
- Research third-party apps that combat scam callers. Look for caller identification and tracking capabilities, such as call logging and reverse phone lookup.
- Read customer reviews. Before downloading or buying any new app, it's wise to check online reviews from other customers. You can read the App Store or Google Play store reviews to see if an app is considered trustworthy, and whether it can do what you need.
- Consider the pricing and customer service. Many apps can help you detect and reduce spam calls — but if you fall victim to fraud, the customer support team may be unable to help. It's essential to weigh the subscription costs of these apps in order to determine if they’re worthwhile.
Are Phone Number Lookup Services Legitimate?
A reverse phone lookup service allows you to find out the name of the person who owns a specific phone number. These services have access to public global databases for cell phones, landline numbers, and Voice over IP numbers (VoIP) — which are not typically listed.
Phone lookup services are legal, as there are no laws against finding out who owns a phone number — especially if they called you first. However, it’s important not to do anything illegal with the information.
We don't recommend using reverse phone lookup services because many of them collect (and sell) your personal data. If this happens, your personal information — including your cell phone number — could be available to scammers who browse data broker sites.
Also, reverse lookup services offer no guarantees that they can actually find the phone numbers of unknown callers. So, you might spend money to no avail and expose your personal information to unscrupulous data brokers.
💡 Resource: How To Remove Yourself From Data Broker Sites →
Tired of Unknown Numbers Calling? How To Block Them
You can block unknown numbers easily on Apple and Android devices. Both of these operating systems have built-in methods. Android has a Spam Protection feature, and Apple has a Silence Unknown Callers feature. For landlines, the government-backed National Do Not Call Registry can help you to avoid unwanted calls.
Here are five ways to block unknown callers:
1. Silence unknown callers on Android and iPhone
You can enable options to silence unknown callers and send them straight to voicemail. This feature works for unfamiliar calls on both Android and iOS devices. By forwarding calls to voicemail, you can reduce calls from spam, telemarketing, and unfamiliar numbers.
Silencing unknown callers can be beneficial, but it might cause you to miss legitimate calls. Sometimes, legitimate callers are simply masking their numbers for privacy reasons.
How to silence unknown callers on Apple devices:
On Apple iOS 13 and later, you can activate the Silence Unknown Callers feature to avoid receiving calls from numbers you don’t recognize. Here's what to do:
- Go to Settings and select Phone.
- Toggle the Silence Unknown Callers slider to On.
How to silence unknown callers on Android devices:
If you have an Android device, you can use the Caller ID & Spam Protection feature to prevent suspected spam calls and messages. Here's what to do:
- Open your Phone app, and tap on the three dots (More Options menu).
- Go to your Phone Settings, and then the Spam and Call Screen, and switch on See Caller & Spam ID.
- Now, turn on the option to Filter Spam Calls.
2. Use Aura’s AI-powered Call Assistant
Aura’s AI-powered Call Assistant scans incoming calls and text messages before you receive them. The assistant can identify a scammer for you, and check for suspicious links, language, or numbers known to be used by scammers. If Aura detects any signs of scam calls, it sends them to your voicemail.
Here’s how Aura’s AI-powered Call Assistant helps block spam calls and texts:
- Screens unknown callers. Aura will answer anonymous calls on your behalf to check for undesirable calls — such as contact from scammers, telemarketers, or robocalls.
- Blocks spam and scam calls. When Aura detects incoming scam content, it automatically stops the SMS or phone call. This feature makes it harder for con artists to get on the phone with you to attempt social engineering scams.
- Automatically filters out spam text messages. Aura uses AI to scan incoming messages for common spammy language, dangerous links, and malware signatures. It forwards any potentially dangerous message straight to your junk folder.
3. Block spam numbers
If you’re continually harassed by the same phone scammer, you should block their number. By taking preventive measures, you can deter fraudsters from making repeated attempts to contact you in the future.
How to block individual spam numbers on iPhones:
- Open the Phone app and find the caller you want to block in your call log (or list of missed calls). You can do this via your Contacts list, Favorites, Recent calls list, or Voicemail.
- Tap on the More Info button next to the phone number or contact that you wish to block.
- Scroll down, and then tap on Block this Caller.
How to block individual spam numbers on Android:
- Open the Phone app.
- Press and hold the number you want to block.
