What is an NFT, and why are they so ripe for fraud? Will the blockchain help prevent fraud in the future? Learn something, or maybe don’t, but either way keep your stinkin' paws off of my damn dirty Bored Ape!
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- NFTs, explained [The Verge]
- Bored Ape Yacht Club NFT theft shows the ease of hacking crypto [Protocol]
- Non-fungible tokens [Ethereum]
- Beeple’s Opus [Christie’s]
- Icebreakers With...Bloomberg Columnist Matt Levine [Morning Brew]
- Bored Ape Yacht Club: What you need to know about the NFT collection [CNET]
- NFT hack sees collector lose $2.2 million of ‘Bored Ape’ pictures [Independent UK]
- Man Upset That Hackers Stole His Bored Ape NFTs [Vice]
- Fake Banksy NFT sold through artist's website for £244k [BBC]
- Investors Spent Millions on ‘Evolved Apes’ NFTs. Then They Got Scammed. [Vice]
- Booming NFT art market plagued by 'mind-blowing' fraud [Thomson Reuters]
- DeFi ‘Rug Pull’ Scams Pulled In $2.8B This Year: Chainalysis [CoinDesk]
- How NFTs became a $40bn market in 2021 [FT]
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CONNECT WITH THE HOSTS
Greg Kyte, CPA
Creators & Guests
What is Oh My Fraud?
"Oh My Fraud" is an irreverent podcast from CPA/comedian Greg Kyte and blogger/former CPA Caleb Newquist.
The two come together to unpack their favorite frauds and explore the circumstances, psychology, and interpersonal dynamics involved. They also fully indulge in victim-blaming the defrauded widows, orphans, infirm and feeble-minded—because who can resist?
If you fancy yourself a trusted advisor—or prefer your true crime with spreadsheets instead of corpses—listen to this show to learn what to watch out for to keep your clients, your firm, and even yourself safe.
[00:00:00] Earn free CPE by listening to this podcast episode on Earmark
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[00:00:15] Thank you to our sponsor, Avalara
Greg: A big thank you to our sponsor, Avalara. Avalara’s award-winning tax automation solutions help accounting practitioners and businesses of all sizes simplify sales tax compliance with real-time rates, automated return filing and more. Listen for a special offer later in the show.
[00:00:44] How much does Greg know about crypto and the blockchain?
Caleb: This is Oh My Fraud, a true crime podcast, where a rug pull might be when a hacker takes off with all your money or when an accountant's toupee is snatched off his head. I'm Caleb Newquist.
Greg: And I am the very bald Greg Kyte.
Caleb: Greg, I have a serious question for you.
Caleb: Are you a crypto guy? Do you own any crypto? Do you stay up all night reading about crypto and then tweeting about crypto?
Greg: No, I am absolutely not a crypto guy. I don't know- I know enough about crypto to know what it is, but I am not invested in crypto, because I don't want to stay up all night being like, “Am I insanely rich, or did I just waste all that- or did I just flush all my money down the damn toilet?” That's why I'm not into crypto.
Caleb: So, how well- it sounds like you got some awareness of it. Do you feel like you got your head around crypto, blockchain? Blockchain is the underlying technology that makes cryptocurrency possible, right? And we've done a- we did a webinar once about blockchain. Do you feel like you kind of got your head around that?
Greg: Again, I feel like I know just enough to not condemn myself as being a dumb shit, but I also totally understand that there's a lot that I don't know. And I don't know if I'm embarrassed about this or if I'm proud about this, but a lot of my understanding of crypto comes from an episode of the Simpsons called Frinkcoin, where Professor Frink develops his own cryptocurrency.
And in the middle of that episode, they play a YouTube- Lisa plays a YouTube video on her laptop that's Jim Parsons from The Big Bang Theory explaining cryptocurrency. And it is legit one of the most succinct and understandable explanations of both cryptocurrency and the blockchain that I have found. And like I said, not sure if that's- if I'm proud of that or embarrassed of that, but that helped open my eyes.
Caleb: Leave it to the Simpsons, honestly.
Caleb: It's a national treasure. All right. Final question. Have you heard of non-fungible tokens, AKA NFTs?
Greg: I have heard of non-fungible tokens, AKA NFTs, Caleb Newquist. And in fact, I have a monthly comedy show called Comedy Church, and it's literally, right now, being looked at by an NFT company. It's a company that all they do is create and I guess, sell NFTs.
And they're developing their own studio, an in-house studio to create original content, that then they will sell to NFT traders, investors. I don't exactly know that side of it. All I know is that they're creating a studio, and they might make my live show into some sort of recorded show. So, in the near future, not only do I know what NFTs are, I might be an NFT.
Caleb: Wow, that's fancy. So, have you learned anything in this whole kind of mishmash of NFT talk, or is it kind of like, “Uh huh, uh huh,” nodding and agreeable sounds?
