Ever wonder why it’s so hard to look up someone’s cellphone number? It goes back to the 1980s, when cellphone users were charged by the minute for incoming calls. Telecom companies eventually agreed to keep cellphone numbers private so their customers wouldn’t pay for unwanted calls.
These days, most people no longer pay by the minute for cell calls—but cell numbers, for the most part, remained private. For these reasons, how to find someone’s cell phone number isn’t always easy, but there are several ways to search that may turn up the number.
5 ways to try and find someone’s cell phone number online
Today, over half of all households are wireless-only, making it all the more challenging to find someone’s phone number when you need to get in touch. You may need to try a few of the methods outlined below.
Try and find cell phone numbers with a search engine
Google and other search engines index a lot of information about people, so you may be able to get a phone number with a simple browser search. If you have more information to narrow down the results, such as a ZIP code or email address, you might get better results. But because cellphone numbers may be private, your search may not turn up the number.
Pro tip: If you include a ZIP code or email address, put the first and last name in quotes to further narrow your results.
Use social media to try and locate a phone number
People often link their social media accounts to their cellphone number, so you may be able to find it on their profile page. This, however, isn’t a foolproof method. Some people limit sharing their phone numbers to those that are designated as their “friends” on the platform—or don’t list their number at all.
Start by entering the person’s name and the social media site you want to search in the search bar. In our example, we’re showing you how to look up a phone number on Facebook:
Click on the result that best matches who you’re looking for; if you don’t know the person’s middle name or initial in the example above, then choose the first result.
Select the profile for the person you are looking for and click the “About” tab.
Click “Contact and Basic Info” from the menu on the left. If the person has made their phone number public, you’ll find it there. If you’re friends with the person, you’re more likely to see their contact information.
On the platform LinkedIn, the “Contact info” button is on the profile page beneath the person’s photo:
Other social media sites generally don’t include contact information, but if you have an account with Twitter or Instagram, you can message the person directly and ask for their cellphone number.
Pro tip: You have a better chance of finding a cellphone number on social media if you’re connected to that person. If the person’s information is private, try sending them a friend or connection request if you have a legitimate reason for reaching out. If they accept, check their contact information again.
Search online phone directories
Unlike landlines, there’s no free cellphone directory to track down someone’s number.
The National Cellular Directory is a paid service. According to its website, it has the most “useful, current and updated” cellphone number information available. To use the service, enter the person’s first and last name, plus city and state if you have that information, in the search bar.
Pro tip: If you don’t want to pay for the search, you can follow the company on Twitter to see when they have “Happy Hour.” During Happy Hour, you can search for a cellphone number free of charge.
Use a people search lookup tool
If you have the name of the person you’re trying to reach, you may be able to look up their cellphone number using a people search tool. To start a search, enter the person’s name in the search bar and select your option for viewing the results. If the tool digs up past and present phone numbers for that person, they’ll be listed under the “Contact Info” section of your report even if the numbers are otherwise private or unlisted.
Pro tip: Entering a city and state of residence helps narrow down your search results.
Search a cellphone number through a work directory
If you know where the person works, you may be able to access an employee directory online. If the person uses their cellphone for work, it may be listed along with their office number. It isn’t the most reliable method since many businesses limit the information they publish externally about employees online.
Pro tip: Even if you can’t find someone’s office number but you do have their work email, you can use an email lookup tool to try and track down their cellphone number.
There’s no surefire way of finding someone’s cell phone number online, and there are many reasons a person may want to keep their number private. That said, if you have legitimate reasons for looking up someone’s cellphone number, there are both free cellphone number lookup tools and paid services that may make your search a whole lot easier.