In less than an hour, the cryptocurrency Litecoin roller-coastered 31 per cent into the air and hurtled back down after a false GlobalNewswire press release said shoppers would be able to make payments with the crypto coin at Walmart stores.
“Walmart Announces Major Partnership With Litecoin (LTC),” the headline read.
Several news outlets quickly reported the false release. Walmart responded with an actual statement on its corporate website:
“Walmart was the subject of a fake news release issued on Monday, Sept. 13, that falsely stated Walmart announced a partnership with Litecoin (LTC),” the release read. “Walmart had no knowledge of the press release issued by GlobeNewswire, and it is incorrect. Walmart has no relationship with Litecoin.”
The Litecoin twitter team retweeted the initial link to the fake release, featuring a made-up quote from Walmart CEO Doug McMillan and Litecoin creator Charlie Lee.
“By integrating Litecnear-instant enable shoppers to experience a very smooth checkout experience with near-instant transaction confirmation…” quoted an unknown ghostwriter for CEO Doug McMillon, in the fake press release. “As a leading eCommerce store, we are committed to bringing innovations to the online shopping experience…”
The Litecoin team has since apologized, while Twitter users posted negative investment numbers after acting on the news.
Likely pump and dump
The Walmart Litecoin fake post brought the coin price from $175 up to $231. Someone, or a group of people, likely made a lot of money on a pump and dump. According to Coinmarketcap, the coin’s trading volume tripled from $2.4 billion to $6.3 billion in the hour after the article went live.
GlobeNewswire has since taken down the press release. It is unknown how the fake release made it past the editors. A representative from GlobalNewswire declined to comment on the post but said only authorized users could make posts on their system.
“There’s nothing I could tell you over the phone,” a support person said.
“There’s authorized users on our account, and there’s a duel system as to the security, so beyond that that I can’t really say anything else that only authorized users can send us notices.”
News sites, like Reuters, CNBC, and newsletters like the Morning Brew, posted corrections and redactions as soon as CNBC received confirmation from Walmart reps that the release was fake. Some commented that in the breakneck speed crypto internet moves since the bull run began last year, the space is ripe for scams.
The original article had linked back to a fake Walmart newswire account, a fake Walmart corporate news website, and featured links to Chief Marketing Officer William White’s LinkedIn page. In addition, white’s email on the post was fake, proved by a simple search through LinkedIn.
Contributor to Vanity Fair Nick Bilton said: “Litecoin tweeted a bogus press release that Walmart planned to start accepting Litecoin. Mainstream outlets picked it up, without checking, even fake-quoting Walmart’s CEO. All part of a giant pump and dump. Only a matter of time before the industry is heavily regulated.”
Those in the comments were quick to defend cryptocurrency and blame the media, even though the Litecoin brand supported the initial release.
Litecoin, a lookalike bitcoin project launched in 2011, claims to use the same architecture as the world’s favorite digital gold yet use less energy to transact with greater speed.
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