A false press release has caused an earthquake in the cryptocurrency sector this Monday, showing the volatility of these assets and their vulnerability to organized campaigns to alter their prices. The statement reported that Walmart, the world’s largest supermarket chain, was going to accept payments in litecoin, a cryptocurrency that works on the same structure as bitcoin. The press release was published on an unofficial portal, despite what several international agencies such as Reuters or Bloomberg, as well as specialized cryptocurrency media, such as Coinbase, reproduced it. The price of litecoin went from 175 to 231 dollars in minutes.
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A Walmart spokesman denied the hoax minutes later to the US chain CNBC, which had also reported Walmart’s decision to start accepting cryptocurrency payments “starting next month.” Litecoin’s value plunged back to $ 179, leaving a roughly one-hour roller coaster ride on its valuation chart.
Walmart anticipates that it is in contact with the portal that published the press release, GlobeNewswire, to determine what happened. This page regularly publishes press releases from multiple brands. In addition to its publication on an unofficial website, the note included other indications that raised suspicions about its veracity. One of them was the press contact added at the bottom of the text for the media that wanted more information, since it quoted Walmart’s marketing vice president, William White, along with an email.
That email is false and uses a domain that was registered in August, as has been advanced later The Block, a portal specialized in cryptocurrency. Before being reproduced by the aforementioned international media, the note had been spread by a Twitter account that reproduces news about Litecoin and has been verified by the social network, which deleted the tweet minutes later.
In the absence of Walmart or GlobeNewswire to provide more data on what happened, the operation fits the pattern of an organized campaign to alter the price of litecoin. The lack of central regulators that characterizes cryptocurrencies prevents the pursuit of this type of practice, penalized when it comes to actions aimed at altering the value of shares listed on international stock exchanges.