Greg: It's nodding an agreeable sounds. I have learned nothing new about NFTs from this, because it's basically, I understand that they want to create content, and I understand that I have content. And then I just understand that there's nerds who perform blockchain voodoo in some back room. And I don't have to understand how they create the blockchain, NFT, nerd voodoo. I just know that they might be making me- make my dreams come true.
Caleb: All right. Well I have good news for you.
Caleb: This episode is going to be about NFTs. Specifically, this is still a fraud program, ladies and gentlemen. It will be about NFT frauds, but we will go over non-fungible tokens; we'll try to do our best to explain it. But anyway, it's a very interesting area that a lot of people are into right now. And because lots of people are into it, and there's lots of money kind of floating around, it is the perfect target for fraud.
[00:05:13] What is an NFT?
Greg: So, Caleb, what does NFT stand for?
Caleb: NFT- and I mentioned it maybe in the first segment- but NFT stands for non-fungible token.
Greg: Awesome. And that is possibly the most unhelpful name imaginable, because to the uninitiated, that's just strange words that are strung together.
Greg: So, Caleb, what is an NFT? What does NFT mean?
Caleb: Yeah. Okay. So, we'll take it one piece at a time; make it super simple. Non is not; fungible is able to be substituted for something of equal value or utility. So, non-fungible means it is not able to be substituted for something of equal value or utility. And a token, in this context, with my understanding of it, and the way I think about it is, it's kind of a digital voucher, right?
So, the non-fungible aspect is, it's a one of a kind- just for the sake of argument to keep it super simple- one of a kind, irreplaceable, and the token is kind of this voucher that can- think about it as a receipt, or just maybe a certificate of authenticity. So, in essence, a non-fungible token is a one-of-a-kind, irreplaceable digital certificate of authenticity.
Greg: Okay. So, from what I do know about NFTs, is it crypto? Is NFTs crypto? Answer that question.
Caleb: The best way to answer that is to say yes and no; it's crypto in the sense that it's a cryptographic asset, but it isn't crypto in the context that I think many people think about when they hear crypto. Usually, when people think- when they hear crypto, they think cryptocurrency. NFTs are not cryptocurrency.
Greg: Okay. So, quick follow-up question, Caleb New Newquist. Is it crypto?
Caleb: Yes. Essentially, yes.
Greg: Okay, good.
Caleb: But not crypto.
Greg: Thanks for not beating around the bush this time.
Caleb: Yeah. But not crypto like what most people think about, when they think about crypto.
Caleb: Which is cryptocurrency.
Greg: Okay. So then, a follow-up question, what the fuck is an NFT, Caleb? And how is it-
Caleb: Have I not answered it?
Caleb: Oh, God dammit.
Greg: You’re trying to, but you failed. How does it work?
Caleb: All right. All right. All right. Okay. Okay. Well, we'll keep going down this road. Okay.
Greg: I mean, if you can't do it, I'm going to get Jim Parsons on this episode and have him-
Caleb: Now we just pull the YouTube video?
Caleb: That might actually make for a better podcast.
Greg: Everyone, all of our listeners just-
Caleb: They're, like, “Yes!”
Greg: -unsubscribed from this and turned on the Simpsons.
Caleb: Get on- get Parsons. Okay, give it a shot. So, NFTs are part of the Ethereum blockchain. So, Ethereum is the second largest cryptocurrency out there. Ether is technically the cryptocurrency, but it's on the Ethereum blockchain. NFTs are on the Ethereum blockchain. And this allows- the blockchain allows for all of the benefits of using that technology.
For example, you know, getting rid of intermediaries so artists can sell their work directly to fans, rather than through an auction house or a gallery. Blockchain also allows for better security, and identification, and certification. In other words, the immutability of the blockchain technology is what makes it so attractive; it can't be changed, right?
So, if something is bought or sold, it's done. There's no- what's the thing that we said when we were a kid- no backsies or whatever.
Caleb: None of that happens. And that’s very-
Greg: Right. You can't control X, what you just did.
Caleb: Right. So, these non-fungible tokens can be bought, sold, and traded on you know this Ethereum blockchain. And that occurs- the most popular platform for NFTs is called OpenSea.
So, I just want to make sure, do you think- did I explain it a little better or a little bit more, or a little bit-
Greg: Yeah, no.
Greg: I think you did. And again, and we- I guess we haven't said this yet to the listeners, but you and I came into today's podcast knowing that there's no chance in the world that we are going to do a completely thorough explanation of crypto, of blockchain, of NFTs.
We're not going to be able to do that, podcast folks, okay?
Caleb: It’s an hour long. We're doing our best here.
Greg: Right. And there's douchebags out there that you don't like to get stuck next to in the lunchroom, who are probably losing their goddamn minds at us, going, “These stupid assholes don't know anything about crypto or NFTs [CROSSTALK].”
Caleb: I can’t wait to read their emails.
Greg: Yeah, they're yelling- if they're listening, they're yelling at their computer at how incomplete our explanations are. And we acknowledge that to those people yelling at their computers right now. So, but yeah, I think that does fill it out.
