Crypto investor James Howells became another victim of not managing his cryptocurrency carefully when he threw away his hard drive, which would now be worth around $60 million dollars, reports the New York Post.
Lost cryptocurrency is not a new phenomenon. Matthew Mellon, one time head of New York Republican State Committee’s finance committee, related to the founder of Mellon Bank, died last month of a drug-related heart attack, leaving behind him roughly $1 billion’s worth of Ripple. Regrettably, the family was unable to locate his passcode, so effectively the funds are lost.
According to the New York Post, there are currently an estimated 3 million lost bitcoins at approximately $25 billion lost due to lost retrieval codes or owners dying without passing on the magic numbers.
Cryptocurrency codes are randomly generated by the Bitcoin algorithm and can be up to 15 characters long, and funds need to be retrieved through the user’s private key. IT worker James Howell found out about what it feels like to lose his key the hard way.
32-year-old Howell, who lives in Wales, mined 7,500 bitcoins in one week in 2009 as part of a group of 6, in what he called “the early days of the gold rush,” then things went badly wrong, he commented:
“Four years later, I had two hard drives in a desk drawer. One was empty and the other contained my bitcoin private keys,” Howells recalled. “I meant to throw away the empty drive — and I accidentally threw away the one with the bitcoin information.”
Once Howell had realized some months later that his coins had risen in value to $10 million he returned to the dump where he had thrown his hard drive to no avail; his fortune gone.
Although this is an extreme case it’s not infrequent for investors to lose their coins, says legal crypto consultant Brian Stoeckert, “People put them on laptops, storage drives, USBs…Lose one of them without having it backed up, and you are out of luck.”
33-year-old Atlanta-based software developer Syl Turner also fell foul to his own carelessness when he moved his computer up to his attic, having replaced it with a new one. Once bitcoin had reached $10K he thought he’d better retrieve his two bitcoins, discovering he’d erased his private key. “I’m pretty sure I wrote over it because bitcoin had no real monetary value at the time I did it,” Turner said.
Some believe that Bitcoin’s mysterious creator, Nakamoto, may have lost his private key. Another theory is that he committed suicide and failed to leave the pass code-behind.
In the meantime, Howell has offered the town of Newport 10% of his Bitcoin’s value if he’s permitted to excavate the landfill where he threw his hard drive. So far he’s been denied access
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