Look Up Unknown Phone Numbers using Social Media

Look Up Unknown Phone Numbers using Facebook Reset Password and WhatsApp

This tutorial is meant to help find clues as to who is calling you when you’re receiving calls from an unknown phone number (a number that is displayed on your phone’s screen, but you don’t recognize).

It’s quite short and simple, and I hope it helps, as it’s written with the intention of tracking whoever may be bothering or harassing you.

First I’d like to clear up the following meanings:

  • unknown phone number – a phone number that is displayed on my phone’s screen but I don’t have the caller’s information
  • private phone number – a number that’s not displayed on my screen when someone is calling because the caller is withholding their number.

I wanted to quickly clear this up because I suspect some interpret the term of unknown phone number as private phone number/call, and I don’t want to take up someone’s time with information that’s not useful to them.

Method 1 – Check their WhatsApp Profile Picture

This method is probably used by many, but I haven’t found it featured in top results when trying to reverse look up phone numbers, I figure it’s worth mentioning.

1. Add the unknown number to your contact list

I assume it doesn’t have a high success rate, but it’s pretty low effort and I think it’s worth a shot.

Just add the phone number to your contacts under whatever name you’d like, and then look up that contact in WhatsApp to check out if they have a profile pic.

That profile pic may be either a selfie or something that can help you identify if you know that person.

2. Reverse Image Search the Profile Picture [Video]

If you think the image is not very generic, and it’s likely they used it on other websites, such as social media, you can also perform a reverse image search using https://images.google.com and see if something comes up.

I know this is probably nothing new, but an additional thing you can do is limit the image search to a specific site.

For example if you search someone’s profile picture and get a good deal of results with all sorts of websites, and additional similar images that aren’t an exact match, you can limit the search to just one social media site, such as Twitter.

To do this you use the site:example.com operator.

For example if we want to limit our reverse image search to Twitter, we’d search for the image first, and then replace the existing text in the Google search bar with site:twitter.com

Quick Demo Video

Reverse Image Search Specific to a Single Website

The steps are:

  1. Go to https://images.google.com
  2. Drag the image onto the search bar, or click the little camera icon and insert the URL to the image, or select Upload an image and then Choose File and then browse for the picture on your computer.
  3. Next, Google will show us what matches were found.I’ll use this website’s social media profile pic as an example.

    As you can see, Google sees our profile pic as being similar to many other images, and provides a list of many other websites associated with those images.

    word image 12

  4. Since we’re interested in mainly social media websites to have a good chance of identifying someone, we’ll filter the results by limiting the search only to Twitter, in this example.

    You can, of course, try other social media websites popular in your region.

    So in the search bar we’ll just remove the text, in this case digital alberta, and replace it with site:twitter.com.

    After the search is complete, we can see that even though it’s not the first result, we’ve still found the Twitter profile associated with the image.

    word image 13

I hope these methods come in useful or give you some peace of mind in some cases when you’re having issues with numbers you don’t recognize.

Other Methods

Here I’ll just list other methods that could work. They rarely work for me, but I figure that since you’re already here, the info may be useful to you.

I didn’t mention this one in the main part of the content because others have written about it, and I assume it’s quite well known.

Additionally, users have the option of restricting who can look them up by searching their associated phone number.

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While I’ve found success with apps or websites for reverse phone lookups, there are still some issues with such tools. For me at least.

  • Some apps ask for access to your contact list on your phone, so they add more names to their database. I’m not comfortable with that.
  • Reverse Phone Lookup sites may either not work very well, or may only work with USA phone numbers

Method 2 – Finding the Facebook account associated with the unknown number (if the user is using the same network you are currently checking from)

As mentioned in the heading, this may work if the person has logged in from the network you are currently trying to log in from (such as the same WiFi). I am not 100% this works, however, as I don’t know what other factors Facebook may take into consideration when deciding if the network/machine is safe to display a user’s name/profile picture.

[powerkit_alert type=”warning” dismissible=”false” multiline=”true”]To my shame, I have realized that I was mistaken about the Method 2 – Finding the Facebook account associated with the unknown number. After reading this comment on HN, which suggests that Facebook won’t display the associated profile information, unless they detect you’re using a computer network you’ve logged in from before, I tested this myself with a friend’s phone number who lives in the same city as myself, and their information is not displayed.

When displaying the name/profile picture, they mention You can see your name and profile picture because you’re using a computer network you’ve logged in on before right under Reset Your Password card. I don’t know how I could have missed this before writing this article.

I have tested this from another computer on my network, from which I never logged in, and it does indeed work, and the WhatsApp method I still use regularly.

I honestly apologize for misinforming anyone who has read this article.[/powerkit_alert]

With this method we’ll try to have Facebook show us the account associated with the phone number by trying to login with it and then clicking Forgot Password?, which will lead us to the next page where Facebook shows us the associated account.

[powerkit_alert type=”warning” dismissible=”false” multiline=”true”]Please also keep in mind that I am not an expert in this area. Although I don’t think that investigating an unknown phone number in this manner is an offence in any way, I do think you should proceed at your own risk.[/powerkit_alert]

Another thing to keep in mind is that even though this method probably has a good chance of working, the number may not be associated with a Facebook account.

Also, since it will look like you’re trying to log in, Facebook will probably notify the user in some form. In my case I just got notified that I can enable one click login, for security reasons.

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I’m not certain of other cases, however. I’m assuming that there could be situations where Facebook informs the user that some one from {your_ip}, {your_location} using an {operating_system} is trying to login.

[powerkit_alert type=”info” dismissible=”false” multiline=”true”]So it may be prudent to use at least a VPN when doing this.[/powerkit_alert]

Quick Demo [Video]

Look Up Unknown Phone Numbers using Facebook Password Reset

1. Visit Facebook while logged out

You can just open a separate Incognito/Private window in your browser and go to https://facebook.com and you’ll be greeted by the landing page with the login form.

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You can see that you can use the Email or Phone Number associated with an account to log in.

2. Fill in the phone number and a random password

Next, in the Email or Phone Number field, fill in the phone number you’re trying to trace. Remember to fill it along with the country code of the phone number.

As a quick example, a phone number with a Germany country code looks like this +4915735987904, where +49 is the country code. Disclaimer – That phone number is from an online “receive free sms” site, and isn’t associated with a person.

In the Password field you can enter anything, such as simply test, as we’re not actually trying to log in their account.

Click Log In and you should soon see Facebook letting you know that you’ve entered an incorrect password.

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3. Click on Forgot Password

Now click on the Forgot Password? link.

We won’t be actually trying to reset the associated account password, in the case that the number really does have an associated account.

We just want to see the next page, where we should see the profile name and picture of the associated account, if there is one.

Facebook assumes that the person associated with that phone number tried to log in, and when we click Forgot Password?, it shows the profile name, picture, obfuscated email address, and again the phone number, to confirm that is indeed the account whose password we want to reset.

I believe this is meant to be helpful to users, should they mistype their phone number, so Facebook makes sure they’re trying to reset their own passwords and not someone else’s.

4. Check the associated account

That’s it. The page you’ll be seeing should look something like this.

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It is possible that the number calling you isn’t associated with a Facebook account, however. In which case it will probably show something like this:

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I hope this comes in useful for you and if you have anything at all to add or you encounter any issues, then I’d love to hear from you. Feel free to contact us via the comment section or our email/social media.

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3 years ago

Facebook only shows the profile picture and name of the account if the account has been logged in with the IP address before….

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