Verizon Wireless apologized yesterday for sending out a mass text message to thousands of people warning of a “civil emergency” and an “extreme threat to life”.
Verizon text urging people to “take shelter before 1:24 p.m.” was sent out at 12:26 p.m. on Monday to cell phone users in the New Jersey counties of Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris and Ocean.
It led to scores of worried residents calling their local police departments, NJ.com reports.
Many people were panic stricken and in a state of shock and confusion.
About two hours after the mass text was sent out, Verizon issued an apology, saying that it was a “test emergency notification” that failed to say it was a test.
Company spokesman David Samberg said: “This test message was not clearly identified as a test.
“We apologize for any inconvenience or concern this message may have caused.”
Police departments and county authorities confirmed that they received a high volume of 911 calls from concerned residents asking whether there was an actual emergency.
Before Verizon came forward to issue the apology, authorities thought it may have been the work of hackers.
Monmouth County Sheriff Shaun Golden said: “There is no reason to panic here. It is a false text done maliciously.”
It also prompted the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security to issue a special statement on Twitter this afternoon reassuring citizens there was no actual emergency.