PRWeb falls for fake release, calls it 'identity theft'

Posted by Emma Woollacott

Press release site PRWeb has been forced to issue an embarrassing apology after posting a fake release.

The release stated that Google was buying Wifi provider ICOA for $400 million. It looked reasonably authentic - apart from a couple of typos - but was much shorter on detail than usual.

It was taken up by several news organizations, including the Associated Press, which has also issued a retraction.

Fortunately, though, some news outlets took the trouble to try and get a bit more detail from ICOA, and discovered the release was a fake.

PRWeb arent company Vocus says it uses a checking service to make sure releases are genuine, and describes the incident as 'identity theft'.

"Vocus reviews all press releases and follows an internal process designed to maintain the integrity of the releases we send out every day," says the company’s director of PR, Frank Strong, in a statement.

"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."

The assumption is that the fake release was intended to manipulate ICOA's share price - highly illegal, of course. However, it doesn't appear to have had much effect, with the share price shifting by less than a penny.

ICOA says it's reported the matter to the US Securities and Exchange Commission.