A Very Kind Scammer Returned $336,000 to Pranksy, the Digital Art Collector Who Bought a Fake Bansky NFT

The collector said he hopes other NFT investors can learn from his mistakes.

The fraudulent Banksy digital artwork. Courtesy Pranksy.

In a real-life parable about self-fulfilling prophecies, an NFT collector named Pranksy has been tricked into buying a fake Banksy NFT that had been linked to on the street artist’s official website

Someone alerted the collector to a new section labelled “NFT” on the street artist’s website via the social media platform Discord, according to the BBC. Pranksy then followed a link to the digital marketplace OpenSea, where a digital artwork depicting a CryptoPunk-esque avatar smoking a miniature chimney, was being sold at auction. Persuaded by the seemingly legitimate source, Pranksy rushed to outbid competitors for what he thought was the street artist’s first-ever NFT, titled Great Redistribution of the Climate Change Disaster, snapping it up for the equivalent of around $336,000 in the cryptocurrency Ethereum.

The fraudulent link was no longer on Banksy’s website this morning, and the collector suspects that a hacker may have planted it​​. Artnet News reached out to Banksy’s people at Pest Control to confirm, but did not immediately hear back. (A spokesperson for the artist told the BBC “any Banksy NFT auctions are not affiliated with the artist in any shape or form.”)

But in a twist to the tale, the fraudster has since refunded the collector (minus OpenSea’s $5,000 transaction fee). Pranksy tweeted afterwards that it could be a case of an “ethical hacker” trying to warn people from making hasty and expensive mistakes with NFTs. Or, he suggested, it could equally have been a case of the scammer getting spooked by the press coverage of the incident, and the fact that the collector had followed them on Twitter.

“Maybe ‘ethical hacker’ was not the correct term,” Pranksy, a full-time NFT collector/investor in their 30s who prefers to keep his full identity anonymous, later told Artnet News. “It seemed he or she was happy to just prove the point in showing the vulnerabilities in the Banksy website.”

The fable has played out at a moment when fraudsters are increasingly taking advantage of the less than tech-savvy art world’s growing interest in NFTs. Cybercriminals are pushing fake NFTs and deploying phishing scams more and more.

“My learnings from this experience are a repeat of some I’ve made within NFTs over the last four years,” Pranksy said. “If something seems too good to be true, it normally is, and always verify with official sources before placing such high bids.”

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