Scammed by a monkey: Inside the dazzling world of NFT heists

Scammed by a monkey: Inside the dazzling world of NFT heists

Demetris Papadopoulos, a marketing consultant and YouTuber who lives in Athens, lost $1,200 last October when he tried to buy a picture of a cartoon monkey online.

But unlike others who’ve lost money in attempts to buy pieces of “cryptoart”, he videoed his failed transaction. “This could be a day where my life will change and I’ll be able to hopefully flip [these NFTs] for hundreds and thousands of dollars,” he tells his audience, watching him try to get his mitts on the artwork. “I’m shaking. I have to mint this. I have to get in.”

Excitement was building on the project’s Discord page (crypto is all over the social site, with many NFT projects maintaining busy servers with tens of thousands of users).

“I’d say probably 70% of NFT people are out to scam”

The rocket emoji (what else?) count was climbing well over 700 in the seconds before the NFT, called Baller Ape Club, launched — the so-called public minting, or first-come, first-served sale.

But every time Papadopoulos clicked “mint”, he got this message: “Your transaction failed.”

He thought it was because so many people were minting at the same time — but really it was a scam to keep people emptying their crypto wallets. In a panic, Papadopoulos checked Twitter to find the project’s page had vanished. “I was freaking out,” he says. Soon after, the Discord page also disappeared. The thieves had made off with some $2m.

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