With unsolicited telemarketing and spam calls on the rise, have you ever wondered: how can you tell if a phone number is fake? After all, phone numbers are just lines of numbers stringed together to the untrained eye. What little details can we use to determine if a cell phone number is fake or real?

Fake phone numbers are everywhere these days, and while we constantly tell our readers of the merits of using them as temporary phone numbers for WhatsApp verification or as a first line of dating defense, we felt it is also important to help folks who are asking: how can I tell if a phone number is fake?  

Before we dive deep into how you can tell if a phone number is fake, let’s examine some common methods most of us would turn to.

How can you tell if a phone number is fake: ineffective methods to avoid

Ineffective Method 1: My Caller ID wouldn’t lie, would it?

This might shock you, but the good old Caller ID isn’t exactly foolproof. In fact, don’t let it lull you into a false sense of security. Caller ID spoofing technology can easily let anyone mask their actual identity, and who you think you’re receiving a call or message from might not be who they actually are.

Ineffective Method 2: Does googling a phone number help?

Googling a phone number after receiving a call or message from a number you’re unfamiliar with sounds pretty intuitive – after all, Google knows just about anything and everything, no?

This might or might not work.

For one, if the number you received a call or message from is linked to an actual person or entity who has listed their contact number online, Googling it should return the individual’s / entity’s website as the first search result.

If the number happens to be a landline that is registered in a standard phonebook or phone number catalogue like Yellow Pages, it’s likely that your search will also generate more details about the person making the call, like the person’s name for example.

Still, this only really works if a number is listed online. Googling a phone number doesn’t really answer the problem of how can you tell if a phone number is fake or real.

Ineffective Method 3: Should I call the number back?

With the exception of spoofed calls that you cannot call back to, we do not recommend calling back a phone number you are unfamiliar with because:

  • It proves to whoever is on the other side that the phone number they called is attached to a real person
  • It could encourage scammers to come back and through again with a different tactic

There are some exceptions to this of course. If you are expecting a call from a company HR you applied for a job with, ignoring every unfamiliar phone number might cost you your much-needed career opportunity.

If you have to or want to take the risk, call the number back but refrain from doing the following:

  • Responding with critical information
  • Saying “Yes” to any prompt coming from other side

In any case, calling a number back does little to help you figure out if a phone number is fake or not.

How can you tell if a phone number is fake: 3 solutions to protect yourself

Solution 1: Use an open-source intelligence tool

OSINT tools like ThatsThem let you reverse look up people via phone numbers

The closest experience to being a spy most of us will ever have would be with the wide range of open-source intelligence (OSINT) tools available today. Basically, OSINT refers to collecting publicly available data from publicly available sources that can be used for intelligence purposes.

OSINT tools are designed to comb the internet and gather various kinds of information, and some are designed particularly to look up (or reverse look up) cell phone numbers. Tools like ThatsThem, for example, lets users key in a person’s name and ZIP code before reverse looking up said person’s phone number.

With these tools, you can input the phone number you received a call or message from and generate a fuller digital profile of the individuals or organization behind the phone number. You can easily tell if a phone number is fake or genuine this way.

Take note however that OSINT tools are less fake phone number detection services and more of tools that sieve out publicly available data. They are not foolproof, and sometimes generate incorrect results.

Solution 2: Seek help from your local telco or law enforcement agency

Your telco or local law enforcement agency can help trace phone numbers are find out if they are fake or real

Telco providers and law enforcement agencies have access to more sophisticated number tracing technologies, and often they will be able to uncover whether a phone number is fake or real.

There are a few hiccups to consider however:

  • Telco providers may take a while to complete the tracing process and may even charge a significant fee for doing so.
  • Law enforcement agencies typically do not step in unless the case is severe. The police isn’t going to bother with millions of unsolicited telemarketing and spam calls that flood mobile phones every day.
  • You wouldn’t want to drop a customer service call to your telco each time you receive one out of potentially millions of unsolicited telemarketing and spam calls now, would you?

Solution 3: Get a second phone number to protect yourself  

A second phone number might be the best defense you need against fake phone numbers

I can hear you grumbling: how does this even a solution of how to tell if a phone number is fake or real? It’s not a direct solution, but it’s still the solution you need the most.

From the article, you can tell that there’s really no easy or satisfactory solution for how can you tell if a phone number is fake.

Instead of scratching our heads wondering how to tell if a phone number is fake or real, why not just stamp out fake phone numbers right from the get-go by getting a second phone number?

With unsolicited telemarketing and spam calls on the rise every year, are you really going to spend time telling which calls are real and which ones are fake?

By getting a second phone number, you can use it as a temporary number for verification, filling in online forms and surveys and using it for communicating with complete strangers for business or otherwise safely.

Keep fake phone numbers away with Phoner

Phoner keeps fake phone numbers at bay

A second phone number is the best solution precisely because it’s great for completely filtering out potential fake calls and keeping your actual phone number from falling into the wrong hands. With Phoner’s unlimited range of phone numbers around the world, you can start using any of our numbers immediately without having to get a second phone or SIM card.

There’s no satisfactory answer to how can you tell if a phone number is fake, but Phoner can keep you free from fake phone numbers. Get Phoner today and never worry about fake phone numbers again!