Cell phone records are an extensive list that includes a person’s incoming and outgoing calls, usually accompanied by details such as the call’s duration and cost. However, cell phone records investigations are much more than just snooping around your partner’s phone to see who has been calling. A cell phone records investigation involves an entire process that should be conducted only by experts in the field, like private investigators, especially if the retrieved proof has to be admissible in a court case. According to the law, specifically the Telephone Records and Privacy Protection Act of 2006, getting phone records is illegal unless they follow certain exceptions.
Nevertheless, suppose you want to obtain your own cell phone records, or you just want to satisfy your curiosity or solve a dilemma that has been bothering you for a while, considering maybe your kids or partner. In that case, there are ways you can make this happen rather easily.
Accessing your phone records
Nowadays, getting access to your phone records is as easy as checking your bills. Usually, the phone bill provides details about your phone calls made a month before. The bill should also include some basic information, like the date and time when the call was made or received, the duration of the call, and, in some cases if the call employed the use of certain special features like call recording.
An online account on the website of your cell phone provider offers easy access to everything you need to know about the incoming and outgoing calls, as well as details about billing and your phone plan. To obtain the records online, you need to locate the section that takes you to recordings of the calls or information on the usage.
Now, if none of these methods work or you need more information than the one you have access to, you can call your cell phone provider. They usually keep the records for a particular time, usually 12 months, and provide the cell phone records you need. However, make sure you are ready to provide personal information to be identified as the primary account holder.
Accessing someone else’s phone records
Things get a lot more difficult if you want to obtain the records of someone else’s phone calls. Legally, you’re only allowed to do this if you share a phone plan with the respective person. For example, if you’re the main account holder of your kids’ phone plan, obtaining cell phone records implies just checking your bill or logging online into your account on the cell phone provider’s website. Basically, when you’re sharing a phone plan, as the account holder, you have the same rights to obtain records as you have to access your own cell phone records.
If you can’t access a person’s cell phone records this way, you have two options: you can either subpoena them or hire a private investigator to conduct a cell phone records investigation. People can file a subpoena for a person’s phone records if they are involved in a court case, and they need this information for their case. The subpoena works only if you’re part of a lawsuit or a divorce case, and the judge approves this.
Your other option is to hire a private investigator to conduct a cell phone records investigation. Cell phone records investigations are vital for many cases. While you might think they can be used mostly to catch an unfaithful partner, private investigators conduct cell phone records investigations for various cases, from missing person cases and skip tracing to background checks and fraud investigations. They’re also useful in child custody investigations, asset searches, employee checks, and domestic investigations.
How does a cell phone records investigation work?
Private investigators have various resources they can use to conduct accurate cell phone records investigations. They use search warrants, but also their own contacts and surveillance methods. A private investigator can use the help of law enforcement to obtain access to cell phone records. Still, they can also rely on their experience and different databases to get the information they need.
It’s true that you can hire the services of certain online data brokers to access cell phone records, but their services are questionable, to say the least. These online services provide cell phone records for a fee. However, you need to wonder about the methods they use to obtain records? They don’t have the support of law enforcement and definitely don’t act based on a subpoena.
Most of the information provided by online services is obtained from phone data brokers and phone-call lists put together by using illegal phone record searches. Not only are these cell phone records useless in a court of law because of the way they’ve been obtained, but they also are inaccurate. Moreover, paying for such services only encourages their providers to continue with their illegal activity, and who knows, maybe next time, you’ll be the one with your phone records out in the open.
When a cell phone investigation is not an option. The alternatives!
Cell phone investigations aren’t always what a case needs. Maybe you don’t have the necessary legal grounds for a subpoena, or a cell phone investigation is simply not enough to solve your case. A private investigator can make use of other techniques and resources to gather the information you need while respecting the law and providing you with admissible evidence in a court of law. They can use surveillance and the help of digital forensic experts to extract facts found on digital devices, including cell phones.
Digital forensics gives access to the data and files from a cell phone using software that retrieves the information without altering it. This is actually the key to digital forensics. The data shouldn’t be altered during the cell phone extraction process for the retrieved evidence to be admissible in court. While cell phone records investigations provide access to phone calls, the duration of the call, and the date and time, cell phone extractions go deeper and provide information related to the GPS location history, the content of text messages, as well as photos and videos stored or deleted from the phone.
As expected, due to the depth of the research, cell phone extraction can only be conducted by law enforcement. However, if all you need is a list of the incoming and outgoing calls of someone or other details that can be obtained following cell phone records investigations, you should go ahead and hire a private investigator to pave the way to the truth.
Note: This post was originally published on June 5th, 2019. It was updated on January 25, 2022, to reflect updates in technology, the industry, and privacy laws.