How to Call Back a Private Number

Want to confront that masked caller? Here's how

Young woman using cellphone

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There is a nagging sense of mystery that comes with receiving a call from a private number. When you're on the receiving end of a private call, you may feel you have no way of knowing who the caller is without answering. This lack of information and control can be irritating, especially if you receive a series of calls from unknown or private callers.

Here's how to call back a private number.

How to Call a Private Number for Free with *69

Because of the FCC's mandate to allow private calling, telephone companies have created a service called Last Call Return that automatically calls back the last number that called your phone, regardless of whether the call is private or not.

The service is free, and to activate it, dial *69 before another call comes in. This code works for landlines, while cell phones usually require a #, rather than *. After dialing, if the person answers, you can ask who they are.

Screenshot of cell phone dialing #69

There are some drawbacks to this approach, and many depend on which phone service provider you use. For example, some providers will provide you with a computer-generated voice telling you the actual number, with the option to place a call. Other telephone providers simply call back the private number and don't provide you with the number.

However, *69 may not work with all cell phones, and some carriers limit the time window to activate *69 to 30 minutes after the call was received.

Using *69 could make your problem worse. Some of these blocked calls are actually automated callers trying to confirm your number is active so they can sell them to other scammers. Calling back lets the system know you have an active line. 

Your telephone service provider keeps a log of all incoming and outgoing calls, which you can access by logging into your account and entering your account password.

Screenshot of billing and usage of phone contract showing a call log of calls received
Your billing and usage page from your phone provider could give you access to the number of private callers.

Sometimes, even the numbers of private callers will be listed here, unmasked. To find the exact number, check the phone log on your phone to find the exact time the blocked call came in. Then, look online at the call log, sometimes located under the billing and usage menu, for a match with the date and time.

The length of time call records are kept varies with each phone carrier. Typically, these records are held anywhere from one to seven years and can be used in criminal investigations.

Look Up The Number With Reverse Number Lookup

If you're able to find the number, you can use a phone reverse lookup. Type the number into Google, Facebook, or the public Yellow Pages, and you might learn whether the number belongs to a cell phone or landline, or the location where the phone is registered.

Screenshot of reverse phone lookup screen

You may be required to pay a fee to get a full report, which may be refundable if they're unable to give you information about the caller.

Use A Service to Unblock Private Numbers

You can pay for a service, such as TrapCall, to unblock a private number. TrapCall is a tool specifically created to unmask private and blocked callers, and can provide the phone number and the name the phone is registered to. It can also provide their address, and also offers a Blacklist option to block future calls.

TrapCall can be downloaded from the Google Play Store and the Apple Store to match your device.

Activate Call Trace to Unblock Private Callers

Some telephone providers offer a call tracing service for the purposes of putting an end to unwanted calls that may be harassing, obscene, unlawful, and/or threatening. In most cases, you can activate this service by pressing *57 or #57. Some phone providers offer this service for free, while others require a small monthly fee.

Call tracing may not be available on mobile devices.