Digital currencies might only exist as virtual code, but thieves are resorting to threatening real violence to get their hands on it. More reports are emerging of thieves using real violence to steal Bitcoins and other cryptocurrencies from people.
People holding large amounts of Bitcoin and other virtual currencies have become tempting targets for thieves for a number of reasons. Cryptocurrencies are easy to transfer into anonymous addresses, making the transaction virtually anonymous and extremely difficult to track by authorities.
During January, armed assailants grabbed a Russian man in Phuket, Thailand, forcing him into his apartment and blindfolding him. They held him hostage until he agreed to log onto his computer and transfer approximately $100,000 worth of Bitcoin into the thieves’ online wallet.
Just a few weeks prior, the head of a Ukrainian Bitcoin exchange was taken hostage. The thieves demanded $1 million worth of Bitcoin as ransom before they would release him.
A man in New York City was held hostage by someone he considered a friend, who demanded the transfer of more than $1.8 million worth of virtual currency, Ether. Armed attackers stormed a Canadian Bitcoin exchange in Ottawa.
A Hollywood hospital paid $17,000 in Bitcoin to a hacker who seized control of the medical center’s computer systems. Hackers even held an entire county in North Carolina hostage, hacking into the Mecklenburg County server and holding county files hostage in exchange for $26,000 worth of Bitcoin.
The UK saw its first armed robbery for Bitcoin in January 2018. Four masked men broke into the Oxford home of a large Bitcoin trader, holding his wife hostage at gunpoint until he transferred a fortune in virtual currency to them.
The ease with which virtual currencies can be transferred means more thieves and criminals are taking advantage it. The odds of making a successful armed hold up where Bitcoin or other virtual currencies are the pay off are increased when it’s difficult to track the transaction.
Authorities rely on specialized companies, such as Chainanlysis that track criminal transactions on the blockchain where all Bitcoin transactions are recorded. Even though the transaction can be tracked, the entire design behind Bitcoin allows criminals to remain anonymous on their Bitcoin addresses.
Programmers are currently working towards developing various methods of signing virtual currency transactions that could secretly alert authorities if a transaction is being made under duress.
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