What’s a VoIP caller, and how can you use or dissuade them? In short, if your phone says VoIP caller, it means someone’s calling you over VoIP instead of a classic phone line.
This guide will tell you what VoIP technology is, how it works, what a VoIP caller is in detail, and answers to many VoIP technology questions.
What Is VoIP?
The most common VoIP meaning is that it’s an acronym for voice over internet protocol. This refers to phone services that function over the internet instead of through a traditional phone line for most people.
VoIP technology takes a tiny amount of bandwidth, so most people can use it without significant signal loss even while performing other bandwidth-heavy processes, such as streaming live video data.
However, as VoIP relies on internet access, it does not work when a household’s internet is down. This contrasts with traditional landline telephones, which often remain functioning during power outages that affect other electronics.
The chart below shows the size of the VoIP market per region. By 2024, it is predicted that the global VoIP market will reach 145 billion U.S. dollars.
So, what does it mean when it says VoIP caller on the phone?
That’s relatively rare, but some phones may display that it’s a VoIP call instead of any caller ID information. For more on how Caller ID works with VoIP, see below:
Are There Any Other Definitions of VoIP?
Yes. VOIP (note that all letters are capitalized in this version of the acronym) can also stand for valence orbital ionization potential.
This is a chemistry term dealing with electrons’ movement and has no particular relevance to VoIP telecommunications.
What Is VoIP Technology?
VoIP technology refers collectively to all the systems that VoIP systems need to function in the first place.
This includes the phones, servers, and wired connections that make internet telephony possible.
However, few systems are wholly unique to VoIP. The fundamental principles are based entirely on three existing technologies:
- Pick up voice data for a computer through a telephone.
- Transfer voice data elsewhere.
- Play it out through a speaker.
VoIP technology is fundamentally cheaper than traditional telephone networks because it doesn’t need as much equipment to work.
Classic phone lines are expensive to both install and maintain, and any problems along the way usually result in blocked calls. VoIP lines can avoid problem areas and continue working. The internet is already there and ready to be used.
What Are The Basic Components of a VoIP System?
While the precise setups vary by provider, VoIP systems typically have most or all of the following components.
- An internet connection: This serves as a replacement for the landline systems, and it’s no exaggeration to call this the most critical part of VoIP technology.
- An adapter: Adapters convert the telephone signals into digital signals. Some adapters plug into traditional phones so you can still use those, while others are integrated into VoIP-based phones.
- An audio pickup and a speaker: These are integrated into all standard telephones, including smartphones. If you’re using a personal computer, you may need to buy a separate microphone and speakers or a set of headphones with a microphone built into them.
- Apps (optional): Finally, if you’re using a VoIP system over a smartphone, tablet, or personal computer, you’ll need an app to run the program.
How Do VoIP Numbers Work?
VoIP numbers are identifiers that allow people to make and receive calls along a network.
It’s possible to attach the same VoIP number to any number of phone devices. For example, with the right setup, you can have the same number for a desk phone at work, business smartphone, and personal smartphone.
This means that someone can call out from the same number using different devices, allowing their contacts to recognize them and improving the rate at which they accept calls.
It also means the same person can receive calls to specific numbers while in different areas.
Unlike location-based numbers, which were set to help make switchboards work, VoIP numbers are based on IP networks.
This means that people can attach any area code to a VoIP phone, removing the need to change numbers when moving.
What Is A Non-Fixed VoIP Phone Number?
Non-fixed VoIP numbers are not associated with any physical location.
These can supplement other phone services or even be used as a disposable phone line for transmitting sensitive information.
However, this very secrecy also means that non-fixed VoIP numbers are a popular tool for fraud.
You’ll learn more about this below, but the vital thing to know right now is that not all uses of non-fixed VoIP numbers are suspicious. However, most people never need to use this.
What Is A Fixed VoIP Number?
As the name implies, fixed VoIP numbers are static and are associated with a specific address or location. This is the type of VoIP service that most homes and businesses choose to use.
Despite being associated with a particular address, it’s possible to move and continue using these numbers as long as you update your address with your provider.
