Trace unknown numbers

2010-02-17 08:13

Cape Town - Feeling harassed or threatened by calls from private or unknown numbers? A South African company believes it has the solution.

Intertel has made its call unmasking service available to the public and promises to unmask any private number - whether to cellphones, landlines, or even VoIP calls.

"We're a high-tech company that specialises in intelligence gathering, as opposed to PIs," Intertel's Director: Special Projects Brett Powell told News24.

The company's website claims that any call can be unmasked, regardless of what the caller has done to conceal their number. Powell said the service is legal.


"Our attorneys have had a look at what we do and we get consent from the client. Our system is passive - it doesn't use any extra network capacity and in every case we've done, it's been cases of criminal harassment.

"People are blackmailed, they feel embarrassed and they have no-one to turn to, and we can trace calls and location of the blackmailer."

Powell said that blackmail in SA was prevalent enough for them, at one stage, to build almost their entire business on resolving extortion cases.

He warned though, that the service was designed for use by those who feel threatened or harassed.

"Look, this service is not designed for the curious - or people who are dodging calls. It's for people who feel that they're being emotionally abused by these calls."

He said that they were able to trace the identity and location of unknown calls, but wouldn't divulge how exactly they were able to identify callers.

"There are some databases available publically that we use to trace and we're able to give that information to the police in assisting them in finding people. But we're straddling a fine line between legal and illegal because, you know, regulations may change," he added.


He said that they advise clients to open a police case but questioned whether there was strong motivation within Saps to pursue cases of harassment or blackmail.

"The police have the authority to do these investigations, but we're not sure whether they lack the motivation or the training, but certainly, we've encountered some very co-operative cops and some very reactionary guys," said Powell.

The cost for the service is not cheap, but Powell said that one is not obliged to pay in the hopes of getting a harassment call.

"You could have it installed and keep it on standby. Obviously, there's a cost to us, but we've helped some people free of charge," he said.

Powell said that while they have traditionally not advertised their services to the general public, they feel that they can provide a service to those who require it.

"There also a risk to us in making this public. Service Providers are going to ask us: 'How do you do it?' but it will have a huge impact on people phoning from private numbers," he added.

He said that even unsolicited calls from direct marketing companies were illegal and constituted harassment.

Unofficial channels

"It's completely illegal. You have the right to demand where they got your number. But there's no strong desire to follow these cases up.

"We're also able to trace VoIP (Voice over internet protocol) calls. If a call is placed using Skype, we can trace back the gateway number. We've built up a number of contacts at ISPs," he said.

When asked how they could achieve such tracing, he would only reply that they have "streamlined unofficial channels".

The call unmasking service costs R250 per day, and R750 per week.

  • Ockert - 2010-02-17 08:27

    Do not answer Private Numbers or ID Withheld numbers, they will catch on and stop. To pay R250 per day or even R750 per week is absolutely outrageous !!

  • Esmé - 2010-02-17 08:46

    I do not answer a call when it show Private Number or Withheld - and like Ockert said - it stops after a while.Why pay R250 per day or even R750 as you just ignore the people who do know your name but refuse that you know who is calling?!!

  • Jason Bourne - 2010-02-17 08:59

    It's a shame that it is so expensive at this stage, but I think in the long run, if this works well enough and legal enough, it will be a kick in the teeth for the telemarketers.

  • hm - 2010-02-17 09:17

    BEST SOLN - do not answer private numbers period. tell yr collegues that u will not answer the phn if its is a private number and eventually yhe bug will give up. I personally seldom even answer my cell number if the number is not on my phone book

  • DaveH - 2010-02-17 09:23

    This must be the biggest scam! I was harrassed by callers non stop for weeks and decided to contact them, after the R250/day shocker I decided to take the route of service provider solution instead! After being shunted from pillar to post, instructed of how to follow procedure of logging calls, the service provider legal department assured me they would deal with it. Since then the 'mystery' calls have miraculously stopped.

    This problem of masked call harassment is a service provider issue which is self-created by allowing users of the network to harrass other users in the name of business. This practice of 'legal harassment' should be stopped because by the service providers OWN terms of service it is a violation which ultimately they must deal with.

    As far as I am concerned, as a client paying for the CLI service I feel that this pre-paid fee should override calling number masking by default because this is a 2-way paid service - you do not pay to mask numbers! (maybe THAT would stop harrassers!!)

    My complaint to the unmasking company was as follows: How do we harrassed clients not know that these masked calls are being generated by your unmasking service in order to generate business?

    Fair is fair and I think service providers should rethink their lame strategies and do their paying customers the due service and privacy expected from them. People who are being harrassed should persist in their efforts with the customer service call center until they have satisfaction with the legal support department.

  • Michael - 2010-02-17 09:35

    This service is not designed for people to have the option of knowing who is calling before deciding to answer. It is for those people that have been subjected to criminal telephonic harassment. And it works.

  • Vaunski - 2010-02-17 09:51

    I think this is excellent. R750 a week is not a lot to pay for your safety. Police are not very willing to act on restraining orders or reports of harassment when you have no proof.

    I do think that by going public with this, they are putting their company in a vulnerable position. It's still great to know that this service is available to the public.

  • KickerK - 2010-02-17 11:43

    Good article Duncan.
    I would think this knowledge and technology should be in possession of the authorities. And they should offer this service free of charge for any victims of this type of criminal activities. I would say that would be tax money well spent.
    Once again, the wealthy will prosper while the poorer victims will have to keep on suffering at the hands of criminals. Brilliant technology, but in the wrong hands.

  • eblockwatch. - 2010-02-17 16:10

    I think it is a wonderful service but Brett never returns a call.

  • Dimakatso - 2010-02-17 17:36

    I have used the intertel for the unmasking of the calls from a private number and I am very grateful to their service. Thank you

  • Robert Haasbroek - 2010-02-18 09:44

    Those of you who suggest people being harassed should simply not answer their phone have obviously never been tormented by a psychopathic individual calling dozens of times a day. I, too, wish that this service could be made available at no cost, but I was more than happy to pay the R250 for one day unmasking as I have now rid my life of this torturous menace.

  • burt - 2010-02-26 12:31

    some one phone me if i phone back it say no reply or number does not excist

  • Nomkhosee Dlalisa - 2014-11-11 09:59

    What kind of people are allowed to trace the numbers for them,when they've reported their case?

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