Peter N. M. Hansteen
Scammers are using 'forgotten' cryptocurrency accounts as bait for stealing the identities of the gullible and dishonest. You have been warned.
I have never put any money into bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies.
Note: This piece is also available with trackers but nice formatting here.
For a few years a long time ago I worked for economists at The Norwegian School of Economics, and even though I never formally studied the subject, enough of the general concepts rubbed off on me that when the early rumblings of Bitcoin started making the rounds, I quickly identified rather basic failings in the proponents' logic and turned my attention elsewhere.
My conclusion was that either these people were innocently unaware of the basics of money supply and its relationship with market pricing mechanisms, or they were not very innocently trying to part the more innocent with their money.
As history shows, any asset with no or very little intrinsic or objective value and market price set solely by demand is bound to be an unstable asset and a high risk investment prone to bubbles such as the famous tulip mania.
Looking at the development of Bitcoin over time, illustrated with a chart from Wikipedia:
it becomes immediately clear that Bitcoin is not a stable asset. Remember the tulips.
Be that as it may, I was only slightly annoyed by a phone call on Friday from what appeared to be a United Kingdom (+44) number. The lady at the other end had what I took to be an Indian accent and did not speak very clearly, but it eventually became clear that she was offering to help me regain access to my 'blockchain account'.
As we already know, no blockchain account of mine has ever existed, and I told the lady so. I also helpfully offered her advice that she would most likely not be paid for her efforts and would be better off just putting down the phone and getting on with life in the great elsewhere.
She mostly ignored what I was saying and stuck to her script. In the end I told her to send whatever she had to offer by email, and she confirmed she had that address to hand.
I have never tried to keep either my email address or my phone number secret. In fact, for several separate periods of time I have been making an effort to be accessible to both existing and new customers. So it was no surprise that some random person on the Internet would have both of these items on file.
What did surprise me a bit was that the next day, an email message did turn up about the 'blockchain account'.
Here is the message in two screenshots:
while the message itself is preserved here with headers (and fugly markup) intact.
The full body text of the message reads,
Hello Mr /Mrs. Peter,
We hope this email finds you well! This is Maya Miller from the Support - Team Department of Blockchain. Further to our recent communication, please check below the specific details as discussed. During this Informative Campaign we are contacting every client that has an account in our system from of November 2012 until March 2021.The system of Blockchain has blocked these accounts temporarily for security reasons. A Bitcoin transaction is identified by it's unique form of Transaction ID, which consists of a 64-digit alphanumeric string, that does not contain any kind of specification.
The reasons that have caused the registration of your name in Blockchain are listed below:
1- The account may have been created from your Previous Online Trading experiences or any other Online form of Investment and the funds have been collected in a Recovery Wallet.
2- In 2011-2016 Bitcoin and Blockchain were everywhere (Commercials, Platforms and all over the Internet) and 30% of our clients registered without even knowing the results. Different platforms and several Online Games used to offer free Bitcoins as a Promotion / Gift which made a great publicity to this Crypto Currency.
Your total available balance in is 3.402 BTC and converted to standard GBP it goes up to 60,361.58 GBP. The amount in Standard is variable, based on the Bitcoin price movement. You can find a screenshot of the status of your account down below, provided directly from our Security Department of Blockchain. NOTE!
1) If the account has no balance, it will get terminated immediately.
2) If the account has a balance inside, it will go to "Dormant Status", until the owner is informed. Further to the procedures listed above, the Support Department came up with 3 (three) suggestions:
a) Deactivate the account, and these funds will not be your responsibility anymore.
These funds will go back to the company as a property.
b) Reactivate your account, and withdraw the funds with the guidance of one of our Refund Agents.
c) Reactivate the account and keep it for online trading.
The reactivation procedure consists as the following: Since the owner of the account has not been active, he/she must show activity (movement) inside the account. That would be done by placing a minimum deposit of 1% (0.034 BTC) of the total funds that the client owns.
In order to reactivate the account you must provide the following documents:
1- One official document (Passport, Driving License of National ID)
2- Utility Bill or Bank Statement, according to client preference After you provide the documents, and the system confirms that the order has been placed, your account will go to "Active Status".
In order for you to log in to your crypto tracker platform, you should get connected to one of our agents first.
If you have any questions don't hesitate to reply back to this email and also provide us your final decision. Thank you for being a member of our company!
Maya Miller Support team_ Blockchain Security Department
Support Department and Controller of Financial Policies of Blockchain.
© Blockchain 2022 I I- Luxembourg SA L-2340 Luxembourg, 1, Rue Philippe II- C/O Legalinx Limited Tallis House 2 Tallis Street Temple London, EC4Y OAB, UNITED KINGDOM
Disclaimer: Please note Blockchain.com does not provide investment advice or recommendations. The information made available to you is for your own general use and is not based on any evaluation of your personal circumstances.
The essence of this message is that as part of the 'account recovery' process, they want copies of your 'Passport, Driving License of National ID' (sic), as well as 'Utility Bill or Bank Statement'. While it is possible that some valid institutions would require one of these in their account recovery procedure, supplying several of these would in fact enable the party at the other end to impersonate me to a third party.
As this tweet shows,
There is an active ID theft attempt campaign via email about a supposed blockchain balance in an account tied to your email. Screenshots: https://t.co/jil8hsXxzx https://t.co/lm6hkmwLGe saved email with headers https://t.co/k8g7C7vk2W #blockchain #scam #idtheft #bitcon #bitcoin— Peter N. M. Hansteen (@pitrh) September 10, 2022
The lesson to be learned here is that if you do not remember ever having traded in cryptocurrencies, you almost certainly do not have a recoverable account with bitcoins in it.
Given the size of the amount promised it would not surprise me that they do get some takers. But scamming the scammers takes a certain level of skill most dishonest and greedy people do not possess.
And I suppose it will not surprise anyone that the tweet linked here produced several replies from bots or bot-workalikes that tried to hawk their favorite cryptocurrency (can we call them #cryptotulips yet?) project. Those were the easiest block decisions I have ever faced.
Update 2022-09-13: Just as we were finishing lunch today at a pleasant Asian-style restaurant in Vienna, this happened:
[2022-09-13 12:47:33] Incoming call from +447894561236, correctly flagged by the Android phone app as Potential fraud
Me: Peter Hansteen speaking
Bitcon Lady: Hello Mister Peter I am calling from the support team of Blockchain
Me: Hi there. Please go to bsdly.blogspot.com and read about yourself. Bye then!
I must admit I had kind of hoped it would end there, but
[2022-09-13 12:48:01] Incoming call from +447894561236, correctly flagged by the Android phone app as Potential fraud
Me: Peter Hansteen speaking
Bitcon Lady: Hello Mister Peter would you please repeat what you just said
Me: What I said was, please go to bsdly dot blogspot dot com and read about yourself. Bye then!
With this addendum the article is now a full disclosure post.
I would however advise whoever maintains the list of flagged numbers that this number should not be tagged as Potential fraud, but more accurately as Fraud.
I am sure somebody, somewhere will appreciate your saving them a handful of bytes of storage.