Litecoin, a Bitcoin spinoff from 2011, had a brief shining moment in the sun on Monday when a press release announcing that retail giant Walmart was integrating payments went viral. That moment ended shortly after when it was revealed that the announcement was fake.
"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 read. "The eCommerce giant intends to give its millions of shoppers across the world an opportunity to seamlessly make payments with cryptocurrencies."
The press release included quotes from Walmart CEO Doug McMillon and Litecoin creator Charlie Lee, who is currently managing director of the Singapore-based nonprofit Litecoin Foundation.
The news immediately went viral, both because of the fact that Walmart accepting cryptocurrency payments would be huge news for any token, but also because the legacy altcoin Litecoin is a patently bizarre choice. Lee, despite continuing work on Litecoin, announced that he sold all of his holdings in the coin in 2017.
The price of Litecoin shot up on Monday morning as a short news blurb in Reuters repeating the fake press release with no further confirmation fueled the flames; Litecoin holders were elated as the price rose from roughly $175 to around $220.
"This is huge, and somehow... I believe this is only the beginning," said one poster on the Litecoin subreddit. However, it was not the beginning of anything except an apparent hoax.
Posters on Twitter and CNBC quickly noticed that the PR email address attached to the press release did not match Walmart's domain. A tweet from the verified Litecoin Twitter account linking the release was deleted shortly after posting. Finally, CNBC reported that Walmart spokespeople had confirmed that the press release was a fake.
Almost instantaneously, the price of Litecoin shot back down, and was at $181 at the time of writing.
Spokespeople for the Litecoin Foundation directed Motherboard to a statement sent out on Twitter. It confirmed there is no Walmart partnership and said the Foundation had “no information as to where this idea or the release to the press originated,” and that a member of the social media team was “a little too eager” when they shared the news on Twitter.
Spokespeople for Walmart did not respond to requests for comment, but the company also posted its own release confirming the news is fake.
While speculative value for cryptocurrencies has soared in recent years, there are few places where it's easy to spend cryptocurrency like you would cash; and it looks like Walmart isn't joining that exclusive club.
Update: This article was updated with comment from the Litecoin Foundation and included Walmart’s press release.