After Matthew Mellon, scion of the Mellon banking fortune, died on April 16 of a drug-related heart attack in Mexico, his family was unable to locate the pass code needed to retrieve his fortune — said to have been worth as much as $1 billion — in XRP cryptocurrency, according to the Daily Mail.

In fact, there are an estimated three million bitcoins — totalling nearly $33 billion — lost because the retrieval codes have gone missing or the currency owners died without passing the codes onto their next of kin.

Just ask James Howells — who lost a hard drive with the key to more than $79 million in bitcoin.

“I mined more than 7500 coins over one week’s time in 2009; there were just six of us doing it at the time, and it was like the early days of a gold rush,” said the IT worker turned crypto investor, 32, who lives in Newport, Wales.

“Four years later, I had two hard drives in a desk drawer. One was empty and the other contained my bitcoin private keys,”  “I meant to throw away the empty drive — and I accidentally threw away the one with the bitcoin information.”

Man accidentally throws away $79 million

Howells didn’t realise the value of his coins for a few weeks after he lost them.

“I looked up the price, did the calculation … and thought, ‘S **tt. [My investment is] worth around $2 [million] or $3 million.’ A few months later it was worth $9.9 million [$A13 million]. I was annoyed, pissed off, sick. I spoke to the people at the landfill and told them that I threw away a hard drive worth $10 million. They looked at me stupidly.”

If an investor remembers at least a portion of a pass code, a talented hacker could potentially use software to decrypt it.

For someone like Howells, however, who has no clues to go on,

“hacking it would take a couple billion years and require all the energy of the sun”.

Instead, he’s offered the town of Newport 10 per cent of the bitcoins’ value if they’ll let him excavate the landfill. So far, they’ve denied his requests.

For the time being, Howells views the dump as the ultimate safe.

“Nobody else can get in there and take my hard drive,” he said. “It’s like having $75 million in the bank, but you cannot get into the bank account.”

Turner, however, has learned his lesson and is done.

“I have no crypto now and have little desire to get more,” he said. “Some [aspects] of it are fascinating. But it also seems like a cult.”

According to Michael Yang, who runs a cryptocurrency exchange in the Bay Area

, “One of my friends had half of a bitcoin private key in his hand and half in his [business] partner’s hand. Then the partner passed away.” Now, the living friend cannot access the funds.

“It’s a tragedy,” Yang added. “They had at least 500 bitcoins” — worth around $5.3 million

Culled from NY Post

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