The market price of cryptocurrency token Litecoin shot up by as much as 35 percent and then fell back down on Monday after a fake press release published by GlobeNewsWire claimed that the company was partnering with Walmart, CNBC reports.
The hoax announcement, which claimed that the mega-retail chain would soon begin accepting Litecoin payments from customers, even included fake quotes from Walmart’s CEO. It was picked up by multiple news outlets, including Reuters, Morning Brew, CNBC, and others. A verified Twitter account associated with Litecoin also touted the fake partnership. Markets reacted by sending the price of Litecoin from $175 to $237 in a matter of minutes before it plummeted back to reality.
“Walmart Inc. (NYSE: WMT), the No. 1 U.S. retailer and world’s largest grocer, is pleased to announce a major partnership with Litecoin,” the press release stated. “The eCommerce giant intends to give its millions of shoppers across the world an opportunity to seamlessly make payments with cryptocurrencies.”
Not long after the story took off, however, online sleuths discovered that the press release linked to a non-functional website. Also suspicious was the fact that Walmart’s official website had no such announcement. Walmart soon confirmed to CNBC that the press release was fake.
The confirmation that the press release was fake was followed by a wave of retractions from news outlets.
Some journalists and experts immediately pointed to the probability of a “pump-and-dump” scheme—a market manipulation tactic in which the value of a stock is temporarily inflated, usually through the dispersal of misleading information about the company (which subsequently creates a “buying frenzy”) and is then sold off for a quick profit. Such scams are common in the crypto industry.
It’s unclear at this time who may be responsible for the hoax announcement. At the time of publication, Walmart hadn’t returned Gizmodo’s request for comment. We will update this story if they get back to us.