According to Consumer Reports, businesses place 175 million so-called "robocalls" in the United States every day. This increasingly high number of calls is one of the main reasons why 70 percent of Americans do not answer calls that come from unknown numbers. However, some calls from unknown numbers come from legitimate businesses that may be of interest to the receiver.
How can consumers who do not want to answer calls from unknown numbers tell the difference? Answering a spam call can be risky, but so can missing a call from a doctor or another important caller. Consumers can look up companies by phone number when they see missed calls. However, this process is anything but simple.
Understanding Spoofed Phone Numbers
If the unknown number has the same area code as the the call's recipient, she may be compelled to answer. However, these calls may come from scammers that use a common technique called "spoofing." With spoofing, scammers use technology to makes it appear as though they are calling from one number while hiding the true phone number from the receiver. In some cases, spoofing makes it look like someone is calling her own number, or as if a local business or individual is calling.
Spoofing poses the biggest problem for people wanting to conduct a business lookup by phone number. The consumer only has the phone number that the scammer used to hide the real number. As such, online searches may show that someone else called, rather than the scammer.
The Federal Communications Commission urges people to protect themselves against scammers that use spoofing by refusing to answer calls from unknown numbers. If consumers do answer these calls, they should never:
- Answer questions
- Press buttons, even if the person on the other end promises to take the receiver off the list
- Give out any personal information
Some scammers pretend to be from legitimate businesses or government organizations. People should check their statements or the organization's website before giving information to anyone who requests it. Furthermore, government organizations will not reach out to citizens by phone as a first contact; they will always initiate communications in writing.
Use Reverse Phone Lookup Services
Once people understand the dangers of spoofing, they can attempt a business lookup by phone number through reverse phone number lookup services. Many companies allow searchers to pay a fee to get information about the person or entity that owns any phone number. This information may include names, addresses, email addresses and even pictures.
Of course, many people may not want to pay for these services. Both Whitepages and Yellow Pages offer free ways to find companies' phone numbers and ways to look up organizations with only a phone number. While these services are no cost, they provide less information than some fee-based services.
Search Engines and Social Media
Social media sites and search engines offer alternative ways to conduct a business lookup by phone number. Consumers can simply enter the phone number, including the area code, into a search engine such as Google. If the number belongs to a legitimate business, the company's website may show up.
Similarly, many social media sites offer options for searching for users by phone numbers. Companies and phone numbers are ever-present on sites like Facebook and LinkedIn. A quick search on these sites may show that the phone number is connected to a specific business. As with search engine queries, it's important to use the area code in this process.
However, consumers must remember that just because a phone number shows up on a social media search does not mean that that business called. It could have been a scammer using spoofing. The recipient of such phone calls should call the business back and see if it intended to make the call before assuming that it did.
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