- Tap on Block.
Unfortunately, blocking individual numbers may not be enough. Scammers can change or mask their numbers to continue targeting you. If spam calls continue to be a problem, you must take further action — such as the steps below.
4. Try your phone provider’s spam-blocking applications
Your cell phone company may offer security features to help you block calls or flag suspicious phone numbers. For instance, some phone companies now flag calls as ”scam likely.”
Here are three call-blocking options from popular providers:
- AT&T ActiveArmor® mobile security app. The ActiveArmor free plan can protect you by blocking fraud and nuisance calls. Upgrade to the paid plan, and you also get a virtual private network (VPN), reverse number lookup, and Public Wi-Fi Protection.
- Verizon Call Filter. If you’re with Verizon, Call Filter gives you control over spam calls. You can easily block and report spam numbers, although this feature only works for postpaid plans. Call Filter Plus is the premium plan, which also offers robocall control.
- T-Mobile Scam Shield. Postpaid T-Mobile and Metro customers can use Scam Shield to identify scam calls. Another great feature is the ability to use a proxy phone number for added privacy.
5. Add your phone number to the Do Not Call Registry
One simple yet effective method to reduce unwanted calls is to add your phone number to the National Do Not Call (DNC) Registry. This service is managed by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and allows you to opt out of receiving communications from telemarketers.
You can add your number in two ways:
- Visit donotcall.gov to register your phone number online.
- Call the toll-free number at 888-382-1222 from the number you wish to add to the list.
Did You Give Phone Scammers Sensitive Information? Do This!
Ideally, you’ll ignore any incoming call from a number you don’t recognize. Even if you end up on the phone with a stranger, you should be cautious not to share any personally identifiable information (PII).
But we all make mistakes. If you answer a spam call or call a scammer back and provide any information, you could be at risk of identity theft and financial fraud.
Here’s what to do if your personal information is compromised after a suspicious phone call:
Lock your credit and debit cards to prevent damage
Contact your bank or credit card issuers and ask them to lock your cards to prevent any unauthorized spending. For ultimate protection, cancel your cards and order replacements sent to a trusted address.
Freeze your credit with all three bureaus
Placing a freeze on your credit reports prevents scammers from taking out loans and opening new accounts in your name. To freeze your credit, contact each of the three credit bureaus individually by using the contact information below:
File an official report with the FTC
Record the details of the scam calls along with any suspected fraud. You can file a report at IdentityTheft.gov to help the FTC with their investigation. You’ll receive a recovery plan and support to help you dispute fraudulent charges with vendors. If you’re worried about your safety, you may also want to file a police report with local law enforcement.
Contact the fraud department at any impacted companies
If you’ve already fallen victim to credit card or debit card fraud, reach out to the fraud department of any affected companies. By reporting the crime and showing your FTC report as proof, the companies can revoke the charges and prevent further fraudulent transactions.
Update your passwords
If you've been scammed, you need to change all of your online account passwords — email, social media, banking, etc. Create complex, unique login credentials and store them in a secure password manager to reduce the chance of account breaches.
Enable two-factor authentication (2FA)
For added protection, use 2FA on all of your accounts. If imposters can’t get past the second level of security — like a one-time password (OTP) or biometric scan — they won’t be able to take over your accounts.
Scan your devices for malware and other viruses
Regular scans can help you combat hackers who try to steal your passwords and data. A trusted antivirus solution, like the one included with every Aura plan, will scan your devices for malicious programs — such as trojans, keyloggers, and spyware.
Consider signing up for an identity monitoring and protection provider
These services help keep track of suspicious activities involving your personal information — including your credit score, bank accounts, and Social Security number (SSN). They also provide alerts in cases of potential identity theft.
Aura can keep you safe from phone scams
Approximately 60% of all spam calls are scams, which equates to 30 billion fraudulent calls a year in the United States [*]. Fraudsters are getting more sophisticated and use advanced technology to hide their true identities as they trick more people.
Fortunately, you can take proactive steps to shield yourself and your family from the risks of phone scams. The best defense is Aura’s all-in-one digital security solution.
With Aura, you get award-winning identity theft protection, an AI-powered Call Assistant to block spam and scam calls, and digital security tools including powerful antivirus software, a military-grade VPN, password manager, and more.