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[00:11:44] What put NFTs "on the map"
Caleb: I'll give you a quick example. The thing that kind of put NFTs on the map- at least that I think of- was the sale of this collage of digital artwork by this artist known as Beeple.
Caleb: His real name is Mike Winkelmann.
Greg: Which is why he goes by the name Beeple.
Caleb: That's why- yeah, I mean.
Greg: You can't take Winkelmann seriously.
Caleb: Winkelman, right. So, Beeple, far more credible.
Greg: Although I’ve looked at his collage and it's weird as fuck.
Caleb: It's super. It’s great. I think his art is great. It’s super out there.
Greg: Really, it's a little too disturbing for me.
Caleb: Yeah. Anyway, if you go out and read about this guy, he had this relatively popular Instagram account. Long story short, he started making money selling NFTs, and eventually, he had done this project where he was doing daily drawings and posting them on his Instagram account. And the NFT- so, essentially, he created this collage of NFTs. And the work is called Everydays: The First 5,000 Days, and it sold at auction- Christie's did this auction- and it sold for $69 million. $69 million.
Greg: Unbelievable. Unbelievable.
Caleb: And he's got all kinds of other work out there. And so, you know- and again, there's probably, you know, crypto bros out there that are going to correct every aspect of this story that we're talking about. But that's the thing that I think that really put NFTs on the map was this- was the artist Beeple. Beeple.
Greg: Yeah. It's like when we were talking about Ponzi schemes, Bernie Madoff put Ponzi schemes kind of in the mind of the average Joe, and Winkelmann, with his every day's collage for 69 million is what really brought the attention of the media, the mass media, to NFTs and made people go, “Oh my gosh, that's weird.
[00:13:40] What do you actually own with an NFT
Greg: You're buying nothing.” ‘Cause you don't have anything when you- what do you- Caleb, what do you have when you have an NFT?
Caleb: I think what you have is-
Greg: It’s a receipt.
Caleb: In my research, well, yes. So, from a practical matter, you own the token, right? But I think in a slightly different context, you know what you have? Bragging rights.
Caleb: So, we're going to talk about some of these NFTs in a little bit. But no joke, the speculative nature and kind of the visibility of these things, that is what people are chasing. I'm not fucking kidding. So, in a sense, I agree with you. It is- a lot of it is bullshit.
Greg: Yeah. Okay. Because everything that I see is, I'm saying and it's 100 percent bullshit.
Caleb: It may all be bullshit, but you know, there's also- the people have been saying about this- about the art world for years. They're like, “Why is a toilet art or whatever the case may be, or the cow and formaldehyde or whatever it is.” Take your pick. You always have these skeptical people are like, “That's not art, or this isn’t art or whatever.” It's like, it is art because of intention and because someone paid money for it. Right?
Greg: Right And-
Caleb: And so, that, if there's a market, that means it has value.
Greg: I know that all value is subjective. So, if there's some 28-year-old with way too much money, who has a flat brim baseball hat, who is like, “I want to spend all the money for the original- I don't know.” Well, for Jack Dorsey's first tweet.
Caleb: First tweet.
Greg: And then if he thinks that's valuable, it's valuable. And if he's willing to put money behind that, then he values it more than however much money he just traded for it. So, that is true. And I feel like I talked myself through it, where it's like- I know for me, if I had the original painting and can look at it and go, “Wow, this master artist actually touched this with his hands. That makes me feel extra special.”
I don't have the same connection at this point a non-fungible token. I can't quite imagine having that same reaction to it, but I also understand I'm not all people, and like we said, value is subjective. There are people out there who must have that same kind of feeling about owning the NFT for something like that. So, I think-
Caleb: Right. And using it as their Twitter avatar.
Greg: Yeah. or just keeping it in their crypto wallet and feeling awesome that their crypto wallet is big and fat with NFTs.
Greg: Matt Levine, who's a Bloomberg columnist, he did an interview with Morning Brew, and it really kind of made it clear for me. And I'm kind of paraphrasing here, but essentially, all this digital nonsense, right, the crypto punks, the Bored Ape Yacht Club, CryptoKitties, all that shit is just a way for us to figure out how all this works, right?
And how it can be best executed and be secure. And so, a couple things. First off, I also did read that interview with Matt Levine. My biggest takeaway from that entire interview is at the end of it, he says, “And yeah, I 100 percent would not buy any NFTs.” He was very adamant that he was like, “Hell no, I'm not buying NFTs.”
Greg: Similar to Kanye West, who also just put this on his Twitter account that says, “My focus is on building real products in the real world, real food, real clothes, real shelter. Do not ask me to do a fucking NFT.” And then after that, a little ways down on the note he says, “Ask me later.”
So, but I think that's the same sentiment that Matt Levine had is like, “Not right now, but I’m not writing it off completely. But right now, no.”