While fixed VoIP numbers are a suitable replacement for landlines, they are still considered phone lines and subject to relevant taxes.
These vary by state and are typically low if you don’t have any traditional bill at all, but have been going up in recent years.
The use of an address is more important than many people realize at first.
By assigning an address to a fixed VoIP number, that number becomes compatible with 911 and other emergency systems. Non-fixed VoIP systems cannot provide such services.
Why Would Someone Use a VoIP Number?
There are several reasons to use a VoIP number or service, but one of the most common reasons is the lower price.
VoIP may be as affordable as a one-time purchase of a compatible box, with no additional costs or fees except internet telephony taxes as required by law.
The second reason people use VoIP numbers is the flexibility they provide.
This is useful for people who work in different places, as well as for anyone who cannot bring their technology in or out of the area.
This is common in some secure workplaces.
VoIP systems also offer a variety of options that common landline services cannot match. For example, you can program a VoIP system for three-digit dialing (similar to 911, but for contact any number you set).
You can also transmit multimedia over some VoIP phones, including video streams, or send an audio file to someone’s email address.
Since VoIP generally offers more features at a lower price point than landlines, it serves as a popular choice for people who are thinking about switching over.
Most people consider VoIP to be the future of phone communications. It’s likely that landlines will be disabled instead of replaced once existing systems reach the end of their lifespan.
Who Is Using VoIP Technology?
VoIP is used mainly by homeowners and workplaces. In more practical terms, that means almost everybody can use it, although some people still haven’t made the switch over to it.
The statistic below shows the number of VoIP residential and business telephone lines in the United States. The number of subscribers both residential and business have been steadily increasing over the years.
However, there are some distinct differences between the two primary user groups.
Homeowners use VoIP phones as replacements for traditional telephone lines.
For many households, this is as simple as plugging their VoIP phone into their internet router and setting things up with the service provider.
Most homeowners do not take advantage of all of the features and options that VoIP offers. The focus here is usually more on saving money than on changing how they use phones.
However, some providers offer subscription plans with features like spam blocking at a set fee each month. This is where much of the profit in selling VoIP to homeowners lies.
Workplaces use VoIP systems in noticeably different ways than homeowners.
How different they depend on what the business needs to accomplish.
Most businesses use something similar to the following setup.
A Company VoIP Phone Network
A company VoIP phone network is a setup where the workplace replaces every phone with a VoIP-enabled device and assigns them the appropriate numbers.
For example, if most workers are in cubicles, they usually assign a different number (and/or extension) to each phone.
However, suppose the phones are located on a factory floor. In that case, the company may assign the same number to most or all of the phones, so people don’t have to cross the entire area to pick up the phone and respond to urgent communications.
Special setups vary depending on need and include the advanced features that homeowners rarely touch.
These could consist of video streaming, recording audio messages, or anything else that’s necessary for the business to function.
Quick Contact Network
Quick contact networks use three-digit dialing to make it easier to contact specific workplace people.
These are primarily used for essential contacts that aren’t accessible to outsiders.
For example, a company may configure code 258 to contact the security office.
In most cases, numbers reachable with three-digit dialing also have different numbers for regular calls.
Or instead, three-digit dialing is a shorthand code that tells the phone to dial a longer and different number that may or may not be shared with others.
How Do I Find Out Who Owns A VoIP Number?
There are several ways to figure out who owns an unidentified VoIP number that called you.
A simple internet search is often enough, but you may need to use more potent methods for numbers trying to hide. Here are the best options you can try.
The first option to try is a standard phone number lookup based on the information available.
Typing the phone number into your browser’s search bar can bring up quick information about who’s calling and, in many cases, whether or not they’re likely to be a scam call.
Most number lookup services are free and are excellent choices for determining whether a particular number is likely to be legitimate.
If a search doesn’t find a meaningful name and address for you, chances are it’s someone trying to hide their identity, and therefore, it’s untrustworthy.
Service Provider Lookups
Regardless of the number that’s displayed on your screen, your VoIP provider likely has far more information about anyone contacting you.
Even if your caller disguised the name shown on your phone, you can tell your provider when they called and ask for more information about it.
