How to trace a phone number

Telephone harassment is a crime. If you're receiving threatening or obscene calls, you can trace the source and get help from local law enforcement, even for calls coming from private and blocked phone numbers. Call Trace is already installed with your CenturyLink Home Phone service. Here's how it works. 

Video: How to trace a call

How to use Call Trace

If you receive a harassing call: 

  1. Answer the phone or check the caller ID to see if it's a call you want to trace. Then, hang up on the caller. If caller ID shows a number that you know is malicious, you do not need to pick up the phone at all.

  2. After you have hung up, or after the call has stopped ringing, pick up the phone again and listen for a dial tone.

  3. Dial *57

  4. You will receive a recorded message with additional instructions for you to follow.

  5. After this, you will hear a message confirming whether the trace was successful along with any charges for the trace. 

  6. There may be a charge on your next bill. Keep in mind that you will not be given any information about the caller.

What's included in a successful trace

A successful trace captures the calling party's phone number and — if the phone number is serviced by CenturyLink — the name and address as well. The phone number, name and address (if available) are turned over to the CenturyLink Call Identification Center. 

For legal and privacy reasons, we aren't able to share the caller's personal details with you. We can only release this information if we receive a subpoena, court order, or a request from a law enforcement agency. 

Note: We are not authorized to answer questions about subpoenas or provide legal advice to our customers.

What you can do next

Normally, three successful traces of harassing calls originating from the same number are required before CenturyLink or local law enforcement can take action. Once you've traced a number three times, you can request to take action against the calling party.

Contact us to discuss your next steps. Be prepared to share any relevant information with them, such as the dates and times you've received and traced harassing calls. 

You can also contact your local law enforcement and tell them that you've been receiving harassing calls and that you've traced those calls. Be sure to get the name and contact information of the officer who records your complaint. If an officer opens a case for you, make a note of the case number as well.

If your law enforcement agency has questions, have them contact the CenturyLink Law Enforcement Support Team at 1-877-451-1980.

Common questions about Call Trace

No, Call Trace is already installed on your line. You don't have to order it or have it installed. You're only charged for this calling feature when you successfully complete a trace. Depending on where you live, the fee can be up to $10 per call.

If you successfully trace a call, you hear this message: 

"The last call has been traced, and a $xx charge will be added to your bill. Call tracing is a serious business. If the call was life threatening, call the police. If harassing or obscene calls persist, after three traces, call 1-800-244-1111 or 1-800-201-4099 for further instructions. You will not receive the name and number of the party who called you."

If you attempt to trace a phone number, but the trace is unsuccessful, you will hear this message:

"The last call to your telephone cannot be traced, so no charge will be added to your bill. If the problem continues, call CenturyLink at 1-800-244-1111 or 1-800-201-4099 for further assistance."

If you're trying to trace a number and are interrupted by Call Waiting, the system will automatically trace the call waiting number as the last incoming call. In this case, unfortunately, you would need to try the trace again if and when another call comes in from the same caller.

Call Trace is available in most areas. Charges will appear in the "Pay Per Use" section of your CenturyLink bill.

If you attempt to trace a call but hear a rapid busy tone instead of recorded instructions, Call Trace may not be available in your area. 

While telemarketing and collection calls are annoying, they are not illegal and should not be traced — unless they become threatening or obscene, in which case they could be considering harassing. Look at these options for blocking calls.

Private numbers, blocked, and restricted calls can usually be traced. However, unknown, unavailable or out of area calls are not traceable because they don’t contain the data needed for a successful trace.

No, there's no minimum time the caller needs to be on the line. In fact, if the caller hangs up before you can pick up the phone, you probably can still trace the call. A connection simply needs to be made, and that usually happens once the phone rings at least two times.

In most instances, the last incoming call you received — whether or not it was answered and even if it was forwarded — is traceable. 

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