I was told to write down my private key and store it securely with other financial documents. I was never to reveal it to anyone, or lose it.
So I printed it out, but also made the fateful decision to store it in my Gmail drafts, so I could copy and paste it when I needed to make a transaction rather than laboriously typing it out each time.
I deleted my internet history after every check of my wallet for extra security.
When the price of Ethereum rocketed, I was soon sitting on a decent pile of money.
Then that decent pile of money disappeared.
I hadn’t used my private key to access my account for some time and was getting the jitters when the price of all cryptocurrencies began to fall in 2018. Maybe it was time to take some out.
But when I tried to do so, I saw with horror that all of my Ethereum – about £25,000’s worth – had already been taken out; the cupboard was bare.
It had been moved to another private key address and there was absolutely nothing I could do about it. There seemed to be no-one to complain to.
A transaction on Ethereum cannot be reversed and there is no safety net – nothing like the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) that guarantees up to £85,000 on UK bank accounts.
After contacting people in my extensive crypto network, I found out that my Ether money had been taken to the Binance cryptocurrency exchange and, according to Binance, moved again within 60 minutes.
Trying to get information from Binance was a Kafkaesque nightmare – just an automated message saying it would respond within 72 hours when 72 seconds would have been more useful.
Binance wouldn’t disclose anything anyway until it has been contacted by law enforcement, so I went to the Action Fraud website, reported my case, and obtained a crime number.
But six months passed with no news on my stolen investments, so I went on the offensive and contacted US bounty-hunters CipherBlade who work with the FBI in Philadelphia to pinpoint thieves and track them down – in exchange for a percentage of the bounty.
They discovered that my money had been deposited by the thief (or thieves) in a “consolidation wallet” then divided up in to chunks and sent to four different deposit addresses on the Binance exchange.
The police would need to contact Binance, they said, to find out who owned these accounts, using email and IP addresses and any other personal details the thieves may have given.
I sent CipherBlade’s report to Action Fraud and things finally began to move.
The following morning I was contacted by Sussex’s cybercrime unit, my local force, and within a week they had received useful information from Binance. The unit tracked IP addresses to a telecoms company in the Netherlands, but there weren’t any personal identification details to be had – perhaps unsurprisingly.