Confusion over British High Commission SMS text message sent the day after terrorist attack

Text message

The day after the terrorist attack on the Dusit D2 complex in Nairobi, subscribers to the British High Commission’s text alert service were surprised to receive a message asking them to reactivate their subscription.

Sent from the same service as previous messages from the High Commission, the message read: “To re-activate your subscription to the SMS alert service, go to [web address] to receive necessary alerts.”

Clicking the link led to a website where subscribers were asked to commit to a monthly charge of £1 for the service which had previously been free.

The timing of this message could not have come at a worse time, just a day after terrorists attacked the DusitD2 complex in Nairobi in which British national Luke Potter was killed. On the day of the attack itself, no message was sent alerting British citizens about the ongoing threat, which was exactly what the service should have done.

We were contacted by readers of Brits in Kenya asking whether this was a legitimate message for the subscription service, a scam attempt or if there had been a data breach.

When we asked the High Commission a series of questions about the SMS, which we received on two separate numbers which were both subscribed to the service, we were told:

“We are aware of an SMS message circulating, requesting payment for security updates from the British High Commission. Please do not pay for this service – this is not an authorised message from the British High Commission. We do not charge for security or travel advice. If you are a British National in Kenya, please read our travel advice, or follow our social media channels for the latest information.”

We have asked a series of follow up questions, but from what we have learnt so far, it does not seem to be a scam or the result of a data breach.

Since we raised the issue, the payment screen has been taken offline, but there are questions over the status of the High Commission’s message service considering no alert was sent during Tuesday’s terror attack.

One person who had subscribed contacted us to confirm they had received a refund for the payment with a message stating the service had been cancelled and no further alerts would be issued.

Although the High Commission do have an email alert service and regularly update their social media accounts with travel and security information, these rely on an internet connection. Often in times of emergencies, the data service is the most likely to be unavailable, while text messages could still get through.

But is a service like this one that you would be willing to pay a subscription for? Should it be covered by government funding or possibly by sponsorship? Let us know your thoughts in the poll below.

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