Getting dispossessed of your precious NFT is a common tragedy in the land of crypto enthusiasts. For some, like Bob*, theft is hard to swallow.
For two days Bob* could barely sleep one night. How could he, a cybersecurity expert, have been caught by such a scam? On a Sunday morning in April, still foggy with sleep, he was invited to participate in a lottery. The proposal is attractive, it could allow him to be part of a whitelist† This term used in the world of cryptos means having preview access to a collection of NFTs, these certified digital works on the blockchain. He accepts the invitation and has to enter the code of his cryptocurrency wallet (wallet). “Normally, when I receive these types of proposals, I use a precautionary wallet disposable on which my NFTs and cryptocurrencies are not committed,” he notes. But not this time.
48 hours later his NFTs were already for sale
By inattention, he enters his main wallet number and validates two transactions, thinking they are necessary to access the lottery. The hackers behind this alleged lottery didn’t need much to seize two of Bob’s NFTs. The very first he bought: CryptoMories. A collection of 10,000 small characters whose design is randomly generated, like so many others in the NFT universe. These have skull-shaped faces drawn with a naive line and are decked out in various accessories (sunglasses, hats, Indian headdress, crown, etc.).
By the time he realized his loss, 48 hours later, his NFTs were already for sale on OpenSea, the leading online marketplace where non-exchangeable tokens†
Bob is far from alone in being the victim of such a scam. NFT thefts have been the order of the day for a few months now. Last February, the OpenSea platform fell victim to a massive phishing campaign that led to the theft of 257 NFTs worth $1.7 million in one night. And this is just one of many others. On Twitter, many owners like Bob are sharing their dismay and despair at the theft of their avatar.
“Little by little I got attached to it”
“It is a feeling that resembles a burglary. I also felt guilty for being fooled,” said this 30-year-old cryptocurrency enthusiast since 2017, well aware of the many scams in the industry. But above all, Bob had grown attached to these NFTs, and to one of them in particular. He had posted it as a profile picture on Twitter, Discord and OpenSea. “It had become my digital identity. The little character in question wears a suit, “like me, who often wears it because of my job,” he says. There is also a small viewfinder placed in front of his eye, similar to that of Vegeta, the hero of the animated Dragon Ball Z that Bob loves.
“I liked it right away,” he said. I like the gap between the viewfinder and the costume. I had chosen it in the beginning without thinking that it would become my profile picture. But little by little I got attached to it. This flight touched me more than I could have dreamed. †
A super positive bubble
For this little character, his profile picture wasn’t very personal, it was just an Ethereum logo. This CryptoMorie also symbolized for Bob that he had entered this new world, “the NFT adventure”. When he posts it on Twitter, his account gets a few hundred followers very quickly and he starts interacting with other members of the community. “I discovered a hyper-positive bubble, something I had never seen on social networks. The CryptoMories are a community that is very focused on psychological support, mental health and very positive values. It’s very refreshing. The purchase of a Morie also grants access to free sessions with a psychiatrist for people living in the United States. On its site, the FaMorie (Morie family) describes itself as the nicest and most welcoming community in the NFT universe.
Owning a Morie is also a sign of social distinction. If Bob buys it in October 2021, the price of these NFTs will still be reasonable. He acquires his avatar for 0.2 ETH – about 850 euros at the time of purchase. But the price is skyrocketing, the Mories will sell for at least 2.2 ETH in January 2022, or $6,000 at the moment (before falling again in recent months). We’re certainly not playing in the same field as the Bored Apes – these multi-million dollar monkeys, some of which are owned by stars. But it remains “super stylish” to display his Morie, says Bob.
Support messages and scammers
There is therefore no question for him of letting his digital identity slip away. He goes in search of the little character that made him someone on the Internet, a member of a community. The advantage of the blockchain on which NFT purchases and reselling are recorded is that it is transparent. The 30-year-old soon realized that his NFT, after being resold by hackers, was back on sale. He tries to negotiate with the dealer. He doesn’t want to hear anything. “I was ready to buy it back for the amount I spent in October 2021, but he sold it on for 0.6 ETH and wouldn’t cut the price. He was very aggressive. †
Bob offers to trade the Morie for another similar one, but nothing works. It warns OpenSea, which simply displays a banner on its NFT indicating suspicious activity. The collector is also trying to find help from Twitter’s crypto community. He gets lots of messages of support, but also gets picked up by all sorts of peddlers ready to “drop the ripped off”. “Four or five guys told me that they had similar stories and that they could help me for money. I quickly saw that they were probably scammers.”
“He’s back home now”
Bob still can’t bring himself to delete his profile picture, even though he now has other “super cool” NFTs. He’s not that attached to it. “But after a few weeks I began to struggle to make up my mind, telling myself I would never see him again.” When he is about to give up, a close friend warns him that his NFT is for sale on NFTX, another NFT buy-resell platform. Bob does not hesitate: his resale price is 0.25 ETH (about 600 euros), almost equal to what he paid in October 2021.
This is the price he is willing to pay to regain his visual identity. “He’s back with me now,” he concludes with relief. It remains to remove the “suspicious activity” banner from his NFT on OpenSea, not to resell it because Bob promises to keep it as a profile picture, but “to put this story behind him”.
The accident did not deter the NFT universe cyber expert. “It just forces me to be even more vigilant. For him, non-replaceable tokens still have a bright future ahead of them, despite the market decline in recent weeks.
*name has been changed