Where do all the lost cell phones go? Considering the number of times we receive this question each week, we’re tempted to think there must exist some mysterious Bermuda Triangle sort of phenomenon in which every cell phone that enters vanishes into thin air.
Our first thought was that you can simply call 6-1-1 on your cell phone and see which company answers. What’s 6-1-1? It’s the number that most wireless phone companies use as a general customer service access number. For example, when we dial 6-1-1 on our cell phones, a recorded voice says, “Welcome to AT&T…”
That’s a simple solution if your free government cell phone is still in your possession, but no help at all if it’s been lost or stolen.
First, something that won’t work
One of our readers recently left a comment that said, “There are a number of websites that make it simple to find your carrier — such as fonefinder.net, reversephonedetective.com, and ReversePhoneDetective.com.”
Unfortunately, that comment, although well-intended, is absolutely wrong. Those websites will only identify the carrier of the signal, not the company with which you are contracted.
Please allow us to explain: Most Lifeline free government cell phone providers are small companies that don’t have the resources to build their own wireless networks, so they contract with one of the major cell phone carriers — primarily Verizon, AT&T Mobility, Sprint, T-Mobile or U.S. Cellular — to carry their customers’ phone calls. So if you plug your phone number into any of those sites, the results will tell you which network carries your phone calls, not the cell phone company from which you receive your free government cell phone.
Even worse, those sites aren’t truly reliable even for full-price cell phone customers of the major carriers, because they will only reveal the carrier who originally assigned that phone number to the customer.
For example, the author of this article originally signed up for cell phone service with Verizon when he lived in Southern California. Several years later he switched to AT&T and then moved to Texas several years after that. Yet when he plugs his cell phone number into all three of those sites, they tell him that his provider is still AT&T in Costa Mesa, California.
The real solution: FreeGovernmentCellPhones.net and a little detective work
Now that you know what won’t work, is there another way to figure out who your free government cell phone provider is?
Absolutely. It requires a little more work than plugging in your phone number and hitting the return key, but may well be exactly what you need.
Just follow these steps:
- Click here to the FreeGovernmentCellPhones.net page called “States.”
- Scroll down the page until you see your state (they’re conveniently listed in alphabetical order) and click on it. You’ll see a complete list of free government cell phone companies doing business in your state. Most states have relatively few competitors so you will probably recognize the name of your provider.
- Click on the provider and you’ll be taken to a FreeGovernmentCellPhone.net page dedicated to that company. Scroll down until you find contact info for that company.
- Contact them to discuss your lost phone.
- If you don’t recognize the name of your free government cell phone provider, click on each of them one at a time and to see if one of their plans sounds familiar. If so, click on that provider, scroll down to find its contact information, and contact them.
If you try each of these steps and still can’t find the provider of your cell phone service, you are, unfortunately, out of luck.
We often promote the fact that free government cell phone customers don’t have restrictive long term contracts. Unfortunately, this may be the one downside of that situation. Because if you had a contract and received monthly bills and the endless series of promotional mailers that paid customers receive from their cell phone companies, it would undoubtedly be far easier to remember who provides your service.