The San Francisco Programmer owns 7,002 Bitcoins (worth more than $240 million) that he cannot retrieve because he lost the password to his digital wallet.
The password for his digital wallet gives a user 10 guesses before it seizes up and encrypts its contents FORVER, he has tried eight of his most commonly used password to no avail.
The password will let him unlock a small hard drive, known as an IronKey, which contains the private keys to a digital wallet that holds 7,002 Bitcoin.
The problem is that Thomas years ago lost the paper where he wrote down the password for his IronKey, which gives users 10 guesses before it seizes up and encrypts its contents forever. He has since tried eight of his most commonly used password formulations — to no avail.
He tells the NY Times, “I would just lay in bed and think about it. Then I would go to the computer with some new strategy, and it wouldn’t work, and I would be desperate again.”
“Bitcoin, which has been on an extraordinary and volatile eight-month run, has made a lot of its holders very rich in a short time, even as the coronavirus pandemic has ravaged the world economy. But the cryptocurrency’s unusual nature has also meant that many people are locked out of their Bitcoin fortunes as a result of lost or forgotten keys. They have been forced to watch, helpless, as the price has risen and fallen sharply, unable to cash in on their digital wealth. Of the existing 18.5 million Bitcoin, around 20 percent — currently worth around $140 billion — appear to be in lost or otherwise stranded wallets, according to the cryptocurrency data firm Chainalysis.
Wallet Recovery Services, a business that helps find lost digital keys, said it had gotten 70 requests a day from people who wanted help recovering their riches, three times the number of a month ago. Bitcoin owners who are locked out of their wallets speak of endless days and nights of frustration as they have tried to get access to their fortunes.
Many have owned the coins since Bitcoin’s early days a decade ago, when no one had confidence that the tokens would be worth anything.”
The rest of the article tells the story of others who have either lost or can't access their bitcoins.