There have been a lot of cases in the past where people have lost a very huge amount via losing their bitcoin private keys. Here are some stories.
The probability of discovery of lost Bitcoin keys trends towards zero. Legends, parables and myths twist around the positions of the millions of BTC lost so far.
The once explosive rise of Bitcoin price made many millionaires, giving birth to a real gold fever. In the same period, there were a lot of grief-rich people, who for various reasons lost access to their wallets with now millions of dollars. It sounds both ridiculous and sad, but one way or another in a few years of existence irretrievably lost a huge amount of cryptocurrency.
How can you lose a crypto wallet?
To date, about 18 million bitcoins have been mined and there are good reasons to believe that a huge part of them has been irrevocably lost along with the keys to access cryptocurrency wallets. At the dawn of the crypto industry, namely in 2009, the blockchain technology was perceived as experimental and did not have the function of a payment instrument.
The first mined blocks were brought in 50 coins at once and mined by a narrow circle of enthusiasts. Mined coins were not of special value, and their status was equal to the currency of the virtual game, because to exchange them for something material was problematic.
For quite some time Bitcoin remained an abstraction of money and was worth a few cents. Many did not take it seriously and clearly did not expect such growth.
In this attitude, private passwords were massively lost. They were thrown out together with hard drives, with piles of unnecessary papers, burned in case of erroneous transactions on incorrect wallets.
With the help of blockchain explorer you can find a public Bitcoin address, but no one will remember the lost passwords anymore, because the blockchain is completely decentralized and is not controlled by anyone, and the missing computers were most likely already recycled and turned into banks or paper clips from recycled materials.
How to identify inactive wallet?
According to information from bitinfocharts.com, since the appearance of Bitcoin more than 20 million wallets have been created, with 90% of all coins stored only in 0.8% of them. Of these, half of the addresses have on their balance from 10 to 1000 BTC. It is this group theoretically belongs to a large number of wallets of the first enthusiasts who managed to easily mine Bitcoin. There is also the largest concentration of inactive wallets.
They can be considered inactive due to the fact that since the moment when Bitcoin first showed its potential for growth, having increased in March 2013 to the cost of $200, they have not made a single transaction. Further, Bitcoin has experienced a number of ups and downs. It is logical to suppose that having access to cryptocurrency, the price of which has increased 150 times, the owners would want to make a profit at least once. The absence of even the smallest transactions on wallets with such a state gives a serious reason to assume that the private key of access to them has been lost.
A great fortune buried with lost crypto wallets
Bitcoin statistics are full of mysteries and riddles, but remain completely transparent and anyone can track transactions by each of the addresses. This is how enthusiasts managed to find the first Bitcoin wallet, which most likely belongs to the creator of cryptocurrency Satoshi Nakamoto.
Satoshi Nakamoto’s wallet contains over 1 million BTC, which is about 6% of all available coins. No outgoing transactions have been made from this address. Given that Satoshi is the creator of the Bitcoin, it is difficult to claim that he has no control over his private key. The lack of transactions may be due to a reluctance to worry the public, but somehow his wallet is the richest and most inactive, and any transaction from him can disrupt the economy of the system and lead to its destruction. Perhaps Satoshi is the first billionaire who can’t take advantage of his virtual wealth.
Regular users have been prevented from becoming millionaires by forgetfulness and unreliable keykeeping. Their stories are intriguing and tragic. So, James Howells, who lives in Wales, in the summer of 2013 decided to clean up his office and sent his hard drive from a laptop that was not working to the trash can. Only after a while, James remembered that the disk contained a private key to his wallet, where there were 7500 BTC at the start.
By that time, Bitcoin was already worth $1000 for one coin. Normal cleaning cost him 7.5 million and he was almost ready to accept his loss, but later the cost continued to grow, generating more anger and frustration. At its peak, the hard drive could have already cost $150 million.
More cautious was the Australian, who refused to disclose his name so as not to be reproached by his wife. In 2009, he started mining and got 1000 coins. When the node became too large, the miner removed it and hid his savings on a cheap Chinese carrier, naively believing that offline storage would save them even if the PC failed. But in 2013, while trying to access his savings, he discovered that the flash drive was dead, and with it, access to his wallet. This cheap Chinese flash drive miner considers the worst mistake in his life, because it is because of this he lost a millionth fortune.
Another sob story is that of Gizmodo editor, who in 2012 invested in bitcoin $ 25, buying 1400 coins for them, about 1.5 cents each. He threw away the hard drive on which he stored the wallet access key, and with it his multimillion-dollar fortune.
How to return lost coins?
Unsuccessful millionaires are biting their elbows trying to get their fortune back. For this they are ready to take even extreme measures similar to madness.
Thus, the aforementioned James Howell from the UK is storming the local authorities to gain access to a toxic dump, where theoretically his discarded hard drive is located. The dump contains over 350 000 tonnes of waste and is closed to unauthorised persons. Infiltrating its territory will be considered a criminal offence. Even if James manages to get to it and among the tons of garbage to find his drive, which already seems incredible, it can be assumed that during the entire period of stay among the tons of toxic waste, he is unlikely to remain whole and functional.
Investors are resorting to hypnosis on a massive scale. For example, South Carolina hypnotist James Miller has developed a whole technique that helps remember the forgotten access password. According to the hypnotist himself, with his technique, a person can remember or restore things he saw. For his services James takes 1 BTC and 5% of the amount that he was able to recover thanks to the hypnosis.
A happier story can be shared by former Wired editor Mark Frauenfelder, who managed to recover the password to his remote storage. The code was originally written on a small orange piece of paper and stored on the desktop. There would have been no problem if Mark hadn’t decided to go on holiday with his wife in 2017. When he came home, he didn’t find an unfortunate leaflet with the password. He was most likely thrown out by a janitor hired on vacation.
Mark tried to recover his PIN from memory, but the password was wrong. Three attempts later, the system reported additional security and the waiting time doubled from that time on each wrong entry until the next attempt. The editor did not stop picking up the password for the bitcoin wallet from April to August until he received an email from the company that released the storage. The manager linked Mark to a 15-year-old programmer who explained that there was a vulnerability in the system that could help restore access, and offered to provide video instructions in exchange for $3700. Mark agreed, entered the proposed code and a few seconds later the PIN appeared on the screen, ending a series of unsuccessful attempts.
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