The Kroger supermarket chain's headquarters is shown in Cincinnati, Ohio, on June 28, 2018. (Lisa Baertlein/Reuters)

The Kroger supermarket chain’s headquarters is shown in Cincinnati, Ohio, on June 28, 2018. (Lisa Baertlein/Reuters)

Kroger Co. is looking into the publication of a fake press release, claiming the acceptance of bitcoin cash at its stores, the grocer said on Friday, after becoming the second major retailer in recent weeks to get entangled in a crypto hoax.

The release, which said the grocer would accept the cryptocurrency this holiday season, appeared on Kroger’s investor relations page and was later deleted.

The company said the page, which gets automatically updated, receives a direct feed from PR Newswire (PRN), where the fake release also appeared.

“This communication was fraudulent and is unfounded and should be disregarded,” a company spokesperson said in an emailed statement, adding that Kroger was in touch with PRN on the issue.

PRN pulled the fake announcement and said it was “urgently investigating the incident including looking into any criminal activity associated with this matter.”

Bitcoin cash is a fork of bitcoin’s underlying software code formed in 2017, and was an initiative headed by a small group of mostly China-based bitcoin miners.

Walmart Inc. was subject to a cryptocurrency hoax in September when a fake press release was published, announcing a partnership between the world’s largest retailer and litecoin. The news had briefly sent prices of the little-known cryptocurrency surging.

Despite a string of hoaxes, cryptocurrencies are gaining acceptance among mainstream investors and companies such as theater chain AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc., which said in September that it would accept bitcoin, ether, bitcoin cash, and litecoin for ticket purchases in the coming months.

Bitcoin prices turned slightly negative after Kroger said the release was fake.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission said the agency would not comment on “the existence or nonexistence” of a possible investigation into the fake press release.

By Uday Sampath Kumar

Reuters

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