Unknown Number

Unknown Number Bothering You? Think Twice Before Calling Back

An unknown number calling you is becoming a more and more common annoyance. Phone scams aside, it can be a waste of time to answer the phone just to hear the automated voice of a robocall or to be marketed to. 

But what if it’s important? You might be tempted to answer or call back an unknown number just in case it’s an emergency or if you are actually expecting a call from a number you might not recognize. 

So should you answer? Should you call back? Both of these options could put you at risk of a phone scam. In this article, we’ll tell you how to handle unknown numbers and how to find out who’s behind them. 

Who is Behind an Unknown Number?

There are a number of reasons an unknown number might come up on your phone. It might be a number you just don’t have saved, you don’t recognize, or that caller ID displays as “Unknown”. 

Numbers that appear as “Unknown” on caller ID are frequently treated as red flags. Why answer a call from someone trying to hide their identity? 

Sometimes, an unknown number is the result of technical issues. For example, a service provider might not support caller ID information in all locations. Or, the number might not be stored in your phone or recognized by your phone service. 

But a lot of times, a number is displayed as Unknown if the caller intentionally blocks their caller ID information from recipients. Although this can be done by someone you might personally be trying to avoid, it’s typically done by telemarketers.

Telemarketers use this strategy to increase the chances of the call being answered. And they might obscure their number to avoid being tracked if their calls are unethical and break FTC regulations. This is particularly the case with phone scams.

Unfortunately, you cannot always trust an unknown number even if you recognize the area code. Phone numbers can be spoofed by scammers. Spoofing is when a phone scammer fakes caller ID information to pose as a familiar number or trusted business or organization like your bank or cable company. This compels you to answer, to trust the caller, and to unwittingly reveal personal information. 

Dangers of Calling Back an Unknown Number

You might be tempted to call back an unknown number if you recognize it (or at least the area code) or if you are expecting a call from someone new. But you should think twice. Because even if you don’t release any personal information, calling back can result in negative consequences.  

First, calling back a number that belongs to a phone scam caller confirms that your number is active and tied to a real person interested in what the caller has to say. This can encourage them to try to contact you again. 

Second, unknown numbers could be tied to 900 premium rate numbers that charge by the minute. So if you call back, you could find yourself with a hefty phone bill. You also risk having malware or viruses installed on your phone. Finally, calling back someone you are trying to avoid could encourage harassment and make matters worse.

How to Deal with an Unknown Number

The best way to deal with an unknown number is to ignore it and let it go to voicemail. Don’t call the number back, even if the voicemail sounds legitimate, without doing some research first. 

Phone scam callers most frequently pose as IRS employees, bank employees, credit card companies, or relatives to gain callees’ trust and pressure them to act urgently. In this way, they can elicit personal information and sometimes money. 

So if you are really curious about a call from an unknown number, do some investigating.

Reverse phone lookup allows you to enter a 10-digit number to get a name and address associated with the number. If there is no caller ID information, you can *69 to get the 10-digit number of a call displayed as Unknown and then reverse phone lookup that number. 

However, if a scammer has spoofed a legitimate number, you will still want to dial the number manually rather than redialing the missed call.  

How to Protect Yourself Against Phone Scams

There are some things you can do to minimize the amount of unknown numbers that bother you. First, you can register your phone number on the National Do Not Call Registry (DNC). This will prevent most legitimate telemarketers from calling you. Here, too, you can report unwanted calls that make their way through. 

Unfortunately, illegitimate telemarketers, some robocalls, and phone scams will not heed the DNC registry. However, there are mobile phone settings and call screening apps you can use to help decrease the number of unwanted calls. Your mobile phone might allow you to block a limited amount of phone numbers or send unknown numbers straight to voicemail.

And, of course, reverse phone lookup provides you with information about callers which you can use to screen unknown callers.

Most importantly, do not provide or confirm personal information over the phone unless you initiate the call. Do not send money or pay anyone who calls unexpectedly, especially if you are pressured to act urgently. And report any call from a scammer, with or without fake caller ID information, to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).


We won’t deny that unknown calls are annoying. But they can also be dangerous. Especially if caller ID displays “Unknown,” the caller is more than likely trying to obscure their identity for some reason. 

Our advice for handling unknown numbers is to ignore them and avoid calling back. Letting a call go to voicemail can provide a caller an opportunity to leave you information. This way you don’t face the pressure of having to respond or react right away. 

Calling back can be risky, too, even if you are left with a compelling voicemail. It’s still best to find contact information yourself for the agency or party calling you to verify the details of the call. This way you avoid calling back a spoofed number that can try to elicit personal information.

If the caller doesn’t leave a voicemail, you can use reverse phone lookup to find out who keeps calling you. Then you can decide whether or not to call back or block the number. 

Treat unknown numbers with caution. Typically, a phone scam is behind them. When in doubt, do a little investigating. Searchbug can help!