Bitcoin has made a lot of people a lot of money. Currently, the digital / cryptocurrency is worth over $34,000 a coin. Now imagine that you had $220 million dollars worth of Bitcoin, and you couldn’t remember the password to cash it in.
That’s exactly what happened to Stefan Thomas, a computer programmer from San Francisco. The password he can’t remember 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 IronKey only gives you 10 attempts to enter the correct password before it completely locks you out and encrypts the data, essentially making it lost forever. So far Thomas has used up 8 of those tries with incorrect passwords.
In an interview with our sister station KGO-TV on Wednesday, Thomas said it’s now been nine years since he first realized he was locked out of his account, which means he’s had ample time to process it.
“There were sort of a couple weeks where I was just desperate, I don’t have any other word to describe it,” Thomas said, recalling how he felt when he first learned he couldn’t find his password in 2012. “You sort of question your own self-worth. What kind of person loses something that important?”
But “time heals all wounds,” he added, and over the years he said he has “made peace” with his loss.
“It was actually a really big milestone in my life where, like, I sort of realized how I was going to define my self-worth going forward,” he said. “It wasn’t going to be about how much money I have in my bank account.”
Thomas said since the New York Times profile, hundreds of people around the world have reached out to him with advice — some serious and others silly.
“One person suggested, have you tried the word ‘password’?” he joked. “Some people have recommended various mediums, psychics, prophets that I could talk to. Some people are suggesting nootropic memory enhancing drugs.”
So far, he’s not taken anyone up on it.
Thomas said he decided to share his story in the hopes it prevents others from making the same mistake he did. He said if you do get a digital wallet make sure you have a plan to secure — and remember — your password.