MUSCATINE, Iowa -- Store owners at the Muscatine Mall have been fielding lots of calls and questions about a fake news article claiming the mall is closing.
The fake news story, headlined "Say Bye to Mall," has been making the rounds on Facebook. The article says the mall will be closing on May 18, 2017.
Mall manager Toni Klaren said the story is completely false, but that hasn't stopped it from spreading.
"When I got the first screenshot, it had already been shared over 56,000 times," said Klaren. "Yeah, it went viral very quickly."
The article was posted on a joke website, react365.com. On the site, users are encouraged to create fake stories to prank their friends. Other popular headlines include "Great White Sharks Found in Mississippi River" and "Marijuana is Now Legalized in the State of Nebraska."
"I'm guilty too," said Klaren. "You're scrolling through your social media feed and, you know, maybe you come upon something that you think maybe is real news, don't open it, just read the headline, and click the share button. And I think that's what happened."
Some of the mall's store owners, though, say the prank story is no laughing matter.
"I believe, this is just my own opinion, that it's hurt my business the last week and a half, because we've had probably one of the worst weeks I've ever had last week," said Lynn Pohren, owner of Beacon of Hope Christian Bookstore.
And while the shop owners may not be surprised, they hope more people will pause and do some research before spreading fake news.
"I see that a lot," said Luann Kaffenberger, owner of Nana's Pleasures. "They start sharing it, and it's like from eight years ago. It's like, come on guys... read!"
The fake article also blames bankruptcy for the mall's closure, but Klaren says the mall is financially sound.