Caleb: Yeah. I think essentially, what Levine said in that interview was, somebody says, “Would you buy an NFT?” And he's like, “Yeah. I think intellectually, yes. It's called a house. I would buy a house. But the hi-jinks that are going on now, no.”
Greg: Right. So then, next question. In your opinion, are NFTs a fad? Because they seem popular just because they're all over the place, but I don't know any, but- well, I do. I mean, I know that company that's trying to cash in on NFTs through my comedy show, Comedy Church. Buy it soon as an NFT yourself, I'm hoping.
But in reality, how popular are these things? And it's all going away next week. Before this episode actually gets released, NFTs are going to be a thing of the past, right?
Caleb: Yeah, it'll totally be the house of cards.
Greg: This will be a pointless, archaic podcast when it drops.
Caleb: It’ll be the bubble of all bubbles, right?
[00:18:31] Some numbers on NFTs
Caleb: So, this is an accounting show. I mean, there's not accountants listening, we hope, but we know there's lots of accountants listening. So, we'll start with numbers, how about that?
Greg: Sounds good.
Caleb: Great. Okay. So, according to a recent Thomson Reuters report, the market for NFTs in 2020 was about $95 million. In 2021, any guesses, Greg, to what the market for NFT is? In 2020-
Greg: Uh, it was 95 million in 2020?
Caleb: 95 million in 2020.
Greg: Is it- was it 96 million in 2021?
Caleb: Slightly higher.
Greg: 24.9 billion.
Greg: Billion. That's-
Caleb: You're the math guy so- I don't know what that year over year growth is, but-
Caleb: Does that technically meet the definition of exponential?
Greg: Yeah. No, that would- there's no way it couldn't, unless it could have started at a negative, it's got to be an exponential growth pattern.
[00:19:21] Staying power of NFTs?
Caleb: So, forgetting numbers for a minute, because this is a show where we talk our asses off. I can totally understand why someone would I think, when they hear about NFTs in the news, “Yeah, it's some fad,” you know, especially when you see Jimmy Fallon talking about his Bored Ape Yacht Club, you know, that kind of stuff.
Yeah, I think one day people will look back on that, and it will be very- it will seem very silly. It will be very- people will be like, “Remember those?” And “Yeah, I do. I do remember those.” But I mean, and who knows?
Greg: And I would like to say that the Bored Ape Yacht Club, that's- in my mind- and for those of you who don't know, there's someone somewhere who came up with 10,000 head cartoon-
Caleb: It was four- it was four guys. It was four guys.
Greg: Yeah. And it's like cartoon headshots of apes in different clothes, and with different kind of fur, and maybe different facial expressions. 10,000 and no more, no less.
Caleb: Some of them are smoking, some of them are eating pizza. Yeah, it's all very weird.
Greg: But it's just- like I said, it's just a cartoon picture of an ape’s head, and Jimmy Fallon bought one for $200,000. I want to say, I saw somebody bought one for $1.3 million. And maybe that wasn't even- was that his?
Caleb: Eminem bought one for a few. Now, his wasn't a million, but he bought one that was supposed to be him. He bought it because the person who created it said, “Oh, this,” they created- “It was inspired by Eminem.” And Eminem went and bought it and spent 300 grand or something.
Greg: Gotcha. So, if I create digital art that looks like Kanye West, then maybe Kanye West will go back on his word and actually buy an NFT. That's my new get rich quick scheme. I think Bored Ape Yacht Club stuff, I think that's the beanie babies of our generation.
But NFTs, like other applications, NFTs are going to be around for the foreseeable future. But I'm hoping that we finally got enough just groundwork laid about what NFTs are and how they work that we can- ‘cause this- I don't know if you knew this, Caleb, but this podcast is a fraud podcast. So, how does fraud- how has fraud crept into the NFT world?
Caleb: Hold the fucking phone. This is a fraud podcast?
Greg: It is. It's not a crypto podcast; this is a fraud podcast.
Caleb: Man. If it was a crypto podcast, would we be a top 1 percent podcast? I think we would be.
Greg: Easily. Easily. We picked the wrong topic.
Caleb: All right.
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All right, Caleb. So, I think we've laid plenty of groundwork about what NFTs are, and how they work. But I don't know if you knew this, but this is not a crypto podcast. This is a fraud podcast. So, Caleb, the-
Greg: Yeah, shocking. But- so, now's the point where we need to finally turn the corner, and you got to tell me, how does fraud find its way into the NFT markets and the NFT world?
Caleb: Okay, I will do my best. I've found some good stories. They're very fraudy.
Caleb: But it makes sense, right? Because this is kind of this nascent, speculative, lucrative and probably, most importantly, unregulated area. And so, fraudsters are like, “Yeah, I want some of that.”
Greg: Yeah, that makes sense. They're going, “This is new, people don't know what the hell is going on. So, I’ll go in and trick some people out of the money right now.”
