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by Robert Scott, P.I.

Google's new free phone service, Google Voice, presents many of the same challenges to investigators and skiptracers as throwaway pre-paid cell phones. It's anonymous and untraceable (when desired) and can be easily abused by scammers, identity thieves, deadbeats and other undesirables.

When run through free Internet searches that identify the phone company and line type (like or, a mixed set of results is returned. Roughly a third of the numbers come back as; and the rest come back to a variety of landline and cell carriers. ( is a wholesale provider of VOIP service to other phone companies.)

But if an investigator also runs the phone number through a data source that knows if the number has been ported or not, the picture changes. These 60 per cent or so of numbers that originally come back to some phone company other than, in fact turn out to all be ported to

To be able to tell if a phone number is ported or not, the investigator will need access to this type of lookup. It's a free search for subscribers at (my own) Other commercial data services may offer this type of search as well. (If you'd like to test a known Google Voice number at, try 502-517-9689.)

In summary, if an investigator does a lookup on a phone number and the telephone carrier comes back as, there's a strong possibility its a Google Voice number or other virtual phone service. However, this lookup will need to include a ported number check to be thorough. While it appears that all or nearly all Google Voice numbers are powered by, all numbers cannot be said to be Google Voice numbers as the company powers other providers of virtual phone numbers as well.

Robert Scott is a Los Angeles-based private investigator and creator of websites for private investigators, including Reprint permission.



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