Millions of Bitcoin Permanently Lost
This is the horror story of a cryptocurrency investor losing a possible fortune in Bitcoin. James Howells, a 32-year-old IT specialist who recently became a full-time cryptocurrency investor, told New York Post that he had lost more than $60 million in Bitcoin and was never able to retrieve it.
2009 was the debut year of BTC during which the price of BTC was below $1 and since there were very few individuals mining the cryptocurrency, the hash power of Bitcoin was extremely low. Howells had mined more than 7,500 bitcoin in a week using basic GPU mining equipment.
In 2013, the price of BTC surpassed the $100 mark and naturally, Howells started looking for the drive which he used back in 2009 to store private keys to the 7,500 BTC he had mined. However, he recalled that instead of throwing away an empty hard drive, he accidentally threw away the thumb drive with his private keys.
“I mined more than 7,500 coins over one week’s time in 2009; there were just six of us doing it at the time, and it was like the early days of a gold rush. Four years later, I had two hard drives in a desk drawer. One was empty, and the other contained my bitcoin private keys. I meant to throw away the empty drive — and I accidentally threw away the one with the bitcoin information,” said Howells.
For all of Bitcoin’s uses, one downside of it is that if and when a user loses private keys to a wallet, it is impossible to recover the funds, however large the amount may be. The whole point of cryptocurrency is that it is not governed by a supreme entity and hence individuals have no one to ask for help of any kind.
Howells admitted that he had felt physically sick after he realised that he had thrown away millions of dollars. He stated:
“I looked up the price, did the calculation . . . and thought, ‘Shit. [My investment is] worth around $2 [million] or $3 million.’ A few months later it was worth $9.9 million. I was annoyed, pissed off, sick. I spoke to the people at the landfill and told them that I threw away a hard drive worth $10 million. They looked at me stupidly.”
This was an extremely unfortunate loss for Howells and a lesson for other investors to guard their private keys with their life.
A study done by Chainalysis, a blockchain-focused digital forensics company, found that 3.79 million BTC have been potentially lost permanently and can no longer be re-obtained, because of multiple cases like Howells’.