While this works well for most fixed connections, it may not be useful if the caller did not use a registered IP address.
If they have a fake IP or are routing it through a third-party system, such as some VPNs allow, your service provider may not be able to tell you who the caller is.
This, by itself, is usually telling.
If someone is going that far to hide their contact identity, chances are they don’t have a legitimate reason for contacting you.
You can’t do this as effectively after the call ends, but you can send information back along the contact route and have it report to you while the call happens.
This is relatively effective, though some security measures may interfere with it.
Can A VoIP Call Be Traced?
Yes. All VoIP calls can be traced, and in most cases, people can trace them even after the call ends by looking at server records and similar information.
This is particularly true for telecom companies and law enforcement agencies, which can access resources that average consumers cannot.
Trying to hide your identity or location while making VoIP calls is limited protection at best.
A sufficiently determined organization can ultimately trace almost any call, including those made from non-fixed IP addresses.
A VoIP Caller Keeps Calling Me
There are many reasons why the same VoIP number may be calling you. Here are some of the most common causes, although keep in mind that legitimate callers usually display their information, so you know who’s calling you.
Many VoIP calls are automated (robocalls), so they may not connect to a person even if you pick up.
Other calls are searching for answers and will connect to a person a short time after you pick up.
This is the most common reason to get repeat calls, and the only moderately-effective technique is a call blocking service.
Some phones come with this feature built-in, although it may only have a small list of numbers to save.
Some VoIP providers offer enhanced call blocking that they can perform entirely on their end.
You Agreed To Receive The Calls
This isn’t as common, but there are times when you can agree to receive automated calls from companies.
For legitimate businesses, the best response is to ask to get taken back off of their list.
The Call Is Legitimate
These are rarer than they should be, given that there are so many spam calls that they can drown out the legitimate ones.
However, there are legal and legitimate reasons for receiving repeated calls from a VoIP system. Here are some of those reasons.
- Political Calls: These are broadly allowed, although companies may need to state identifying information if you actually pick up or if they leave a message.
- Debt Collection: Debt collectors can use automated calls while trying to reach you and may be persistent. Keep in mind that people trying to sell you a debt-reduction service are probably scammers.
- Informational Calls: Informational calls include things like reminders for medical appointments or information about your child’s school. They may call several times to ensure you received their message.
- Charitable Calls: Charities can contact you directly. However, if someone is performing robocalls on behalf of the charity, that service can only contact prior donors and current members. For their calls to be legal, they must also include an option for you to stop future calls.
Can You Call Back a VoIP Number?
That depends on the number.
If you want to call a fixed VoIP number back, you can usually do so without issues.
This works for all legitimate numbers and functions in essentially the same way as calling back a number on a landline.
Most legitimate callers want to be contacted, so they do not set up any hurdles to this.
Calling a non-fixed VoIP number back is difficult, or even impossible for many people.
This is because non-fixed numbers may be disabled after they call you to prevent you from trying to track them down.
Blocking old numbers this way is a favored technique of scam callers.
Does VoIP Have Caller ID?
Yes, although not everyone enables it. There are two components to Caller ID systems: the phone displays incoming contact information.
A CNAM (Calling Name) company maintains a database of phone numbers with names attached to them and provides that information to call providers so they can attach it to the phone call.
Most of this happens between the first and second ring of a phone call.
This is why phones often ring before displaying Caller ID data, rather than displaying that information right away.
Unfortunately, CNAMs do not have a central regulating authority, which means there are no standards between different companies.
It can take time for them to update their databases even if you contact them with a request to do so.
Unless and until this information is centralized, Caller ID is not as useful in practice as it is in theory.
The counterpart to provider-based Caller ID is phone-based identification.
This is usually as simple as assigning a name or description to a particular number, and it will display as such on your phone when that number calls.
Phone-based identification is not instant and is not updated automatically, but it allows you to override other information and display more meaningful data to you.
In some large businesses, people use phone-based identification to help them learn more about who’s calling.
For example, a phone displaying “Tech Support” may be significantly more useful than knowing which specific tech team member is calling.
This is particularly true at organizations that have more employees than those who work there are expected to know.
