Recover from hacked virtual currency

Cryptocurrencies are a high priority target for cyber criminals. Whether targeting your wallet directly or hacking the exchanges once cyber criminals have access to your currency you need to act fast!

Hacked virtual currency account - Do this now!

  1. Contact the police - Report the crime to Action Fraud or Police Scotland. They will log the crime and give you a crime reference number.

  2. Change your login details - If you are still able to login to your account then follow the normal procedure to reset your password and other security information. Enable two-factor authentication. This should lock the criminal out of the account.

  3. Notify the exchange/provider - If you have purchased or are storing your currency with a service provider then let them know about the breach and the fraudulent transactions. They may be able to retain some information about the transaction that could come in useful in an investigation.

Will I get my money back?

Once your virtual currency has been stolen it is incredibly unlikely that you will be able to recover it. In theory, it’s possible to track your stolen bitcoin by monitoring the blockchain – in practice, however, this is made difficult by both the anonymous nature of the currency and the fact that the thief will most likely use a bitcoin exchange to trade the currency for normal cash straight away. However, money does leave a trail and you may be able to follow it to the identity of the criminal.

Approaches to dealing with stolen virtual currency

  1. Check your devices for malware - It is worth considering that a malicious software infection may have led to the hacker accessing your currency. Scan the devices you use to handle your currency and make sure they are clean. You can follow our guide on checking for and removing malware here.

  2. Call your bank - If the transaction had related costs that hit your bank account - such as transaction fees or deposits - then contact your bank immediately and let them know it is a unauthorised/fraudulent transaction.

  3. Follow the money - You can follow the transactions of the wallet address that your funds were scammed into. If you notice the scammer attempt to transfer funds from the wallet to cryptocurrency exchanges to sell for flat currency, report to the relevant exchanges immediately. An opportunity to catch the scammer is to follow the money trail through blockchain explorers and trace your lost funds. You can use browser-based blockchain exploring software such as https://blockexplorer.com to ‘follow’ the payment through to an end bitcoin address. Once you have this address you can check whether the owners of the end address(es) appear on http://bitcoinwhoswho.com/. In order to trade crypto to regular money on most popular exchanges, the thief would need to submit KYC (Know Your Customer) information, such as names, addresses, and ID information. Contacting the exchanges can potentially help you to track down the scammer’s identity, which can help to lead to his/her arrest. This is another reason why it is important for you to file a police report as soon as the incident has taken place.

  4. Hire a bounty hunter - If you are willing to pay a decent amount for the return of your funds there are websites where you can post a bounty. Experienced blockchain searchers will investigate the theft and see if they can recover the funds for a price. Sites like Bitcoin Bounty Hunter are a good place to start.

How do I avoid my virtual currency being stolen in future?

  • Don’t talk publicly about owning virtual currency - If it is easy to work out that you own a cryptocurrency from your social media activity then you are much more likely to be a target.

  • Use multi-factor authentication - Ensure that you have multi-factor authentication enabled. Use an authenticator app rather than the SMS option. If the option to disable SMS authentication exists then do it.

  • Use a new email address and complex password to set up the account - A new, clean email address that you will only use for the virtual currency account is best. This reduces the chance of you being targeted via your email account.

  • Use a ‘cold-wallet’ - Keep your cryptocurrency off the internet, in a "cold wallet." "Cold wallet" is not a brand, it's a concept of storing bitcoins offline (not connected to internet) so that it reduces the opportunities for hackers to steal via online techniques.

  • Spread your investments across exchanges - A number of exchanges have been breached. Spread your investments across exchanges to minimise the impact.

  • Get secure - Take time to improve your general online security. Use sites like Get Safe Online and Cyber Aware to understand what good security looks like and make changes.

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