CityNews has learned the Ford government is investigating a potential data breach after learning that spam text messages are being sent out to some Ontarians who have booked vaccination appointments through the provincial booking system.
The government says a small number of individuals who have scheduled appointments through the system have received the scam messages, which reportedly ask for financial information.
“Ontarians should be aware these texts are financial in nature and that the government will never conduct a financial transaction through these methods,” reads a statement from a spokesperson for the Minister of Health.
“The government takes allegations of fraud very seriously and is aggressively investigating these reports, but has found no connection between the booking tool and the texts at this time. The booking site remains open and available for use.
Fraudulent or suspicious activity can be reported to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC), through its website at www.antifraudcentre.ca or by telephone at 1-888-495-8501. If an individual has been a victim of a scam, fraud or cybercrime, they should contact their local police as soon as possible.”
Two callers to the CityNews 680 newsroom say they received messages in recent days telling them they were recipients of a sum of money through email transfer.
Both callers said the way their name was displayed in the text, with a capitalized middle name, is the exact same way it is stylized on their provincial health records.
“I had my third dose recently, I updated my QR code, and it was immediately following that I got the text,” said Philippa Hetherington.
The government says they cannot establish a confirmed connection between the booking tool and the text messages at this time.
“I’m incredibly concerned with any potential data breach in the vaccine portal,” said Ontario Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca. “This needs to be immediately investigated to ensure confidence in the tool we rely on for Ontario’s vaccine rollout.”
Chris Glover, NDP critic for Technology Development and Innovation says the government needs to makes this an urgent matter and “thoroughly probe any alleged potential connections to government platforms and vendor systems.”
“Ontarians deserve to have a digital booking system they can have absolute and complete confidence in.”
The province’s online COVID-19 vaccine portal first launched in March 2021.