A bogus claim that Walmart would accept payments in Litecoin (LTC) has left the media’s reputation in tatters while further sullying the ‘crypto’ sector’s image as a hotbed of crooks and chancers.
Monday saw major mainstream news outlets—including Bloomberg, CNBC and Reuters, along with a host of dedicated cryptocurrency news sites—breathlessly report that U.S. retail giant Walmart had announced a “major partnership with Litecoin.” The reports quoted Walmart CEO Doug McMillon stating that, as of October 1, all Walmart ecommerce sites “will have implemented a ‘Pay with Litecoin option.’”
The source of this scoop was a Globe Newswire release that turned out to be a complete fabrication. While McMillion is indeed Walmart’s CEO and the media contact correctly listed William White as Walmart’s CMO, White’s contact email was connected to a domain that doesn’t actually link to any website.
Before Walmart issued a statement denying the report’s legitimacy, media coverage of the announcement sent the value of LTC skyrocketing by nearly one-third. But within 30 minutes of that peak, the token’s value had sunk back to its previous level, taking much of the mainstream and digital currency media’s credibility with it.
No doubt there will be plenty of post-mortem digging into why media fact-checkers weren’t able to uncover this deception until after the stories were reported as gospel truth. But the media weren’t the only ones apparently taken in by this ruse.
The Litecoin Foundation, a Singapore-based non-profit set up to promote LTC, retweeted the joyous news before issuing a tweet admitting there was no Walmart partnership. The Foundation later issued a statement saying it had “no information as to where this idea or the release to the press originated” while blaming its retweet on a social media team member who got “a little too eager.”
This is the latest black eye that Litecoin has suffered this year, following the $6.5 million fine the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) issued against the Coinbase exchange for (among other things) allowing an employee to wash trade LTC on the exchange to create “the misleading appearance of liquidity and trading interest in Litecoin.”
The obsession over token value currently plaguing the digital currency sector helps drive speculative bubbles and encourages pump-and-dump scams like the one we saw Monday. In the end, the only value that truly matters is utility—such as that demonstrated by the ever-increasing transaction volume recorded on the BSV blockchain.
The search is now on for the culprits behind Monday’s Walmirage and how much they may have profited from their media fake-out. Meanwhile, the digital currency sector is left once again wiping egg off its face while gamely insisting that it’s not the financial sector’s Star Wars cantina.
To be sure, other areas of the financial world are hardly immune to these types of scams. But Monday’s debacle is just the latest in a long list of sketchy scenarios to have plagued the digital currency sector this year.
For months now, U.S. federal regulators have been sending signals that a digital currency crackdown was in the works. After Monday’s antics, the only question now seems to be how thin the sector will be flattened when the regulatory hammer meets the anvil.
Follow CoinGeek’s Crypto Crime Cartel series, which delves into the stream of groups—a from BitMEX to Binance, Bitcoin.com, Blockstream, ShapeShift, Coinbase, Ripple and
Ethereum—who have co-opted the digital asset revolution and turned the industry into a minefield for naïve (and even experienced) players in the market.
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