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How Do Reverse Cell Phone Directories Work?

A reverse cell phone directory may seem very simple: you just type in a cell phone (or landline) number and it will tell you who that number is registered to. As you can probably imagine, it gets results by combing through a massive database of phone numbers with their corresponding names/addresses. The more advanced reverse cell lookup websites also offer people search services too. When you type in the phone number, you get a lot more information like spouse name, family members, criminal background, and even favorite food!

The way that these phone number/people search services work is by amassing huge databases of information and then cross-checking the databases. This requires two things: a very powerful search algorithm to compute the data and A LOT of information. The first part is easy to obtain. But where do the people search websites get all your information?

You would be shocked to find out how much of your personal information can be legally bought and sold by nearly anyone so long as it is for a "business purpose." The following are just some of the many databases of personal information which is routinely collected:
  • Your credit history (includes borrowing, applications, credit lines, bankruptcies, and much more)
  • Home and auto insurance claims
  • Health insurance claims
  • Checking account information
  • Backgrounds, including criminal and public records like marriage
  • Returns of purchases
  • History of renting
  • US Postal change of address
  • Mailing lists, including email lists

As you probably realize, these lists will have a lot of your detailed, personal information. Just your credit history alone will have your social security number, birth date, address, and probably cell number too!

What the people search engines do is buy data lists from all of these sources. Once all the information is compiled and can be combed with their search engine, they are able to give a very accurate idea of who you are. With just a cell phone number, a reverse phone lookup may show all your addresses for the past 10 years, your marital history, and the time you forgot to pay child support. Now, reverse cell phone directories also use social media profiles. Once they get your basic information like name, address and employment history, they can find out a lot more with your Facebook profile even if you didn't put your full name on your profile!

It is a bit scary knowing that these people search websites have all your private information. However, they are legally bound to keep the most important parts of it private. Even though a reverse cell directory may know your social security number because it was on a credit bureau list they bought for their database, it doesn't mean they can release it. You can avoid getting your personal information in databases by never giving out any info in the situations listed above. However, this is basically impossible since you are probably going to need credit, make an insurance claim, or sign up for mailing list at some point. So, just accept the fact that nothing is really private anymore online and it can all be easily found with a people search.

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