Google started the day with a $400 million purchase in its books and a new wireless service provider under its wings.
The announcement regarding the acquisition of ICOA Wireless, a company that enables internet access in high-traffic public areas, was published in a press release on PRWeb, an online service that provides organizations with press release distribution. The Associated Press even picked up the acquisition.
The purchase of ICOA, however, never took place. What's more, the press release containing the information turned out to be completely fraudulent.
"On background, I can confirm that the press release is false," a Google spokeswoman told TechRadar. "Beyond that, we don't have anything to share."
The news of the acquisition sent ICOA's shares on a steady rise, bringing the penny stock up from $0.0001 to $0.0005.
It seems that is exactly what the originator of the press release hoped would happen.
"Someone, I guess a stock promoter with a dubious interest, is disseminating wrong, false and misleading info in the PR circles," ICOA Chairman and CEO George Strouthopoulos told TechRadar.
Calling the press release a hoax, Strouthopoulos said ICOA is investigating the source of the misinformation and has clued into one bit of data already.
"So far it originated from Aruba," he said.
A PRWeb representative told ICOA that the press release would be retracted, a promise that has seemingly been fulfilled.
"[We] are still waiting for their report on [PRWeb's] investigation as to who is the originator of the PR," Strouthopoulos added.
No discussions with "any potential acquirers" have taken place, he explained, while ICOA plans to report the incident to the "proper authorities."
How did this happen?
TechRadar asked PRWeb for comment on the false press release and an explanation of its vetting process for postings.
Frank Strong, a company representative, directed us a post about the incident on PRWeb's blog, which laid out that the press release was not issued or authorized by ICOA.
According to the blog post, Vocus, which owns PRWeb, reviews all press releases and adheres to an internal process to insure accuracy. These fail safes, however, don't work all the time.
"Even with reasonable safeguards, identity theft occurs, on occasion, across all the major wire services.
"We have removed the fraudulent release and turned the matter over to the proper authorities for investigation."