At BitStarz News we are always on the lookout for the latest and most interesting news. We strive to dig deeper into the stories and give you the juiciest scoop. Today, one of our writers – Alex Meears – managed to get an exclusive interview with an Iranian who had his crypto stolen by the US government.
The American government has stolen more than 500 Bitcoin from Iranian citizens, this is according to the latest reports regarding the ongoing argument between the two nations. The harsh economic sanctions placed on the country has badly affected the people living in Iran, leaving many unable to afford daily staples such as food and water. We reached out to an individual that has been directly affected by the crypto theft.
Due to fears for the person’s safety, we’ve decided to mask his identity, so for the sake of this interview this person will simply be known as “NA”. Getting the lowdown on what it’s like to be a victim of crypto crime, “NA’s” words are a must read.
AM: How long would you say you have been interested in the crypto world, investing in Bitcoin as well as other cryptos?
NA: I have a vague memory of interacting with Bitcoin in its early years, and I distinctly remember using faucets and pay per click advertising platforms that rewarded fractions of Bitcoin. I got involved with a handful of these, but after a while I stopped using them and totally forgot about Bitcoin.
About two and a half years ago Bitcoin came back into my life – by pure chance really. I saw the potential of the crypto industry and I wanted to buy some as an investment, but due to being a university student at the time, I didn’t have much money spare. I decided to reach out to my family and friends to see if I could borrow some money, but they were all skeptical, as the crypto industry was a relatively new concept here in Iran and they didn’t lend me any money.
So, I decided to learn as much about the crypto world as I could and I saved up money from my part-time job so I could buy some cryptocurrencies. The first crypto I bought was Ethereum and I planned to hodl hard, as I believed in the technology and saw its potential.
AM: When the theft took place, which exchange were you using to trade cryptos?
NA: I had done quite a lot of research before picking an exchange to trade on. In fact, I even got in touch with the customer support departments of exchanges before I signed up to make sure I was allowed to trade with the companies. In the end I decided to use Bittrex.com due to the fact it was the leading crypto exchange at the time in terms of trade volume – not to mention the vast array of coins available to trade.
AM: You mentioned that you got in touch with customer support to check if Iranians are allowed to use the exchange. How long after receiving confirmation was it before your account was disabled?
NA: I got in touch with the Bittrex customer support and they replied on August 9th 2016 stating that Iranian’s are allowed to use their platform. However, on October 18th 2017 it decided to disable all Iranian accounts. I made sure to check the terms of service and – at the time – it stated that in such an event where an account is blocked or disabled, users would be able to withdraw all verified funds. Interestingly, a similar thing happened with Poloniex. They disabled all Iranian accounts, but they allowed a one-time withdrawal of funds.
AM: Is your account frozen, deleted, or has your crypto account balance simply been wiped out?
NA: Frozen seems to be more accurate term. The term used by Bittrex to describe my account’s status is “Disabled”. I can see my balance, but I can’t trade or withdraw from it.
AM: How much BTC – and other cryptos – did you have stolen/frozen?
NA: When I opened my account with Bittrex I deposited roughly one BTC, and through trading and hodling I managed to get my balance up to 5 BTC. In the weeks after my account was frozen, Bitcoin went on to reach its all-time-high (ATH) of $20,000 and so did a bunch of altcoins that I was hodling.
Due to the fact that my account was disabled, I couldn’t sell my coins and all I could do was watch my portfolio increase in value then slowly sink in early 2018. It was heart-wrenching to watch and know there is nothing I can do about it. If I was able to sell close to the Bitcoin ATH I could have paid off all of my university fees and helped my family afford to buy food and shelter for many years to come.
AM: Were you using cryptos as investments or using them to buy goods and services?
NA: Once I rediscovered cryptocurrencies again in 2016 – and had purchased my first Bitcoin and Ether – I spent a lot of time learning about the underlying technology, teaching myself how to analyze markets and predict crypto market trends. At the time I was using cryptocurrencies as an investment for my future, but now as the world is starting to become more accepting of cryptos. I would have been able to buy items with my crypto holdings, such as food, education, housing, and a car – the things every person in the world should have access to.
AM: How long did you leave the money in the exchange wallet? Did you consider using a hardware wallet at any point?
NA: In the run-up to my account being disabled my money had been on the exchange for about two months. I was trading between coins daily so it saved me a lot of money on fees and it was just easier. In Iran we don’t have access to many hardware wallets due to import and trade restrictions placed on our country, so we have no choice other than to leave our cryptocurrencies on exchanges and in online wallets. I could see the momentum building in the crypto markets and I was planning to withdraw my funds to various online wallets, such as Electrum and blockchain.info.
AM: Do you think the US government’s reason of “circumventing international sanctions” is a valid reason for freezing your money?
NA: I’m just a citizen and I’m not representing my government or their beliefs. I shouldn’t be punished for their actions, it’s not fair at all. In addition to the US sanctions placed upon Iranian crypto users, I have to deal with filtering and censorship from my own government. Binance and blockchain.info are now blocked by the Iranian government and banks have been forbidden from selling cryptocurrencies to people. It is unfair how leaders of this world make decisions and then the regular people like you and I have to suffer the consequences.
AM: How have the US sanctions on Iran affected you, your friends, and your family?
NA: A lot of Iranian citizens have put the majority of their savings and wealth into the Bittrex exchange to protect it from the devaluation of our fiat currency. Its actions have downgraded our quality of living to the point we are a nation in poverty. I’m currently studying at one the top universities for my field in my country. I am in my last term as a Master’s degree student and I have to complete my thesis, but because of the economic sanctions imposed upon Iran and Bittrex freezing my money, I’m not in a good mental or economical state to finish my thesis. Earning money to put food on the table has become my main priority now, and my education is suffering. Everyone should have the right to a good education.
AM: Would you like to see the Iranian government remove the crypto ban so that you – and others like you – can fight this case to get your crypto back?
NA: I would definitely welcome the Iranian government removing the ban, but I don’t think will help accelerate the return of my crypto fund from Bittrex. The ball in in America’s court now, and they are the only ones who can reverse their decision to make crypto exchanges disable all Iranian accounts. I hope and pray that they will allow me and my fellow Iranians to have our money back. Even if in the future they wish to do more KYC checks I would welcome it. Just because our governments might not agree on certain matters doesn’t mean we are bad or untrustworthy people.
AM: Finally, do you think Iran would benefit from adopting a cryptocurrency – such as Bitcoin – as a secondary currency to help fight the US sanctions?
NA: Definitely. Bitcoin – and other decentralized cryptocurrencies – can bring back harmony and equality to the people and banking system. They can destroy unilateral power and monopoly of bully countries like America. Besides, all crypto transactions can be seen publicly. which makes crypto far safer than fiat and cash system in place. If the American government is so worried we are all bad people and will use our money for bad things, it can have our crypto addresses so it can see what we spend our money on.
Iran and America have been at each other’s throats for a number of years, a relationship not helped by the current Trump administration walking away from Obama’s nuclear agreement. Last month America begged German banks not to return $350 million back to Iran – so the situation could worsen, with “NA” certainly not being the only victim.
For all the latest on the crypto battle between American and Iran – along with more exclusive interviews with industry experts – stay tuned to BitStarz News!