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#4: Verizon Sorry for Scary Text That Got Homeland Security Involved

**Editor’s Note: Originally published in December 2011, this story ranks No. 4 on B/OSS’ all time list, based on results from our weekly newsletters combined with online traffic.**

The public was never intended to see it. Now Verizon finds itself doing damage control.

Residents in four New Jersey counties got a troubling text message from their wireless carrier Monday: “Take shelter before 1:24 p.m.” (The text went out at 12:26 p.m.) The sheriff in Monmouth County said the message was marked as an “extreme alert,” according to the CBS station in New York. Homeland Security diffused the situation by taking to social media, telling followers on Twitter that there was indeed no emergency.

Verizon says residents were only supposed to see the words “test message,” but later apologized in a statement, saying, “This test message was not clearly as a test. We apologize for any inconvenience or concern this message may have caused.”

And concern it did cause. There was a spike in calls to 9-1-1 centers in Middlesex, Ocean, Morris and Monmouth counties.

Wireless carriers have been actively pursuing efficient ways of working with local, state and federal governments to keep mobile users informed in the event of an emergency. This was obviously not what they have in mind.


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