Walmart is the largest retailer in the United States, according to the National Retail Federation. So, an announcement of a partnership with a cryptocurrency would be big news.
On the morning of Sept. 13, a press release was circulated by GlobeNewswire, a service that distributes press releases to media organizations, that said Walmart had teamed up with Litecoin to accept the cryptocurrency as a form of payment. Immediately following the press release, people on social media with hundreds of thousands of followers began sharing the information. News organizations, including Reuters and CNBC, published stories about the partnership announcement.
Is Walmart partnering with Litecoin cryptocurrency?
No, Walmart is not partnering with Litecoin. The press release linking Walmart and Litecoin was fake.
WHAT WE FOUND
Walmart and Litecoin Foundation both said the press release was fake and that they do not have a partnership.
“Walmart had no knowledge of the press release issued by GlobeNewswire, and it is incorrect. Walmart has no relationship with Litecoin,” the Walmart statement said.
“The Litecoin Foundation has not entered into a partnership with Walmart of any kind,” the Litecoin Foundation statement said.
According to its statement, the Litecoin Foundation said a member of its social media team tweeted about the illegitimate partnership on the Litecoin Twitter account. That tweet was then deleted.
GlobeNewswire later issued a notice to disregard the press release. In an emailed statement to VERIFY, the company said a fraudulent user account issued the fake press release.
“This has never happened before and we have already put in place enhanced authentication steps to prevent this isolated incident from occurring in the future,” the company told VERIFY.
Immediately following the distribution of the fake press release, the price of Litecoin surged.
According to CoinMarketCap, a cryptocurrency price-tracking website, the price of Litecoin was around $175 Monday morning and skyrocketed to just over $230 following the fake press release. Once the word spread that Litecoin and Walmart were not partnering together, the cryptocurrency’s price fell to around $180.
The hoax partnership announcement appeared to be a case of price manipulation – or a pump and dump – where someone fraudulently causes the price of something to go up and cashes out before it goes back down.
The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission says virtual currencies and digital tokens are largely unregulated and urges consumers to use caution when buying virtual currency.