A British collector was duped into paying nearly $340,000 worth of cryptocurrency for a non-fungible token that he thought was created by the world-famous artist Banksy — but the scammer later returned the money.
The NFT in question, called “Great Redistribution of the Climate Change Disaster,” features a CryptoPunk-style pixelized portrait of a person smoking in front of industrial smokestacks.
A link to an online auction of the NFT and an image of the digital art was posted on a since-deleted section of banksy.co.uk, the graffiti artist’s official website.
A British collector known as Pranksy bid on the NFT for almost $340,000 worth of ethereum and the offer was quickly accepted.
But a representative for Banksy later told the BBC that “any Banksy NFT auctions are not affiliated with the artist in any shape or form.”
NFTs are digital assets that represent ownership of virtual items like computerized art and sports highlights.
Pranksy, who the BBC did not identify but reported is a man in his 30s, said he thought he was bidding on the famous graffiti artist’s first NFT.
He said on Twitter that after his bid on the NFT was accepted, the link advertising it was removed from Banksy’s website, prompting him to think that it “could have been a very elaborate hoax, my guess is that is what it will be, only time will tell!”
But in another twist, Pranksy announced later Tuesday that the ethereum he used to buy the NFT was mysteriously returned to him.
“The refund was totally unexpected, I think the press coverage of the hack plus the fact that I had found the hacker and followed him on Twitter may have pushed him into a refund,” he told the BBC.
“I feel very lucky when a lot of others in a similar situation with less reach would not have had the same outcome,” he said.
The market for NFTs exploded earlier this year, with $2.5 billion in sales in the first six months of 2021, up from just $13.7 million in the first half of 2020.
And the market has continued to surge, seeing nearly $1 billion in sales in August alone, according to data from the NFT tracking site NonFungible.
Though some have warned that the market is a huge bubble, and the value of NFTs could come tumbling down at any time.
Major companies, including Visa, have jumped on the trend, as well as celebrities and internet has-beens have jumped on board, trying to cash in on the new form of ownership that’s fueling billions in transactions.
Even hotel heiress Paris Hilton announced in June that she invested in Origin Protocol, a decentralized platform that’s focused on launching NFTs and joined the company as an adviser.
“I see NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, as the future of the creator economy,” Hilton said in an April blog post. “Whether art or music or fashion or design, NFTs allow me to express myself and allow all creators to directly reach their audience, creating a new type of marketplace.”