Caleb: Right. And I also think because the decentralized nature of blockchains and things like that, there's less interference. And one of these stories- I'll give you an example-
[00:24:01] Bored Ape Yacht Club fraud 1
Greg: Right on.
Caleb: -but first, we've mentioned a couple of times, the Bored Ape Yacht Club, right?
Greg: Yes, yeah.
Caleb: Greg, you kind of- you gave the lowdown of that earlier, but it's these- there's 10,000 NFTs, there was these four guys. They came up with these 10,000 drawings of apes in various costumes, various colors. And they are apparently, you know, affluent, but very, very bored.
So, kind of, you know- and they're nice. They're nice drawings; they're nice images. You look at them and they're funny, and they're clever and whatever, but apparently, they're also very valuable.
Caleb: And a collector of these Bored Ape Yacht Club NFTs, a guy by the name of Todd Kramer, had about 2.2 million of them stolen.
Greg: $2.2 million worth?
Caleb: Yes. He had multiple NFTs of the Bored Ape Yacht Club, and it all happened, Greg. Guess how it happened. Guess how this happened to poor Todd.
Greg: I don't know. He was walking down the street, somebody jumped him, and they pulled his crypto wallet out of the cloud and yanked $2.2 million of Bored Ape Yacht Club pictures out of the Ether and ran down the alley. And that's how Batman- that's when Todd Kramer became Batman.
Caleb: No, he clicked on a phishing link.
Greg: Oh, okay. Oh, so it was just he's a dumb ass.
Caleb: He just clicked on a phishing link.
Caleb: Yeah. And so, here's where it gets controversial with this particular fraud. So, this guy, he tweeted what happened, and was, you know, kind of letting people know. Because what happens when these frauds occur, the NFTs get stolen, and immediately, with people that stole them, they try to resell them, right?
Caleb: And pocket the Ether, and you know, then they've got the valuable crypto, right? And so, this guy, Todd Kramer, he got online and started saying, “This is what happened. Can people help me get him back?” He eventually went to the platform where they were listed, OpenSea- mentioned that earlier in the show- this story was everywhere.
And so, he got many of them back with OpenSea’s help. And the fact that OpenSea helped him get some of those NFTs back is very- it's a controversial aspect of the crypto NFT world because again, of this decentralized nature of these marketplaces, that intermediaries aren't supposed to interfere in the transactions.
And so, it's kind of like, you know, if you read Matt Levine and his takes on these things, it's kind of like the world of finance in the crypto world, is kind of rediscovering all this stuff that we figured out in the regular finance world, where, “This is why we have intermediaries, and this is why we have compliance,” and that’s- all this stuff has happened at one point in time in history, when the banking system kind of was growing, and matured, and evolved.
And crypto is going through this kind of growing pain things too, where yes, it's decentralized and people like that, but what happens when your shit gets stolen? And that's not right, but also, it's like, “Well, caveat emptor.” You know, that's kind of the thing that people- people like that. Obviously, people also don't like that because they get ripped off, and they get- and they lose things that are valuable.
And so, that is one tale of the Bored Ape Yacht Club fraud.
Greg: But before we get too far a field of that one, you're trying to tell me that crypto bros got butt hurt, not that he got his stuff stolen, but that somebody was like a playground teacher and made the bad guys give the stolen stuff back? They’re like, “Weak sauce, man. If you-”
They're fully victim blaming in the crypto world, and go, “And you should- you clicked on the phishing link like a dumb ass, so you deserve to get your stuff stolen.
Greg: And no one should get it back to you because we want pure crypto land, we don't want this diluted low-alcohol content kind of crypto world. Is that kinda what-
Caleb: Essentially, yes.
Greg: Huh. Okay, weird.
Caleb: They want their crypto land pure.
Greg: Right. So, if I legitimately steal your crypto, “Right on, you did it.”
Caleb: You're gangster. You’re like Bonnie and Clyde. You’re like Bonnie and Clyde.
Greg: Yeah. There you go. Isn't that crazy? No, but I think- and it's funny, we're joking around, but I don't think we're joking around.
Caleb: Uh, no. Oh, no.
Greg: Okay. Cool. All right, next story.
[00:28:37] Bored Ape Yacht Club fraud 2
Caleb: Okay. So, this is another Bored Ape Yacht Club- that's really hard to say, have you noticed?
Greg: It's really hard to say.
Caleb: Bored Ape. Bored Ape.
Caleb: Bored Ape. Bored Ape Yacht Club.
Greg: You got it.
Caleb: Another collector of NFTs, a guy by the name of Calvin- might be butchering this- Basera was trying to sell some NFTs, some Bored Ape Yacht Club NFTs, when hackers tricked him into handing them over.
Greg: Just gave- kind of- yeah.
Caleb: Because he was having- so, the detail is that he was having problems with his wallet, with his blockchain wallet.
Greg: Uh huh.
Caleb: And he somehow just handed them over without a transaction taking place.
