If you’re getting hounded by unsolicited phone calls on the regular but can’t pinpoint who’s calling, you may want to trace the VoIP call.
By that, we mean you may want to find out who’s calling you and from where.
Traditional phone calls are easier to trace since they’re done through established carriers. Phone companies manage the physical phone lines and can trace the origin of each call.
On the other hand, VoIP calls are made over the internet. Since they don’t rely on physical lines, calls can be routed through multiple servers and networks, making it more difficult to determine the source.
Unfortunately, there are limits to what you can find out on your own if a caller takes steps to conceal their identity. But that doesn’t mean you’re out of luck. In this guide, we’ll show you how you can go about tracing a VoIP call on your own.
The Best Way To Trace a VoIP Call
If the caller has a registered IP address and caller ID, your service provider may be able to help you with tracing the VoIP call. This is your best bet for figuring out the caller’s identity.
To start, make sure you have all the information your provider will need ready when you contact them. Here’s some of the information they may ask you for:
- Date and time of the call. If there were multiple calls from the same number, print or screenshot your phone log so you have the details at your fingertips when you’re talking to your service provider.
- Caller’s phone number or username (if available).
- Any details about the call’s content or purpose.
Once you’ve provided this information, your service provider can take several steps to trace the VoIP call:
- Check their records: They can review their call logs and records to try to identify the source of the call, including the associated caller ID and IP address.
- Detect where the call came from: By analyzing network data and routing information, the service provider may be able to find the caller’s location.
- Help with legal requests: If required, they may cooperate with law enforcement to provide information needed for an investigation.
On top of that, service providers will know how the call was routed through their network, so you can understand the path they took before reaching you.
That said, even your service provider may not be able to trace a call, especially if the caller is using a VPN, if the IP address is used by several numbers, or if the number wasn’t registered in the first place.
And on top of that—they may not be willing to give you the information you’re requesting. Privacy laws may prevent the service provider from handing over the details regarding the call. They’re far more likely to cooperate with law enforcement if it’s a serious issue.
Should You Contact Authorities to Trace a VoIP Call?
If you suspect the caller has malicious intent—potentially illegal or threatening—don’t try to play detective.
Anytime calls are linked to harassment, scams, threats, or illegal activity, you should get law enforcement involved.
In some cases, you may want to involve law enforcement to trace a VoIP call. Authorities have access to more advanced tools and legal processes, making it easier for them to track calls.
Fortunately, the police can do several things that most people can’t:
- Get Caller Info with Legal Requests: Police can ask service providers for caller details and call records.
- Use Warrants for Monitoring: They can also get permission to listen to calls and track them in real-time with search warrants.
- Look into Calls Across Different Places: Officials can check calls that go between states or countries.
The next time you get calls involving unsolicited telemarketing spam or someone impersonating another company, it’s best to report them to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
The FCC is a government agency responsible for managing communications and providing consumer protection.
For example, if you’re on the National Do Not Call list, you should not be receiving sales or spam calls. If you still are, you can report this to the FCC so they can take action against scammers and protect consumers from deceptive practices.
How To Trace a VoIP Call Yourself
Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) is a technology that allows you to make phone calls using the internet instead of traditional phone lines. It’s become increasingly popular due to its flexibility and cost effectiveness.
VoIP converts your voice into data packets and sends them over the internet to the recipient, making communication possible through computers, smartphones, and VoIP phones.
Every VoIP call has traceable elements, which allow you to trace them yourself. This includes:
- Caller ID: Caller ID helps trace a VoIP call by providing the caller’s number or username. However, some callers may hide or spoof their Caller ID, making it less reliable.
- Caller IP (Internet Protocol): This unique number is assigned to a device connected to the Internet. It helps trace the geographic location of the caller.
- CNAM (Caller Name): The CNAM is associated with a phone number in the caller records and can help you figure out their name or organization.
- Additional Data: Beyond these core elements, VoIP calls may contain additional traceable data, such as call duration, call quality, background noises, and any network-related information that can give you clues.
Of course, doing it yourself requires some background knowledge. The more techy you’re willing to get, the more you can find out. However, a VoIP provider is still going to be able to find out a lot more.
Additionally, your chances of successfully tracing a call also hinge on whether it is a fixed or non-fixed call.
Basically, fixed VoIP calls are connected to an address, while non-fixed calls aren’t tied to a physical location.
That makes non-fixed calls much harder to trace.
You can try to trace calls yourself first, but always contact your service provider if the following methods don’t work. And remember, if illegal activities are involved, you should always go straight to the authorities.
1. Use a Reverse Phone Lookup
Reverse phone lookup services let you enter the caller’s phone number or username to retrieve information about the caller. They use databases that contain user details associated with phone numbers.
You may be able to access the caller’s name, address, and sometimes additional details.
Some reverse phone lookup services are available for free, while others may require a small fee for the caller’s complete profile.
If you’re lucky, you may be able to get information through this method. However, it may not always work, as not all VoIP numbers are tied to an individual caller, and the number you see on your caller ID may not be the actual number that the caller is calling from.
2. Set Up Caller ID on Your VoIP Device
Setting up a Caller ID on your VoIP device doesn’t inherently trace VoIP calls in the sense of tracking their origin, but it can provide valuable information for call identification.
When someone calls your VoIP device, their caller information is transmitted along with the call. Your VoIP device, configured with Caller ID settings, displays this information on your screen when the call is received.
All you have to do is navigate to the account settings within your VoIP device, usually found in the main menu.
Look for the option to enable incoming VoIP call number and name display. When this feature is activated, if the caller’s name is already saved in your phonebook, it will be displayed automatically.
In cases where the caller’s name isn’t in your contacts, the service will check online databases to match the number with the owner’s name and display it on your screen when you receive a call.
Some services like RingCentral even let you create answering rules so calls without a registered caller ID can’t reach your phone.
3. Check Online Directories
As mentioned, all fixed VoIP numbers are tied to a physical address.
That means you may be able to look up callers in what’s essentially the online version of the phonebook
There are publically available directories showing the name and address associated with a phone number.
Keep in mind that the success of this method depends on the availability of information.
Some online directories offer free basic search features where you can input a fixed VoIP number to retrieve limited information, such as the caller’s name or location. If you need more information, they may provide the option to buy a more detailed report for a one-time fee or through a subscription plan.
4. Diagnose the IP
The next method is highly technical and should be left to a system administrator or IT department.
You’ll need to use a network packet analyzer, such as Wireshark, to trace the origin of VoIP calls.
Essentially, it works by looking at the data packets traveling over the internet.
Here’s the gist of how it works:
1. Capture Packets: Start the packet analyzer software and capture the data packets as they flow through your network.
2. Filter for VoIP Traffic: Filter the captured packets to focus on VoIP traffic. VoIP packets contain audio and signaling data that are specific to VoIP calls.
3. Analyze Packet Contents: Look inside these VoIP packets to find information about the call, such as the IP addresses of the caller and receiver and the type of VoIP protocol used. Specifically, keep an eye out for Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) packets, which often contain information about the caller’s identity, like their SIP address or username.
4. Follow the Flow: Trace the flow of these packets to understand the path they take through your network, including any routers and switches they pass through.
That being said, this is not a bulletproof strategy. VoIP calls can be spoofed, meaning the originating IP addresses may not always be reliable. One of the key advantages of VoIP services is the enhanced privacy and flexibility they offer, especially to businesses.
And again—remember that this requires a high level of technical knowledge. You also need to make sure you don’t violate any privacy laws or regulations. Make sure you know what you’re doing and are aware of all privacy regulations before trying this method.