PRWeb released a short statement Monday night explaining why a fake press release regarding a Google acquisition slipped through its filters. The company blamed the fraudulent press release on identity theft, a problem all major wire services reportedly must endure.
"PRWeb transmitted a press release for ICOA that we have since learned was fraudulent," the company stated. "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," PRWeb added.
Early Monday morning PRWeb was the sole provider of a press release announcing Google's supposed $400 million acquisition of ICOA Inc. The latter company manages wireless hotspots in high-traffic locations including airports, hotels and fast-food restaurants in 40 states. The purchase would seemingly help Google better compete with AT&T which provides Wi-Fi hotspots in similar locations scattered throughout the U.S.
Many news aggregators ran with the story despite the shoddy grammar and a lack of positive forward-looking statements from Google and ICOA. George Strouthopoulos, ICOA's CEO, and Erwin Vahlsing, the company's CFO, quickly came forward and cleared the air, announcing that the press release was fake and that there are no talks of an acquisition with any interested party.
So where did the press release come from, and why was it submitted to PRWeb? One theory is based on the quick rise of ICOA shares, which are traded on the OTC Pink, immediately after the PR distribution. It's possible someone artificially spiked the penny stock value so that it could be sold at a higher price before the price dropped again.
Both ICOA and PRWeb have reported that the incident has been submitted to the proper authorities, so stay tuned.