Greg: Right. When you say that, I picture children with their baseball trading cards, and the Eddie Haskell of the group was like, “Hey, can I see your Mickey Mantle?” And then the nerd hands it to him, and he goes, “Psych!” and runs down the street. And that's how he tricked him into giving his NFT over to the hackers.
Caleb: Yes, that is the NFT version of that.
Greg: Right on.
Caleb: So, the value of these NFTs were reportedly over a million dollars.
Caleb: They posed as interested buyers in a Discord channel, and they pretended to help him fix this problem with his wallet. And then they deceived him into choosing, you know- making a bad choice, and they blew out of there with the NFTs.
Greg: Right. Crazy. And then, did they get any of those back?
Caleb: From what I was able to find, he got one of them back, according to a Vice article that we have in the show notes about this story. OpenSea- the main NFT platform- they delisted these stolen NFTs, these stolen Bored Ape Yacht Club- see, it's hard to say.
Greg: Yeah, it’s so hard. There it is.
Caleb: Bored Ape Yacht Club. Bored Ape Yacht Club. OpenSea delisted them, but there was another peer-to-peer marketplace called NFT Tracker that took no action. So-
Greg: Kind of like, you got them stolen legit; they're not yours anymore.
Caleb: Yeah, finders keepers. Yeah, totally.
Greg: Wow. Wow. That's crazy.
Caleb: It's hardcore man. Hardcore.
Greg: Yeah. And actually, Caleb, right now is an interesting point to bring this up.
[00:30:53] Zach's friend’s NFT fraud story
Greg: We took a little break that the listeners have no idea about. You mentioned Discord, and our- while we've been taping this episode, our producer, Zach, he actually got a text from one of his nerd friends who does a NFT stuff or crypto stuff.
Caleb: Maybe some dabbling.
Greg: And tell it- literally, this happened in real time while we were doing this episode. So, Zach, welcome to the show that you're in the background of all the time. Tell us what happened.
Zach: Yeah. I'd like to tell the story. So, while we were filming, my friend mentioned that one of the Discords he belongs to- ‘cause you know, he dabbles in the collection of NFTs, and he belongs to a few different Discord channels for them. One of them was hacked, and they tried to get people to mint an already created NFT.
And if you don't know what minting means- I don't know- did you guys- I don't think you've talked about it.
Zach: Minting is when you're the first person create the NFT of it. So, he pretended that this art was new, it was a new NFT project, but it already existed and already was a real thing. So, you know, stealing someone else's art basically, is what this was.
Zach: And he made- it was a legit person who runs the Discords where he hacked his account, which makes it seem like, “Oh, he always gives advice, so this is a great buy. Everyone, get in now.” It's a low value, you know? It's going to be great.
Zach: High value, sorry.
Zach: It’s going to- you know, low cost right now.
Greg: Yeah, bottom floor.
Greg: You are getting in cheap and early.
Zach: Yes. It seems like unfortunately, some people fell for it. My friend, luckily, did not. But he says that some people definitely bought it.
Greg: Right. And real quick, just correct me if I'm wrong, but Discord is a- it's like a super focused Reddit that has different topics, that it covers everything from cyber bullying, video game players, to pornography trading, to NFTs, right? It's the three main food groups of the internet.
Zach: Exactly, yeah. You covered the big ones.
Greg: Yeah. Okay.
Zach: And you can even charge people for memberships at some of the specific channels, and it gets intense.
Greg: Gotcha. So, yeah. And so, interesting. That- completely different kind of fraud than even what we were talking about, people just stealing other people's NFT, people creating fraudulent NFTs-
Zach: Yes, exactly.
Greg: -and getting people to invest in something that they can't really support.
Zach: Yes. All right. Well, you guys get back to it. I'm going to dip out of here, but thanks for having me on for a second.
Caleb: Thanks, Zach.
Greg: Thanks for telling us the story, ‘cause that's- if nothing else, that supports what we've been saying, Caleb, that this is an actual thing that's happening a lot right now, ‘cause NFTs are big damn deal.
Caleb: Yeah. And also, that was our first breaking news event.
Greg: Right. Exactly.
Caleb: But it won't really matter, because it's going to air in the future, so, whatever.
Greg: Right, right. Okay.
Caleb: Am I blowing it? Am I blowing this? I don't know. Anyway, you want some more NFT fraud? Let's get some more NFT fraud.
[00:33:52] Fake Banksy NFT
Caleb: Yes, sir.
Greg: Tell us another story of NFT fraud.
Caleb: Here's a good one. There was a fake Banksy. Are you familiar with Banksy, Greg?
Greg: Yes. He's like a gorilla artist in New York city, I think, primarily.
Caleb: No, he's from the UK, from-
Greg: So, I don’t know anything.
Caleb: Yeah, but his identity is unknown. No one knows who he is.
Caleb: Even the people who work for him- if I understand it correctly, the way he kind of arranges things- even the people who work for him do not know his identity. But he's a street artist, yes, from Bristol.
