Five Frenchmen arrested and charged with NFT theft

The Paris prosecutor’s office announced on 12 October 2022 that five people of French nationality have been indicted. They are suspected of having devised a well-proven method to fraudulently recover non-fungible tokens (NFTs) worth millions of dollars. Among the stolen NFTs, we find the famous monkey heads from the Bored Ape Yacht Club collection.

The Paris prosecutor’s office relies on the investigation of a user

Considered one of the most emerging technologies of 2022 by Gartner, some NFTs are now worth a small fortune. Enough to make you want to enter this market that is worth more than 40 billion dollars in 2021. However, instead of going through the legal route to obtain them, by buying them or obtaining them through a video game, for example, some people have decided to steal them directly from the their owner.

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In late 2021, an internet user known as ZachXBT noted that some holders of these non-fungible tokens were upset that they had lost or could no longer find their certificate of ownership. While nothing else has been indicated about the nature of his search, his investigations have particularly interested the Paris prosecutor’s office.

As of 23 August 2022, the Central Office for Combating Crime Related to Information and Communication Technologies (OCLCTIC) has been tasked with an investigation at the request of the Paris prosecutor’s office. They were able to shed some light on the nature of these nuisances: some owners of these NFT Bored Ape simply had their certificate of ownership stolen.

Phishing: The method used by criminals to steal these NFTs

To achieve their goals, the five friends aged 19 to 24 developed a whole technique for stealing these NFTs. Using a fake website they had coded, the young people invited token holders to turn their static works into animated files. A godsend for owners who see this as an opportunity to give their NFT Bored Ape more value.

Unfortunately for them, they are then victims of phishing, a technique which consists of luring an Internet user to a credible fake site so that they provide all their identifiers and passwords. Therefore, cybercriminals can retrieve as much information as possible and defraud their victims. By going to the fake site, the owners provide the identifiers of their NFT expecting to recover their property a few hours later, but this will not be the case. Young people collect all the information, connect to the right site and in a few clicks become the owners of the NFT.

On October 10, 2022, the end of the game for the five young people who are all arrested and taken into custody. According to The world, the parents of one of them will also be suspected before being released a few hours later. The five suspects were indicted on 12 October and a judicial investigation was opened for money laundering, criminal association, organized fraud, among others.

In all, the stolen NFTs are worth nearly $ 2.5 million. Five victims have been identified, but others are still unknown to the police. One of them would have lost three NFTs in one go. For the moment, there is no indication that these thefts have anything to do with the Bored Ape collection hack last April.

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