This is crypto-theft, and all the victims we talk to want only one thing: to warn people. Two of them speak to us in this article, together they have lost more than 40,000 euros due to theft.
One of the victims we are talking to would like to speak to us by name: Cees Oddens. Cees had different types of cryptocurrencies, including Bitcoin, in a so-called crypto wallet at a well-known company: Blockchain.com.
A crypto wallet is a digital wallet. Although it does not contain bitcoins, it does contain all kinds of codes, called keys that give you access to cryptocurrencies. Cees had been parking bitcoins in this wallet since 2012.
Cees was able to pay out once. “It was just before the first bubble burst in 2017 that I was able to sell something.” He cashed in a large portion of his cryptos, but left a small portion to continue to grow.
The shock was huge when he logged into his account in April. “I saw that my balance was suddenly much lower. So I immediately looked at my transaction history and there I saw that all my bitcoins were being sent to an address I did not know.”
Before he knew it, all his cryptocurrencies were gone. At the time, his bitcoins had a value of almost 22,000 euros.
Months later, Cees still does not know what exactly happened. Contacting the Blockchain.com helpdesk does not work either. Nor can they return his coins. The help desk thinks he has been hacked, he is not even sure.
Another victim tells us a similar story. David, not his real name, is safe: his computer has been infected with malware, software that criminals used to access his computer.
At its peak, the cryptocurrencies in his possession were worth more than 24,000 euros. Then the criminals struck and he lost all his money at once.
David admits in the conversation with RTL Nieuws that he himself was responsible for installing the malware, but is also angry at Binance. “My account was protected by a unique password from a password manager, and I had 2-step verification on. So you also expect to receive a notification on your phone if you want to change your password, which you have to authenticate.”
Since his PC was infected by hackers, this could be bypassed. “Normally, you can not trade for 24 to 48 hours after changing this kind of data. But because the hackers changed my login information from an address that Binance knew, this restriction apparently did not apply.”
David received push notifications in the Binance app on his phone that transactions were taking place. “There were reports that my cryptocurrencies were being transferred to wallets I was not even aware of,” says David. He will warn people: “That you too can be taken by hackers with two-step verification.”
Inquiries to the police tell us that cryptocurrencies are reported more often, but there are no exact figures. This type of crypto-theft has not been registered as a separate fact with the police, and the term ‘crypto’ does not appear in, for example, reports from companies that are blackmailed via ransomware. This makes the targeted search for statements difficult.
The reports are rising
However, the police see that reviews and notices about this kind of crypto theft are increasing. A spokesman stressed: “It also has to do with more and more people stepping into this.”
Fraud Helpdesk also sees an increase, but says the number of reviews is too low to draw definite conclusions. Reports that come in are on average around six to seven thousand euros per person.
Cees and David have both contacted the companies where their cryptocurrencies were stored, and filed a report with police. So far, this has failed.
It leaves a bad aftertaste in men. Cees wants to warn people about the dangers. “So the lesson is that it’s pretty dangerous to have a lot of money in crypto.”
If it is already too late and your cryptocurrencies have been stolen, Fraud Helpdesk always recommends reporting it, changing your passwords and checking the website www.haveibeenpwned.com to see what has become public where.
How do you keep cryptocurrencies safe?
There is no way to ensure that you can never fall victim to crypto theft. But there are tips that can make it less easy for potential criminals.
- Provide strong, unique passwords to access your crypto wallets
- Always use two-step verification
- Do a good research on the party where you buy your crypto services. Make sure you know how to approach them if something goes wrong
- If you have a lot of money in your wallet, it may be wise to spread the word. For example, across multiple wallets at multiple crypto companies or a hardware wallet such as Ledger. These are physical devices that allow you to store the keys to your bitcoins offline.
- Another slightly extreme tip, but good to think about if you have a lot of money in bitcoins: use a separate computer that you only use for your crypto trading. This requires an investment and also some discipline. However, if you have a computer that you do not browse, download, play games on, or social media on, it greatly reduces your chances of getting malware on that computer.
‘We apologize for this incident’
In response to our inquiries, a spokesman for Binance said: “We deeply regret this incident and sympathize with our user. Strict security measures are in place to protect our systems, but due to the degraded security of this user’s device and other used services, malicious parties were able to access his account in a way that our systems could not directly detect. ” In addition, the company says it always supports police investigations in this area where possible.
Blockchain.com says they will not comment on individual cases. The company writes: “We can not comment on individual customer cases, but we can confirm that there has been no data breach in Blockchain.com’s systems.”