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Net Hoax Convinces Germany of Fake U.S. Suicide Bombing Attempt
FRANKFURT — All of Germany was bamboozled Thursday by a bizarre scheme that tricked the country’s main wire service into reporting an attempted suicide bombing in a California town — an attack supposedly perpetrated by a non-existent rap group called the “Berlin Boys.”
The hoax’s effect was felt thousands of miles away, as a flood of concerned phone calls from Germany jammed the switchboards at the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s office, which has jurisdiction over the supposed bombing site in California.
“This is frustrating and a waste of our resources,” said office spokesman Arden Wiltshire, who was awakened at 5 a.m. Thursday to try and sort out the crisis. Wiltshire worries that dispatchers could have missed important calls to deal with the Germans.
“We’re sorry for what happened; we, too, were victimized,” said Justus Demmer, a DPA spokesman. “What we have learned today is if there’s someone committed to betray you, it’s very hard to stop it.”
How they did it:
A team of publicity seeking hoaxers fooled Germany’s wire service into reporting on a fake suicide bombing in California allegedly perpetrated by German rappers.
1. First the tricksters set up a website for a fake California city called Bluewater and a fake TV station there. On the websites, they listed California telephone numbers — but those went directly to the hoaxsters’ German Skype accounts. They also created a Wikipedia article that confirmed the existence of the station.
2. A hysterical “reporter” from the fake TV station called German newsrooms reporting a suicide attacks, and directed them to the fake websites. German journalists called the phone numbers for “officials” listed on the sites to confirm the stories. Of course, those numbers connected straight to the hoaxsters.
3. The DPA – the German equivalent of the Associated Press – put the story up on its newswire. The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Office was quickly flooded with phone calls from German reporters trying to confirm the suicide bombing.
4. Within 30 minutes, the DPA took down their story. But the damage was done. Later, the hoaxsters sent out a press release announcing what they did.