Media groups fooled in Telstra-Citigroup hoax

Several media organisations, including Australian Associated Press, received an email on Sunday reporting Citigroup was to take a controlling interest in the Australian telco through a cash and share offer.

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The bogus reports were sent to various newsrooms from email addresses bearing the name of one of the organisation’s own correspondents.

The email contained a short news story about the supposed takeover, most of which featured meaningless jargon.

Each email also contained a few lines of background to the piece, explaining that the “breaking Australian-related financial story” came from “some business and government contacts” in the US.

“Sources have been checked, and everything is ready to go” the email claimed.

However, Citigroup has hosed down the claims.

“Citi denies any plans to take a majority investment in Telstra,” a Citigroup spokesman told AAP from New York on Monday.

“Reports of any such investment are untrue. Citi has referred this matter to relevant regulators to investigate the source of this false report.”

A Telstra spokesman told AAP the company knew nothing about the emails or where they originated.

One Fairfax website published the reports late on Sunday before quickly pulling it down once it was realised the report was false.

The emails have been described by experts as well targeted in their content and address use.

AAP editor-in-chief Tony Gillies described such hoax attempts as “beyond annoying”.

“Our IT people are investigating the origins, so we’ll see how far that takes us,” he said.

“But we are treating this as a serious breach.

“The language and the contents of the email just didn’t sit right with us.

“It didn’t sound like our reporter and it didn’t follow our normal reporting protocol.

“A check by our news desk confirmed it, so we didn’t pursue the `story’.”

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