If you were hoping to easily retrieve text message records, you are going to be sorely disappointed. Obtaining such records is near impossible, and doing so often requires a lawyer with a court order before anything concrete to be revealed. For the most part, information you can retrieve is surface-level.

The most you can get out of requesting text message records are details such as dates, who’s number sent the text message, who sent a text message back, and the times text messages were sent. It doesn’t tell you anything of the content that was involved. This is largely due to privacy concerns. In this day and age all someone needs is some key personal information and they can wiggle their way through for records.

Contact Your Phone Service Provider

The one and only surefire way of retrieving your text message records is by contacting your phone service provider. They keep a detailed log of information that comes in and out. Unfortunately, most of that information is locked away.

As you will realize with the two examples below, either a company has a log of information or they don’t. It’s simply a matter of speaking with a representative of your service provider and understanding where the necessary channels are to retrieve information.

Sprint

For example, Sprint states text messages aren’t stored because of the concerns over privacy. However, you can fill out a form, have it notarized, and send it in to retrieve, at the very least, basic information. When you do get a response, it will only be from the past 90 days. Anything more than that and you’ll need a lawyer with a subpoena.

Luckily, there is a silver lining. If you use Sprint Direct Connect, records of messages sent and received will be kept. Great if you had the foresight to implement it beforehand, not so great if you didn’t.

Verizon

Verizon, on the other hand, has a branch, Verizon’s Law Enforcement Resource Team, you can get in contact with—provided you have a lawyer or judge backing you up. They are a lot more open than Sprint is. In fact, if law enforcement needs documentation, they can make emergency requests.

Submit a form that includes a court order, subpoena or warrant to Verizon’s Law Enforcement Resource Team, and it may warrant access to your text message records.

Don’t Risk It With Third-Party Software

One option you might view as an alternative is using third-party software. That is, quite frankly, one of the worst mistakes you can make. There’s a very real threat underlining third-party software. An app you pick up off the App Store or Google Play Store could be hiding malicious processes that collect your personal data. The first step is to create something people have a need for.

In other words, avoid using third-party software that states they can recover old text messages. You might find a few sites that say particular programs are okay, and others will say the same program is not okay. Who do you trust? Neither. Don’t even risk it.

Keep Your Own Log of Text Messages

The unfortunate reality is that even a court order won’t guarantee that Sprint, Verizon or other mobile providers will release text message records. If keeping a record of text messages is a concern, then the best course of action is to catalog that information yourself.

If you want to keep your own records, here’s what you can do:

  • Use an app to back up text messages.
  • Take screenshots of your texts (and then back them up to the cloud).
  • Don’t delete text messages.

Obviously both options will quickly fill your phone’s storage. With that in mind, buy an external harddrive, SSD or USB flash drive. Such external devices can hold GBs worth of text messages.

In an effort to save storage, stick to cataloging important information only. Someone is harassing you? That’s worth holding onto, especially if you plan on taking it to court. But every conversation you have with someone? Probably not. You be the judge.

Bottom Line

Short of needing text messages for court-related reasons, it’s tough getting anything concrete aside from surface-level information (dates, phone numbers). Privacy is a major concern among service providers as anyone can impersonate another person with enough information. If you do pursue the content of text message, be sure to ask yourself if it’s worth getting a lawyer involved.

With that being said, there’s no reason you shouldn’t if text messages are going to help your court case. If that’s the situation you’re in, and it leaves your life hanging in the balance, by all means.