A press release posted to PRWeb announced Google's acquisition of a wireless Internet provider for $400 million. One giant problem: it was a hoax.
The press release was short in content and appeared Monday (and has since been removed from the site). The story was reported on by the Associated Press and numerous technology publications, including TechCrunch.
It looked fairly official but had some subtle problems. For example, there were two versions of the spelling of the word WiFi in it.
ICOA CEO George Strouthopoulos confirmed that the press release was a hoax. He didn't sound too happy about it either.
"This was a Hoax. We are investigating the source, so far it originated from Aruba! This is NOT TRUE!!Never had any discussions with any potential acquirers!! This is absolutely false!" he wrote. "Someone, I guess a stock promoter with a dubious interest, is disseminating wrong, false and misleading info in the PR circles. ICOA will report this to the proper authorities."
Google has not commented on the false press release. So how could the fake release have been posted to PRWeb's website?
"PRWeb transmitted a press release for ICOA that we have since learned was fraudulent," according to a statement on its website. "The release was not issued or authorized by ICOA. Vocus reviews all press releases and follows an internal process designed to maintain the integrity of the releases we send out every day. Even with reasonable safeguards identity theft occurs, on occasion, across all of the major wire services. We have removed the fraudulent release and turned the matter over to the proper authorities for further investigation."
While we don't know who was behind the false press release, or the reasons why, it appears to have been part of a typical pump and dump stock scam.