It's easy to identify unknown numbers as the spam they probably are, but receiving a text message from what appears to be an actual person - one who isn't in your phone contacts - can turn your lunch break into an episode of Sherlock.
Photo: Christian Wiediger (Unsplash)
While you used to be able to figure out unknown numbers by typing them into a Facebook search and seeing what pops up, assuming a person had also published their number on the social network, Facebook has since killed that feature. Don't worry - there are other popular social networks that are more than happy to help you out.
Try using Snapchat to hunt down a mystery texter
For being a service that you mainly use to send pictures of your cats and naked parts - and to get a 24/7 feed of news reports about the Kardashians - Snapchat is as good of a detective tool as it is a private messaging service.
To start sleuthing, pull up a text message you received from an unknown sender. Now, take the unorthodox step of adding this mysterious messenger to your contacts. Feel free to give them a silly name, since this is just going to be a temporary contact.
After you've done that, open up Snapchat. Tap on your little Snapchat user icon in the upper-left corner of Snapchat's camera UI - you know, the one you use to take pictures all the time. You're now in your profile screen. Tap on Add Friends, and then tap on the "Contacts" tab.
If you haven't already given the app permission to access your device's Contacts, do that. (You can remove this permission later on both iOS and Android, though that won't necessarily delete any information you've already provided to Snapchat.)
From there, scroll through the list of "Snapchatters in my contacts" to find the silly name you previously created for that unknown number. If the mystery sender uses Snapchat, this contact name - as well as their Snapchat display name - will appear on Snapchat's list.
If you're lucky, the person's display name will give away who they are (like "TheDavidMurphy"). If not, you can always search the web for their display name to see if they use that name elsewhere and associate it with more information about who they are.
Once you've figured out your mystery sender, don't forget to delete the temporary contact you dropped into your device's digital address book. And feel free to text them back and say hello - or perhaps a more personalised greeting, now that you know who they are.