Greg: From the UK.
Caleb: I used to travel to Bristol quite a bit. I've seen many original Banksies, actually.
Caleb: Yeah, it's kinda cool. Anyway, but he's a very well-known artist, and his art sells for millions of dollars. But a fake Banksy NFT was auctioned on his website. The unnamed collector- well, they have an online name, which is Pranksy- they offered-
Greg: Clever. Clever.
Caleb: Yes, very. They offered 90 percent more than the other bidders, and that bid was immediately accepted for approximately $336,000, according to the BBC article. When that happened, the guy who made the bid, he immediately thought that it was probably fake.
Greg: Oh. So, it's like- so, it was kind of like, “So, my bid is $336,000,” instead of the auctioneer going, “We've got $336,000. Do we have $337,000?” They were just like, “Sold. Closed.”
Caleb: Sold. Exactly.
Greg: And that was it.
Caleb: That’s exactly what happened. That’s exactly what happened.
Greg: Gotcha. And he was like, “That was weird. Maybe this is bullshit.”
Caleb: Yep. Yep.
Caleb: And so- but so, hey, the twist that you didn't see coming is that he got his money back.
Greg: He got the 337,000 back?
Caleb: Yeah, he got it mostly back. And he speculated because he was relatively well-known in this kind of area- I don't know if it was- Banksy’s never done an NFT. And so, if you read that BBC article, the Banksy people said, “Banksy’s never done an NFT. This was fraudulent. It was a hack of our website.”
But because this collector was relative- had some notoriety, and he went to the press, and he was able to track down the thief. He was able to you know, kind of the, not only is there Voodoo Blockchain, but there's- instead of paper trail, there's blockchain trail; you can follow the money wherever it goes, right?
Greg: Right, right.
Greg: Like we were saying, if it's a public blockchain, you know who stole your shit.
Caleb: Right. And so, along with all that, the hacker returned its money- returned this collector's money, with the exception of a 5,000-Pound transaction fee.
Greg: So, he kept the shipping and handling, but he gave back the-
Greg: Okay. Nice.
Caleb: Exactly right, yeah.
Greg: Interesting. But again, that was through- so, that wasn't a phishing thing. Somebody had- or who knows, maybe it even did start with a phishing thing- but somehow, someone gained control of Banksy’s actual site.
Caleb: If I remember right, again- and I might be remembering the story wrong, but it started in a Discord channel, where somebody said, “Oh, there's a Banksy NFT for auction on the website.”
Caleb: People started going over there, started bidding it up This guy bids it up 90 percent, and the guy on the other end was like, “Done,” and the auction ended. And yeah, that's how it happened.
Caleb: You might have to fact check me on that, listeners. I don't remember-
Greg: Well, so, someone- exactly-
Caleb: So, to me, I think it started in a Discord channel but-
Greg: Someone will, and if that someone will please send us an email, we'll- we'd love to read your email.
Caleb: We’d love- I'd love to delete it, actually.
Greg: And then- okay, tell- I think, do you have one more or two more-?
Caleb: Yeah, I have one more.
Greg: One more.
Caleb: I have one more, and then just a couple of other things that I'll mention.
[00:37:46] Evolved Apes project rug pull
Caleb: There's another one- Evolved Apes is another 10,000 token project. This one was what they call as a rug pull, when the developers just take the money and run.
Greg: Oh, right, right.
Caleb: And in this case, the developer of a project- and projects- these projects are kind of like, they do the art first, then with kind of these promises of either a film, or a comic book, or some kind of immersive metaverse kind of thing, that's kind of the promise of these projects, right?
And this one was called Evolved Apes. And the person pulling the rug had sole control over the blockchain wallet for this project. And so, they're- they attracted all these investors, they committed $2.7 million. The developer, who went by the name- not kidding, Evil Ape-
Caleb: -took all the money and bolted.
Greg: Just, “Thanks for your seed money, and I'm gone.”
Caleb: See you. Yep.
Greg: Yeah. Nice. Nice.
Caleb: And so, the Vice article that I read for this one was, the investors in Evolved Apes have started a new project called Fight Back Apes and they will fight as a community against our nemesis, Evil Ape.
Greg: That sounds just like impotent rage. People are just really upset and they're like, “We're going to make a community to find this completely anonymous person on the internet.” So, yeah. And it's interesting ‘cause that actually- that tactic happens in the real world too.
In episode two of our podcast, when we were talking about Mutual Benefits Corporation, the founder of Mutual Benefits, before he did his Ponzi scheme, he had another operation where he was purportedly buying groceries from Puerto Rico, bringing them to the United States, and selling them for cheap.
And same thing, he had investors in that, and all of a sudden, he disappeared.
Caleb: Peaced out.
Greg: The offices disappeared, and they went away. So, this is like the digital version of that. Cool.
[00:39:53] Some more smaller fraud stories
Greg: What else you- you got a couple other little factoids, right?
