The Big Security Risk With Dialing 911 You Should Know About

March 16th 2017

Kyle Fitzpatrick

There’s a huge problem with our phones that's likely putting people in danger.

Six-month-old Brandon Alex of Dallas, Texas, died this past weekend after his babysitter was unable to reach 911. The babysitter dialed the emergency number multiple times only to have her calls go unanswered.

This issue was because of a glitch that can happen when dialing emergency numbers, and it's not new.

The danger of ghost calls.

A security phenomena known as “ghost calls” were what prevented the babysitter’s 911 calls from getting answered.

A ghost call is “an incoming phone call with no one on the other end, usually from a random number, and occurring persistently,” according to phone system company Telzio.

This auto-dialing technique from persons trying to reach 911 can flood the system, preventing incoming calls from being received, which was supposedly what happened in this situation.

Ghost calls have been around for years, and it's plaguing 911.

The problems of ghost calls are nothing new and have been exploited for many reasons. The most common usage of the technique is by telemarketers who use ghost calls to attempt to find a number where a person actually picks up.

As it relates to 911, this problem has recurred several times, observed in cities from Cincinnati to Palo Alto. These past occurrences haven't been tied to a specific network.

Even last year, a teen in Phoenix, Arizona, was arrested after discovering a phone exploit that made hundreds of needless ghost calls to 911.

The alleged source of this particular incident with the baby was attributed to T-Mobile who likely has a problem with ghost calling 911. ATTN: reached out to T-Mobile for comment, and we will update this story when we receive a response.

In the recent Dallas outage, Alex along with Brian Cross were believed to have died as a result of being unable to reach 911.

The claims of ghost calls in Dallas against T-Mobile has been a problem for months.

The problem has locals enraged, with Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings even addressing the issue. "It is outrageous that T-Mobile still has not resolved the ghost call issue that is putting Dallasites in danger by clogging our 911 system," he said.

T-Mobile has apparently been aware of this problem for years.

In 2015, T-Mobile and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) reached a $17.5 million settlement to resolve an investigation regarding 911 service outages.

The recent ghost call dangers have re-ignited the investigation, as an FCC spokesman told ATTN:,“The Dallas Police Department previously asked us to look into technical issues with 911 in Dallas. We are doing so, and our review is ongoing.”