Skip to comments.Joke website sparks terror alert
Posted on 10/01/2002 10:48:44 PM PDT by Selmo
US cop believed story about Al-Qaeda telemarketing fraud
Police officers in Battle Creek, Michigan believed that a story posted on a US satirical website about Al-Qaeda using telemarketing fraud was true.
According to the Battle Creek Inquirer, the local sheriff's office sent out a press release saying that it was investigating several complaints of possible telemarketing fraud in the area, especially targeted at the elderly.
The release said: "In the course of this investigation, it was learned that this is going on throughout the United States and some of these telemarketing programmes are believed to be operated by Al-Qaeda.
"The CIA has announced that it has acquired a videotape showing Al-Qaeda members making phone solicitations for vacation home rentals, long distance telephone services, magazine subscriptions and other products."
However, the source of the information was the 18 September edition of well-known satirical website The Onion which carried a report headlined: 'Al-Qaeda Allegedly Engaging in Telemarketing'.
The spoof story reported that "the CIA announced on Monday that it has acquired a videotape showing suspected Al-Qaeda operatives engaging in what appears to be telemarketing".
The Inquirer contacted detective Dan Nichols, author of the release, who admitted that he collected some of the information from The Onion, not knowing that it is a humourous publication.
He explained that he talked with someone at the Michigan Attorney General's office about information on telemarketing scams, and believed that The Onion website was linked to the attorney general's website.
At least one radio station in the area broadcast the information from the news release.