A man in San Francisco has two more guesses at a lost password that will unlock his $220 million fortune. If he guesses wrong, he loses it all.
Stefan Thomas lost the paper where he wrote down the password for a small hard drive called an IronKey, which contains the keys to the 7,002 bitcoin in his digital bitcoin wallet, the New York Times reported. Thomas has tried eight of his commonly used passwords, none of which has worked. He has two more tries before the digital wallet encrypts his contents forever.
“I would just lay in bed and think about it,” Thomas told the New York Times. “Then I would go to the computer with some new strategy, and it wouldn’t work, and I would be desperate again.”
Bitcoin prices are up 50% from a month ago despite a sharp drop Monday, the Times reported. The digital currency has quickly made a lot of investors wealthy even as the coronavirus pandemic hurt the United States economy.
But some investors aren’t so lucky. Many people have been locked out of their bitcoin fortunes without a way to access their accounts. Around $140 billion, or 20% of the existing 18.5 million bitcoin, appear to be in lost digital wallets, cryptocurrency data firm Chainalysis said according to the report. Wallet Recovery Services, which helps people recover lost digital keys, said that the number of recovery requests has tripled from a month ago. The company now receives around 70 requests a day.
Unlike other companies like PayPal or Wells Fargo which can provide or reset passwords if customers lose them, Bitcoin has no company that stores passwords. Satoshi Nakamoto, the creator of Bitcoin, said that the central idea of the digital currency was to provide people with a way to store funds that governments can’t prevent or regulate. Anyone can create a Bitcoin account without having to complete an identity check, according to the report.
Los Angeles based entrepreneur Brad Yasar said that he put his hard drives containing hundreds of millions of dollars of Bitcoin away in vacuum-sealed bags after being unable to find the passwords. “Through the years I would say I have spent hundreds of hours trying to get back into these wallets,” Yasar told the Times.
“I don’t want to be reminded every day that what I have now is a fraction of what I could have that I lost,” he added.