How to Call Back a Private Number

Want to confront that masked caller? Here's how

What to Know

  • Dial *69 from a landline or cellphone before anyone else calls you.
  • Check your phone provider logs, or use Reverse Lookup.
  • Use TrapCall to unblock private numbers, or dial *57 or #57 to trace calls.

This article explains five different ways to track down and call back private numbers.

Call a Private Number for Free With *69

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

The service is free for many, but not all, providers, and to activate it, dial *69 (in the U.S.) on a landline or cellphone before another call comes in. After you dial, if a person answers, ask who is speaking.

The drawbacks of this approach depend on the phone service provider. 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 doesn't 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 could make your problem worse. Some blocked calls are automated callers who want to confirm if your number is active. Their intent is to sell your number 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 your incoming and outgoing calls. To access this list, sign in to your account and enter your account password.

Screenshot of billing and usage of phone contract showing a call log of calls received

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 for 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, use a reverse phone lookup. Type the number in Google or the public Yellow Pages to learn if the number belongs to a cellphone or a landline, and to find 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 provide 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 that unmasks private and blocked callers. 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 blocklist option to block future calls.

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, to activate this service, press *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.

  • How can I make my number private?

    If you have an iPhone, turn off caller ID from Settings > Phone > Show My Caller ID. On Android, make your number private from Settings > Calls > Additional Settings > Caller ID > Hide number. To hide your number on a case-by-case basis on a smartphone or landline, mask your number using *67.

  • How do I block private numbers?

    Block private numbers on an iPhone by turning on Do Not Disturb or by using the Silence Unknown Callers feature by going to Settings > Phone > Silence Unknown Callers. If you use a landline, use *77. You can also block numbers on Samsung smartphones or block unknown callers on Android and iOS.

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