Theft of Virtual Currency and Virtual Property

There can be significant financial value in digital property, and thieves have started to take notice. Below are a few recent news stories about stolen virtual currency and stolen virtual property.

In June 2015, armed robbers stole $1,100 worth of the popular virtual currency Bitcoin from a New York man. The man had advertised bitcoins for sale on Craigslist, and a potential buyer forced the man at gunpoint to transfer his bitcoins. This follows two other recent armed robberies in New York targeting bitcoins. In one of those robberies, a man was stabbed in an attempt to take his bitcoins. In the other robbery, $8,500 worth of bitcoins were taken at gunpoint. Because Bitcoin is anonymous—no name or Social Security number is connected to a Bitcoin address—it makes it more difficult for law enforcement to find the robbers.

In January 2015, Bitstamp—an online marketplace for buying and selling bitcoins—was compromised, and it appears that about $5.1 million of bitcoins were stolen. The compromise affected the company’s bitcoin reserves, but the bitcoins of their customers were not affected.

Also, a May 20, 2015, article by Kashmir Hill describes the theft of in-game virtual currency and virtual property from players of the online video game Diablo III. In 2012, thieves used a remote access tool to gain control of twenty to thirty computers used by other video game players, which allowed them to take the in-game virtual currency and property of those players. FBI agents tracked down the thieves, seized their computers, and arrested them on felony charges. The prosecutors alleged that the thieves sold the stolen in-game virtual currency and virtual property for over $8,000. In 2014, the thieves plead guilty to misdemeanor charges.

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