How Do I Do a VoIP Caller ID Lookup?
See How Do I Find Out Who Owns A VoIP Number? above.
Keep in mind that Caller ID is fundamentally less-accurate than tracing IP addresses because people can register false names with telecom companies and have those displayed.
Most telecom companies can detect when suspicious activity occurs, so scammers usually avoid trying this unless they’re about to switch providers or think a particular scam is worth the trouble.
Can People Do VoIP Caller ID Spoofing?
Yes. There are several ways to spoof Caller ID systems when using VoIP. However, remember that most spoofing is illegal.
Spoofing is not legal if it is done with the intent to defraud people, harm people, or obtain something of value wrongly.
In this context, “something of value” can be interpreted extremely broadly and may result in significant penalties for people.
However, there are cases where the government considers spoofing to be acceptable.
For example, a business may display a toll-free number for people to call them back at, even if that’s not the number they called from.
Since this is benign and may actually save the customer some money, it’s acceptable spoofing.
Similarly, if a doctor or any other employee at a medical facility calls a patient, they might use spoofing to display the number of the medical office.
That’s who the customer should call back, especially if the doctor needed to make the call outside of regular hours but was still doing it for business purposes.
How Do You Know If a Number Is VoIP?
The easiest way to determine if a number is VoIP is to use the techniques described earlier in this guide.
These are particularly useful if you don’t need to check the number while the phone is ringing and can look it up at your leisure.
Alternatively, you can assume that a number is VoIP unless the distinction is relevant and it’s proven otherwise.
Most companies are switching over to VoIP for reasons described earlier in this guide, and since there are over 75 million residential VoIP lines and over 40 million business VoIP lines, it’s a reasonably safe assumption.
Is A VoIP Number a Cell Phone Number?
No. While you can use a VoIP system on a cell phone with the right apps, cell phone numbers are fundamentally different and go through cell companies.
However, the distinction is mainly technical and has little impact on casual users.
If you set up your cell phone to send and receive VoIP calls, and you give people that number, it is functionally a cell number even if it does not meet the technical definition of that term.
How To Protect Against VoIP Fraud
The FCC offers excellent advice for helping protect yourself and your business from VoIP fraud. Here are some of the best ways to protect yourself from fraud.
What’s a VoIP caller most likely to try and scam you with, if they’re malicious?
That’s hard to say because potential threats vary throughout the year.
It’s better to practice anti-fraud procedures throughout the year.
Do Not Press Buttons To Stop Getting Calls
Some scams tell you to press a particular button to be removed from this list. In many cases, this claim is a lie.
It helps identify potential targets by seeing which people are more likely to respond to prompts.
Legitimate companies must take you off of their call list if you ask them to, but fraudsters will not do this.
Do Not Provide Personal Information During Unexpected Calls
What’s a VoIP caller likely to ask for?
All types of information, ranging from passwords to your medical history.
Never provide personal information on any call you did not expect to get, even if the Caller ID says it’s someone you know.
As you learned earlier in this guide, people can spoof those names.
It’s particularly important to avoid giving out sensitive information if they claim that they need it right away, or that you’ll be in trouble if you don’t provide it.
There are workarounds for this.
For example, you can send a coded message to an official email account and have them read it back to you to prove that they have access to a company’s business accounts.
Strategies like these will help ensure that anyone who needs to get the information can, and anybody else will not.
Do Not Trust Anyone Who Claims To Be From The Government
The government near-universally sends written mail, rather than phone calls, except for pre-scheduled appointments.
This is particularly true if the agency is asking you for payments.
Do Not Respond To Unknown Numbers
Instead of responding, try doing a quick web search (if possible) to see who’s calling before the phone finishes ringing.
If the result is a source that makes sense, such as a dentist’s office you go to, it’s fine to answer.
Otherwise, let it go to voicemail.
People who genuinely need to contact you will usually leave voicemails.
What If I Need To Answer Calls For My Business?
If you need to answer the phone as part of your business, know which area codes you expect contacts to come from.
If possible, enter client information into a Caller ID system to help weed out bad calls. If you get a spam call, hang up right away.