Crypto theft increases: ‘Suddenly I had 22,000 euros less’

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 lost more than 40,000 euros due to theft.

One of the victims we speak to would like to speak to us by name: Cees Oddens. Cees had various types of cryptocurrencies, including Bitcoin, in a so-called crypto-wallet with a well-known company: Blockchain.com.

A crypto wallet is a digital wallet. Although it does not contain bitcoins, it contains all kinds of codes, called keys, with which you can access crypto-coins. Cees had parked bitcoins in this wallet since 2012.

Cees was able to cash out once. “It was just before the first bubble burst in 2017 that I was able to sell something.” He cashed out a large portion of his cryptos but left a small portion to continue growing.

The shock was great 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 sent to an address I did not know.”

Before he knew it, all his crypto coins were gone. At the time, his bitcoins had a value of almost 22,000 euros.

Months later, Cees still doesn’t know what exactly happened. Contacting the Blockchain.com help desk doesn’t help either. They also cannot return his coins. The help desk thinks he has been hacked, he is not sure himself.

malware

Another victim tells us a similar story. David, not his real name, is certain: his computer has been infected with malware, software that criminals used to gain access to his computer.

At its peak, the crypto coins in his possession were worth more than 24,000 euros. Then the criminals struck and he lost all his money at once.

David acknowledges 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 two-step verification on. So you expect to receive a notification on your phone if you want to change your password, which you need to approve.”

Because his PC was infected by hackers, this could be bypassed. “Normally, you cannot trade for 24 to 48 hours after changing this kind of data. However, because the hackers changed my login information from an address known to Binance, this restriction did not seem to apply.”

David received push notifications in the Binance app on his phone that transactions were taking place. “There were reports of my cryptos being transferred to wallets I was completely unaware of,” says David. He will warn people: “That you can also be caught by hackers with two-step verification.”

Inquiries to the police tell us that crypto thefts are reported more often, but there are no exact figures. This form of crypto-theft is not registered as a separate fact with the police, and the term ‘crypto’, for example, does not appear in reports from companies extorted via ransomware. This makes the targeted search for statements difficult.

The reports are increasing

Police are seeing reports and reports of this type of crypto theft on the rise. A spokesman emphasizes: “It is also connected with the fact that more and more people are entering this.”

The Fraud Helpdesk is also seeing an increase, but says the number of reviews is too low to draw firm conclusions. Reports that come in average around six to seven thousand euros per person.

Warn

Cees and David have both contacted the companies where their crypto coins were stored and filed a report with the police. So far this has been unsuccessful.

It leaves a bad aftertaste on the men. Cees wants to warn people about the dangers. “So the lesson is that it’s quite dangerous to have a lot of money in crypto.”

If it is already too late and your cryptos have been stolen, the Fraud Helpdesk recommends always reporting it, changing your passwords and checking the website www.haveibeenpwned.com to see what has been made public where.

How do you keep cryptocurrencies safe?

There is no way to ensure that you can never become a victim of crypto theft. But there are tips that can make it less easy for would-be criminals.

  • Provide strong, unique passwords to access your crypto wallets
  • Always use two-step verification
  • Do a good research on the party you are buying your crypto services from. Make sure you know how to approach them if something goes wrong
  • If you have a lot of money in a wallet, it may be wise to spread this more. 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 don’t browse, download, play games or social media on, it greatly reduces your chances of getting malware on that computer.

‘We regret this incident’

In response to our inquiries, a Binance spokesperson 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 services used, malicious parties were able to access his account in a way that our systems could not directly detect.” Furthermore, the company says that it always supports police investigations in this area where possible.

Blockchain.com says it will not comment on individual cases. The company writes: “We cannot comment on individual customer cases, but we can confirm that there has not been a data breach in Blockchain.com’s systems.”

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