Phone Call Says Out of Area: Meaning?

Here’s what it means if your phone call says out of area:

This message is created by your caller ID and not the phone carrier per see.

It means that the number used to call you is outside of recognized regions according to your caller ID. 

In reality, it mostly means that the number doesn’t match any records on the caller ID database, so it could be coming from anywhere.

If you want to learn all about why your phone call says out of area, then this article is for you.

Let’s jump right into it!

Phone Call Says Out of Area: Meaning? (+ How to Prevent)

What Does It Mean When Your Phone Call Says Out of Area?

Upset woman with smartphone on street

To put it as simply as possible, this message is telling you that your caller ID doesn’t recognize the phone number.

Ultimately, it is the caller ID feature alone that is responsible for this message.

Typically, there are a few things that can prevent a number from showing up on your caller ID.

There are services that keep some numbers private (although they are less common than they used to be).

If you get a call from such a number, you will typically see “private” on the caller ID.

There are also resources that can mask a phone number when a person makes a call.

These resources can cause the wrong number to appear on the caller ID, or it can lead to the “out of area” message.

Here’s the bottom line to understand.

This message doesn’t necessarily mean that the number is coming from another area code (although that is the case the vast majority of times).

It is only telling you that your caller ID cannot identify the location of the call.

Why Do You See Out of Area? (3 Possibilities)

displeased woman puffing cheeks while talking on phone

There are a few reasons that you might see this.

You could be dealing with telemarketers from an unknown region. 

It could be scammers trying to hide their identity, or the caller ID might just be failing.

#1 Telemarketers

Telemarketers currently on their shift

This happens a lot when telemarketers call and for a few reasons.

The most likely is that the call is originating from another country, and the number being used isn’t in the caller ID database. 

A lot of telemarketing is outsourced to other countries to get around local laws and for labor purposes.

It can lead to numbers originating from locations that your caller ID doesn’t recognize. Another reason that telemarketing calls might show up this way is number spoofing.

A telemarketing company can use a device that makes the number on your caller ID differ from the number they are actually using to call from.

Spoofed numbers are often randomized, and if one comes up that isn’t on the list, you get the message.

#2 Scammers

man received fraud text message, unknown scam call

The same thing goes for scammers.

Scammers are even more likely to call from out of the country and/or use a number spoofing device, for obvious reasons.

The main difference between a scammer and a telemarketer is that telemarketing is still legal in most places. Telemarketers will typically try to stay within the boundaries of regulation; they are typically licensed businesses.

Scammers are deliberately participating in illegal activity.

They want to mask their identity to make it difficult for authorities to track them.

If they can call from a number that isn’t in the caller ID database, all the better for them.

#3 Caller ID Failures

Sad woman holding phone while sitting on bed in her bedroom.

It’s also possible that the caller is not a telemarketer or a scammer.

They could be calling for any number of reasons, but if they aren’t in the database, you’ll still get that message.

In fact, it’s possible for a caller ID system to malfunction. In such a case, you’ll get a message that they are out of the area or otherwise cannot be identified.

If the system is behaving abnormally, this could happen even when a friend calls.

It’s uncommon, but it’s certainly within the realm of possibility.

A caller ID message can be informative, but it is not a perfect resource.

How Does Caller ID Work?

Young beautiful blonde woman using smartphone with serious face thinking

All of this makes a little more sense if we talk about how caller ID really works.

It’s a pretty simple system. 

Caller ID has a database of phone numbers, kind of like a digital phonebook.

When a call comes to your phone, it matches the incoming call with the database to give you information.

It’s that simple.

In the past, the database represented a lot of information for your average phone, so the whole database was not downloaded.

Instead, the phone would check via telephone communication to get the information needed for the caller ID. 

In those days, there were plenty of things that could disrupt that communication, and the “out of area” message was more common.

These days, if you see “out of area,” it’s almost exclusively because the caller ID database just doesn’t have a record of the number.

The Limitations of Databases

The real issue with caller ID is that it can only tell you where a number comes from if it recognizes the number.

This is not world-class advanced AI (artificial intelligence).

It’s an older phone system that has stuck around because most of us find it to be useful.

Any gaps in the number system will trick the caller ID message until the database is updated.

If a region releases a new area code, caller ID won’t recognize that area code without an update.

The system would give “out of area” for every call using that area code until the update resolves the issue.

This is the key reason why caller ID is not perfectly reliable.

For calls in your area, it’s usually good, but if calls come from regions that aren’t perfectly database, you will get inconsistency in the messaging.

How Do You Stop Out of Area Calls?

Lonely woman looking at her mobile phone while sitting at the cafe

Still, most of these calls are from telemarketers and scammers. These aren’t exactly calls that you want coming through all of the time.

You might want to block these calls, but that isn’t always easy.

If the call says “out of area” and doesn’t display a phone number, what can you do?

With most smartphones, you can still do it.

Navigate to the incoming call from the number you want to block. Even if it just says “out of area,” you can still select that caller and look at the contact information.

Depending on your operating system, you can choose the option that blocks that specific caller.

Even if the call came from outside the caller ID database, the phone system had to know where the call came from in order to connect the call.

That same system can be used to block the call by default.

If your phone settings can’t successfully block the caller, contact your carrier.

They should be able to help you.


  • Theresa McDonough

    Tech entrepreneur and founder of Tech Medic, who has become a prominent advocate for the Right to Repair movement. She has testified before the US Federal Trade Commission and been featured on CBS Sunday Morning, helping influence change within the tech industry.

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