If a call comes through with the word "restricted" or "private" showing up on the screen, it means that the person calling you has blocked the number from public viewing. Collection agencies frequently block their numbers to increase their safety in an emotionally charged situation; others might block their number for less honorable reasons. Due to data protection laws, only the phone company and law enforcement officials can access a restricted number.
Speak with your phone company about installing a call tracing service on your line. In most instances, the last incoming call you receive is traceable, even if the number is restricted. When you receive a call from the restricted number, hang up or don't pick up the call. Dial "*57" and follow the recorded instructions. A successful trace captures the restricted phone number and routes it to your phone company. Call tracing is a paid service and you'll be charged a fee every time a successful trace is made.
For legal reasons, the phone company cannot share the results of a call tracing service with you. It can, however, release the information to the courts and to law enforcement if you continue to receive unwelcome calls. While each company has different policies, you typically will need three successful traces originating from the same number before the phone company or local law enforcement can take action against the caller.
Blocking the Calls
To block a restricted number from calling you, speak to your phone company about installing filters on your line. Once you've set this up, the restricted number will be directed to an automated message stating that you have opted not to receive anonymous calls. While you won't get to find out who is calling you, the "silent treatment" may force the caller to call you from a non-restricted number.
Report the Nuisance
When the restricted calls become harassing, threatening or obscene, call your phone company and report the nuisance to the annoyance desk. The phone company can then put a trap on your line to capture the restricted number. The trap usually lasts for two weeks. Alongside the trap, you'll be expected to keep a log noting the time, date and duration of the harassing calls you are receiving. The phone company will pass information collected from a trap to law enforcement officers, not to you, the customer. It is against the law in most states to make threatening or harassing calls, and law enforcement can bring charges as necessary.
A Note About Telemarketing
While telemarketing and collection calls are irritating, they are not illegal unless they become threatening or harassing. Your phone company usually will not trace these calls. The simplest way to block solicitation calls is to register your business and personal phone numbers with the national Do Not Call Registry operated by the Federal Trade Commission.