Fake Walmart press release briefly boosts litecoin cryptocurrency by 30 percent

One of the concerns about cryptocurrencies is the easy ways people can influence the price.
One of the concerns about cryptocurrencies is the easy ways people can influence the price. Photo credit: Getty Images

A phoney press release from retail giant Walmart indicating it would accept litecoin payments caused the cryptocurrency to spike in value by over 30 percent on Tuesday (NZ time).

The press release was put out on newswire distribution network GlobeNewswire, which later removed the original release and issued a notice to "disregard" it.

After the initial hype died down, the price dropped from a high of US$230 a coin to around US$180, up just under four percent from where it had been trading previously.

Whether the fake release was intended as a prank or a more malicious pump and dump-type scam, anyone who had litecoin investments briefly had the opportunity to make a significant profit.

While digital, decentralised cryptocurrencies do have some benefits over traditional fiat currencies - like almost immediate cross-border transactions - the ability to influence the price has been a cause for concern.

Infamous hacking group Anonymous took aim at Tesla founder Elon Musk with a video in June after negative tweets from the billionaire about bitcoin appeared to influence the price.

Tesla had previously bought US$1.5 billion worth of the cryptocurrency and Musk had announced the company would accept it as a means of payment, causing the price to spike.

However he later backtracked, citing concerns over the environmental impact of the cryptocurrency - which caused a drop in value.

He also publicly supported dogecoin, a meme-based alternative to bitcoin, causing its price to spike by 20 percent.

In the video, a person wearing a Guy Fawkes mask and with a digitally-altered voice calls Musk "nothing more than another narcissistic rich dude who is desperate for attention".

Walmart has asked GlobeNewswire how today's release was distributed in the first place, a spokesperson for the company told CNBC.

"We will work with the appropriate authorities to request - and facilitate - a full investigation, including into any criminal activity associated with this matter," GlobeNewswire said in a statement.