Is There a Way to Trace a *67 Call?

By Jack SteinLast Updated September 5, 2020
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It’s always tempting to ignore your phone when the caller ID reads "Unknown Number" — you don’t want to gamble on answering a call from a telemarketer or a prankster. Wouldn’t it be nice to know who’s calling every time the phone rings? As much as we might wish for that, it’s more often up to the caller what we see on our screens.

Even people in your contacts can make their calls appear anonymous by typing in the prefix code *67 before dialing your number. When people do this, there are some ways you can attempt to trace them or find out who called you, but these methods may not always work. Learn more about this number prefix, along with your options for finding out who called while using it (or preventing them from calling at all).

Why Can People Use *67 to Hide Their Phone Numbers?

Why does this technology exist in the first place? Inventors began to develop caller ID technology in the 1960s, but it didn’t roll out to the general public until 1988. Suddenly, anyone who had purchased the service could find out the number of the person calling them.

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The Bell System, later AT&T, also introduced vertical service codes (VSC) in the 1960s; these served as shortcuts to allow customers to perform different services with their phone lines. If you’ve ever used *69 or *67, these are VSCs — digit sequences that allow you to enable or disable specific telephone service features.

The VSC for blocking caller ID became *67 from a touch-tone phone and 1167 from a rotary-dial phone. The original idea behind *67 was simply to provide privacy; callers often didn’t want their numbers displayed on caller ID devices. However, telemarketers, prank callers and callers with malicious intent have misused the code to block their numbers from unsuspecting users.

Can You Really Track the Calls?

One of the easiest ways to find out who last called you if your caller ID isn’t working is to dial *69 from your landline phone. If your carrier allows call tracing, that VSC tells you the last number that called you and can even return the call. It’s worth noting that some carriers place a time limit on the length of time that you can trace a call, while other carriers may charge for this service. You should also be aware that calling back a telemarketer can increase the frequency with which they’ll call you. Keep this in mind if you decide to call back a number you don’t recognize.

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The unfortunate side of *69 is that it won’t always work on numbers people have blocked using *67, but you can still try *67 to see if you get any results. It’s also primarily meant for landlines — your smartphone will display the phone number that last called you, so you only need to visit your recent-calls screen to view the numbers that show up. The bottom line is that there’s no clear-cut way to trace *67 with a 100% success rate, even though there are methods you can still try out.

If you’re receiving harassing phone calls, dial *57 from your phone. This service sends data to law enforcement about the last call you received, and if it was threatening or harassing, dialing *57 can supplement a police report you file and serve as evidence. As with *69, *57 may not work with all carriers under all circumstances. The service may not always be free either.

Contact Your Phone Service Provider for More Details

Your phone service provider may be able to help you track who’s calling you anonymously. If you can wait to check the call logs on your bill, the numbers may show up there. You can also contact your service provider to ask them to trace a call, and they may be able to do so for you. Ask them to look up an anonymous ID on a particular call, providing the time and date.

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Some providers may willingly give you the information you seek, while others may not. You may also have to pay a fee for the call data, so be aware this may incur additional charges. If you’re in a situation where you’re receiving harassing or threatening calls and you’ve been in touch with law enforcement, the police or your attorney can petition a judge to issue a warrant for the call data.

Reject or Prevent Anonymous Calls

You don’t just have to settle for tracing anonymous calls; there are tools you can use to protect yourself. One way to do this is by downloading apps to your smartphone that block unknown calls that don’t display caller ID. These apps can often send those calls directly to voicemail, too, so they don’t disrupt you. Your cellular provider may offer such a service for free or for an extra monthly charge. You can also use third-party apps — keeping in mind that they usually charge you — to block or reroute unknown or blocked numbers.

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If you’re using a landline phone at your business or home, you can also employ a service to reject anonymous calls. First, try *77 to set up anonymous call blocks on your line. If that doesn’t work, contact your service provider for information on whether it offers this type of blocking another way.

Use Your Phone’s Settings to Block Unknown Callers

With the latest software on your smartphone, you can take other steps to block unwanted calls. If you’ve updated your iPhone to iOS 13 or higher, go to your Settings menu, select "Phone" and turn on "Silence Unknown Callers." That option sends unknown numbers directly to voicemail, and you can still see them in your list of recent calls.

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Many phones that run Android operating systems are very different in their functionalities, so the method you’ll use to block unknown calls will depend on the brand of phone you have. There are several different ways to silence unknown callers, but you’ll want to check the instructions for your particular model of phone to see how to toggle these settings. Having the ability to block calls directly from your phone can help cut down on the number of unwanted calls you receive, and it’s worth it to explore these options.

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