Young man pointing at a smartphone

The humble phone number.

Many of us today don’t pay them much mind, and why should we? It’s not like we really have to remember them in the first place, right?

Admittedly, that’s quite true for the most part since our smartphones record them down automatically, but that’s assuming we’re the ones calling. If someone dials our number and we don’t recognise the number that pops up, or if we see something like “Unknown Caller”, then we’re definitely going to be a little concerned.

Well, what if we told you that you could find out more about the number without having to pick up?


How do I find out who called me?


Admittedly, we won’t be doing anything you might have seen in spy movies, and while you can’t know who exactly called you, there are definitely things you can do about unknown numbers. Specifically, modern technology affords us not one, but two services that can assist us, and here’s how each of them work.


1. Check the phone number with Caller ID


As obvious as it might seem, if you’re suspicious of a caller’s motives, your first move should always be to check the number itself. Assuming you’re able to do so by way of having access to Caller ID, just looking at the first digit can tell you a lot about the source and potential purpose of the call.

Case in point, if you’re in Singapore, all personal mobile numbers either begin with an “8” or a “9” and feature an eight-digit sequence excluding the country code. Meanwhile, calls made from home or office phones usually start with “6” – that’s why many delivery hotlines (such as those for pizza chains) open with this number too.

As such, if the number appearing on your screen doesn’t start with any of these, and if you’re not expecting any overseas calls to come in around that time, it might be best not to pick up as the person on the other end probably isn’t calling about your large pepperoni.


2. Key it into the Reverse Phone Lookup service


Alternatively, if you’re really interested in finding out more about the mysterious caller (which is, admittedly, quite creepy in itself), you could also punch in the number on the Reverse Phone Lookup service here in Singapore.

Basically, this is a free online site that trawls through the Internet looking for any relevant information based on the number you entered. While you certainly won’t be made privy to any of the caller’s personal information, for obvious reasons, you’ll at least be able to find out if the call was made as part of a telemarketing push or anything similar. Even so, you’ll first need Caller ID to get anything done, though that’s readily accessible if you know where to look.

What if I don’t want these numbers to contact me again?


Speaking of phone numbers and telemarketing, we know it’s infuriating to receive call after call pushing one product or the other. In that case, you’ll be happy to know that you can actually opt out of the pool of numbers that telemarketers are allowed to contact for such purposes.

Now, as uncreative as the name might be, the Do Not Call (DNC) Registry service in Singapore prevents telemarketers from calling, SMS-ing and even faxing phone numbers registered with them. Application is free, does not expire and can be made for as many phone numbers as you wish, be it your personal mobile number or even your home line. It’s “the whole nine yards”, as they say, so feel free to use it!


How can I better spot phone scams?


Frankly, we can’t discuss modern phone calls without mentioning scams. Telemarketing calls are one thing, but phone scams, which are becoming increasingly problematic worldwide, are another. After all, while they can be annoying, telemarketing calls are about as harmless as a wet napkin.

Now, it should go without saying, but phone scammers don’t play by the rules. By appealing to unsuspecting victims with promises of love, money, and other reasons creative enough to win awards, these crooks seek to swindle money and personal details from them. Although many of these ploys are (fortunately) easy to spot and subsequently ignore, it’s a very different story when they manage to snag a victim who isn’t quite so digitally enlightened.

In fact, some scammers are skilful enough to trick even those who are familiar due to complacency. That’s why it’s important to keep abreast of the latest government advisories and FAQs concerning such matters.

business man making a call on his smartphone

Set up a strong defence


So, at risk of sounding like a broken record, we’d like to reiterate that prevention is always better than cure, especially when strange, unfamiliar phone numbers come into the picture.

Indeed, there’s no guarantee for such things, and though cybercriminals are getting more devious and brazen by the day, we can combat them by preparing the best protections for ourselves.

Even if we’re just discussing unknown phone numbers, subscribing to the Caller ID service is a good starting point as being able to see these numbers already helps us a great deal. If anything, it’s really comforting to know that we can do something about these unknown callers.

Sure, some of these phone numbers might just be friends whose contacts we’ve forgotten to save (we’re only human, right?), but joke as we might, if you suspect actual criminal activity is involved, please do not hesitate to refer the matter to the Police. As always, take care and stay safe!