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 or blocked 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.

Call a Private Number for Free With *69 or #69

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

The service is free, and to activate it, dial *69 on a landline before another call comes in. On cellphones, use #69. After you dial, if a person answers, ask who is speaking.

An iPhone screen showing the #69 callback number

The drawbacks to this approach depend on the phone service provider you use. For example, some providers supply a computer-generated voice that tells you the number along with the option to place a call. Other telephone providers call back the private number and don't provide you with the number.

In addition, *69 and #69 do not work with all phones, and some carriers limit the time window to activate the service to 30 minutes after the call is received.

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

Check Phone Provider Logs

Your telephone service provider keeps a log of all incoming and outgoing calls, which you can access by logging in to 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 the numbers of private callers are listed here, unmasked. To find the number, check the phone log on your phone to find the 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 or the public Yellow Pages, and you might learn whether the number belongs to a cellphone or landline or the location where the phone is registered.

Screenshot of reverse phone lookup screen

In some cases, you are required to pay a fee to get a full report. The fee may be refundable if the service is unable to give you information about the caller.

Use a Service to Unblock Private Numbers

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

Download TrapCall from Google's Play Store or Apple's App Store to match your device.

Activate Call Tracing to Unblock Callers

Some telephone providers offer a call-tracing service to put an end to unwanted calls that are harassing, obscene, unlawful, or threatening. In most cases, you activate this service by pressing *57 or #57. Some phone providers offer this service free, while others require a small monthly fee.

Call tracing may not be available on your mobile devices.