‘Look out!’ or: Stories about forever-lost Bitcoin wallets

In the crypto space it is now commonplace to hear about people who managed to become millionaires just by investing in BTC early on. However, amidst the great successes there also descends the thick darkness – that’s the reason why stories of lost crypto wallets exist. These spine-chillers are reminiscent of scenes from famous thrillers, where some precious artifacts vanish into thin air while their owners are just left out in the cold.

In this article, we will recall a couple of stories about lost wallets that shed light on the importance of safe and secure storage of your cryptocurrencies.

James Howells and the wasted 7,500 BTC

James Howells’s name is on everyone’s lips when it comes to such cases,l. He is a British programmer who came to be owner of a huge crypto treasure but who lost it afterward. In early 2009, when Bitcoin was just starting to gain momentum, Howells was mining the cryptocurrency on his laptop. In those days, BTC was dog-cheap and accessible to most people, so he kept mining a large number of coins.

However, in 2013, Howells decided to get rid of his old computer, unaware of how many bitcoins left in his wallet. He just threw the hard drive away.

It wasn’t until 2017 when bitcoin was skyrocketing that James realized his terrible mistake. He made numerous attempts to find his hard drive in a landfill near New Port, Wales. Yet they all proved unsuccessful.

This story turned into one of the clearest examples of how underestimating the value of bitcoin and making the wrong decision can pull you away from becoming filthy-rich. No matter how far technology has advanced, the sound storage of private keys remains a top priority for investors and common users alike.

Stefan Thomas and the mystery of 7,002 BTC

Another illustrious example is  Stefan Thomas, a German programmer who faced a conundrum in the digital assets world. At the crack of 2011, Stephan Thomas was also mining bitcoins on his laptop, and at one point he won 7,002 BTC in a contest held in the bitcoin-enthusiast community.

But here’s the catch: he encrypted the keys to his crypto wallet and forgot the passphrase. Stefan tried every possible way to recover the password, but to no avail. His digital gold became unavailable and he faced the real threat of losing his cryptocurrency fortune forever. These days, he has only two attempts left out of ten to enter the correct password.

Stefan Thomas made a name for himself and his experience has become a real lesson for many. It also puts emphasis on the importance of security and caution when storing bitcoins. Those who invest in crypto should bear in mind that a forgotten password or lost access can come at a high cost.

Gerald Cotten and the $215 million brainteaser

The case of Gerald Cotten, founder and CEO of crypto exchange QuadrigaCX, has caught the eye of the entire crypto world and has become a real mind-bender. Cotten once was a centerpiece of the crypto realm and ran an exchange where cryptocurrencies were traded.

As 2018 rolled around, however, Cotten passed away unexpectedly at the age of 30. His decease caused not only grief for his loved ones, but also severe problems for QuadrigaCX users. It became clear that he appeared to be the only person who knew the passphrases and private keys to well over $215 million dollars in crypto stored on the CEX.

That situation literally became a head-scratcher for lawyers, government agencies and common users as they tried to unravel the enigma of accessing the funds. Despite many conspiracy theories and investigations, the access has never been restored. 

Gabriel Abed’s 800 BTC loss in a laptop malfunction

This very story serves as another reminder of how money can be lost in a matter of second, and how crucial it is to handle digital assets with care.

In the beginning of the 2010s, Gabriel was one of many who believed in bitcoin’s potential in its infancy. He did all the mining on his old lappy and managed to accumulate 800 BTC, quite a significant amount at the time. What he also did was store his bitcoins under a private key on the hard drive of this laptop, making it all a pretty lucrative project.

Nevertheless, when the laptop began to misbehave, Gabriel decided to ask a coworker for help. While recovering it, a colleague accidentally reformatted the hard drive and data was lost forever. The 800 bitcoins that nowadays cost a fortune disappeared as well.

This is another cautionary tale about why it’s important to back up your data regularly and keep your crypto in safe places. Having lost his crypto assets due to a laptop failure was a real eye-opener for Gabriel as to how to take care of his digital wealth.


Indeed, the stories serve as grim reminders that the crypto world can be a place of both immediate success and devastating loss. Each of them reveals different facets of the risks associated with investing in cryptocurrency and highlights the relevance of safety and security when it comes to holding digital assets.

They serve as a lesson to us all, since not only the crypto can be unpredictable, but their growth can be just as well. Robustness of crypto should always remain your main focus, and only then will you be able to avoid ridiculous losses and rather enjoy the benefits of your digital possessions.

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