COVID-19

Vancouver Island Beachgoers Being Hit With Mysterious Texts Ordering Them to Self-Isolate

Texts are triggered by cell phones picking up US towers, but federal agencies could not confirm to The Capital that they were the ones sending it 

By Sean Craig
May 20, 2020
COVID-19

Vancouver Island Beachgoers Being Hit With Mysterious Texts Ordering Them to Self-Isolate

Texts are triggered by cell phones picking up US towers, but federal agencies could not confirm to The Capital that they were the ones sending it 

By Sean Craig
May 20, 2020
Walk along this beach, and you may get a government order to go home for 14 days (Flickr/gehat)
COVID-19

Vancouver Island Beachgoers Being Hit With Mysterious Texts Ordering Them to Self-Isolate

Texts are triggered by cell phones picking up US towers, but federal agencies could not confirm to The Capital that they were the ones sending it 

By Sean Craig
May 20, 2020
Vancouver Island Beachgoers Being Hit With Mysterious Texts Ordering Them to Self-Isolate
Walk along this beach, and you may get a government order to go home for 14 days (Flickr/gehat)

Victoria residents are receiving text messages meant to warn people entering Canada to self-isolate for two weeks in order to stem the spread of COVID-19, but it’s unclear if the messages are authentic.

While the texts say they are from the Government of Canada and advise recipients to contact the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) if they are experiencing a sore throat, coughing or a fever, CBSA was not able to confirm their authenticity.

Instead, the border agency referred the question to the Public Health Agency of Canada, which did not reply to requests for comment.

“We were walking down Dallas Rd. and then pop, up comes a message with a border services contact telling us to self-isolate," said Aly Pardy, a Victoria resident who received the text message while taking her dog for a walk, in a phone interview. "We often get switched on to U.S. networks, but nothing like this has ever happened.”

(Courtesy of Aly Pardy)

It is true that the government has ordered those returning from abroad to self-isolate for two weeks, in order to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19. “If you have recently returned to Canada and you have no symptoms, you must quarantine (self-isolate) for 14 days,” reads a message from the government to incoming travellers. “This is mandatory. You are at risk of developing symptoms and infecting others.”

Meanwhile, Victoria’s James Bay, Fairfield, Gonzales and Oak Bay neighbourhoods — which run along the south and east coastline — are between eight and 16 kilometres from the U.S./Canada maritime boundary. People in the area, therefore, sometimes notice their mobile devices jump to U.S. cellular networks because their carrier mistakes them for being in the wrong country.

While the text that Pardy received appears harmless — it includes a shortened URL that redirects to the federal government’s COVID website, made with the web service Bitly — both RCMP and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau have warned of COVID-19 text scams in recent weeks.

Scams the government identified include phishing emails that try to get people to fill out personal and banking information by claiming to be affiliated with government emergency benefit programs. Other scams advised of fake positive test results and promoted false donation campaigns, door-to-door decontamination services, and COVID-19 self-assessment surveys.

“Do not respond. Ignore the text or delete it,” the RCMP said, in a March news release. “Afterwards, take a few minutes and share this information with family and friends to ensure they do not fall prey to this scam.”

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sean@capnews.ca