American police seized a travel-focused creative agency’s website after they mistook it for a prostitution platform.
The first sign something was wrong came earlier this month, when staff at Designate – which has worked with clients such as Kuoni and Accor Hotels – noticed their emails had stopped working.
A banner had also appeared on the company’s website branding it “seized” by the United States Department of Justice, NYPD and United States Department of Homeland Security.
“You couldn’t make it up,” said Jason Triandafyllou, a partner at Designate. “I first thought it was a hack.”
It took numerous emails and phone calls with a special agent in New York, a court judgment and a stipulation releasing the US of all liability before Designate’s website was back online eight days later.
The only explanation Triandafyllou has been given is the domain name was one of 400 sites identified during an investigation into prostitution.
He speculated it could be something linked to the name before Designate bought it in 2008.
Triandafyllou added: “Anyone looking at our website would be faced with this rather frightening ‘seized’ message – and our website is our shop window, so my big concern was for our reputation and any clients who were looking.