Caleb: These are minor. So, there's a pretty good Thomson Reuters article about just the pervasiveness of NFT fraud right now. And one example was this artist, his name was Dan Howard. He died in 2019, people just started tokenizing his work and put it on OpenSea without his family's knowledge.
And his family has been trying to contact OpenSea, and they've succeeded in getting some of this stuff pulled. But essentially, you know, people have been able just to steal his work, and you know, it belongs to his estate, right?
Caleb: But people have been able to tokenize his work and are selling it on OpenSea.
Greg: So, they're basically tokenizing copyrighted artworks, and they don't have the right to do that.
Caleb: Of a dead person.
Greg: Of a dead guy, yeah.
Caleb: Yeah. And I mean, he was a digital artist, right? So, a lot of stuff was posted online. It's no different than if it was art hanging on the wall, if it belongs to his heirs, right? And so, that’s what’s going on there.
Greg: Okay, yeah. Interesting. Interesting. Wild.
Caleb: And then the other thing that I would mention is, you know, talking about just how widespread is NFT fraud right now, and at least in the art world, I think this is where it's most- again, where- because the basis for a lot of the activity is digital artwork, or artwork of some kind, sometimes, videos and other things. But Deviant Art, which is an online community and platform, I think, where artists post their work, they have flagged 90,000 potential fake NFTs.
Greg: Only 90,000.
Caleb: Only 90,000.
Greg: Just a meager 90,000 works of art.
Caleb: And something tells me that might be a rough count.
Greg: Yeah, that's- well, and especially if it's just Deviant Art, because there's other places, there's other online-
Caleb: Because there’s other places where artists post their stuff, right?
Greg: Exactly. Exactly. Crazy.
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Caleb: Okay, Greg, have we learned anything?
Greg: Yeah, yeah.
Caleb: Have we? Oh, okay.
Greg: I've learned- I'm going to say I learned a lot.
Caleb: Oh, okay. Okay, good. So then, in what ways do NFTs remind you of other areas where frauds are highly visible? What are some things that we can bestow upon our audience in terms of lessons?
[00:43:01] How the blockchain does and doesn't help prevent theft
Greg: Well, the first thing that comes to mind that actually relates precisely to what you just said, is that the blockchain- especially like we've said, a public blockchain is very, very highly visible, has high levels of transparency.
And the knee-jerk reaction for, I think those of us in the accounting profession, is that the high level of transparency is going to prevent the theft, when in fact the high levels of transparency within the blockchain might actually make the steps irreversible, like we were talking about with the guy who got phished out of his private key to his crypto wallet and got his Bored Ape Yacht Club tokens stolen from him.
That was because of the way the blockchain is set up, and because of its public nature, and because of the consensus that's needed to lock the blockchain in place, that can make it so that once your stuff is stolen, you can't get it back because it's immutably in the blockchain, in someone else's possession.
But that being the case, like we said about the Pranksy one, is that there is so much transparency- and you kind of- you explained how these steps work, where you steal it, and then you dump it as quickly as possible, hopefully, before people realize that it's a stolen token. So, that's really- if you're listening to this podcast trying to figure out how to do NFT fraud, that's the way to do it.
But we've seen with some of these cases that the high level of transparency that's in the blockchain, and these public blockchains, will deter a lot of theft and might even make people who steal your shit give your shit back, like what happened to Pranksy.
And the other thing is, and kind of along those same lines, is that obviously, NFTs can be stolen. I think that's a misconception that some people have about the blockchain, is that it prevents anything from being stolen. Absolutely not the case. If you've learned nothing from this podcast, realize that NFTs 100 percent can be stolen, but they're much more difficult- they can't really be laundered.
It's not like you steal- it's not like Breaking Bad where you sell the meth and then you pretend like it's money that came through your carwash. You can't- it's a non-fungible token. You've got the one thing that is the thing that you stole. So, if you can't launder it- and again, fencing it has to be done very quickly or else, you're just going to be stuck with it because everybody knows that it's a stolen good.
Caleb: Well, even then, even if you do fence it- so, think about it this way. So, if you steal a painting and you fence it, you fence it to a collector who will probably keep quiet, right? That's kind of- people who deal in stolen goods, they have buyers waiting, right?
Greg: Right, yeah.
Caleb: But in- again, because of the transparency of the blockchain, you can't really fence anything.
Caleb: Because wherever it ends up, someone will know where it ends up. They can track it all the way; it isn't like the token can be somehow pulled off the blockchain and hidden in your guest room in your basement. You know, it just, it’s not the way it works. So, yeah, fencing is nearly impossible.
Greg: Right. Which is an interesting thing too, because I've heard stories- I assume most people have heard stories where someone's house gets broken into, and there's an item that gets stolen that winds up at a pawn shop. And then somebody buys it from the pawn shop, and then it gets found that this non-fungible, tangible asset is found in this person who has no idea.
And it was in no way associated with the original robbery, but they have to give back the stolen item, because it was a stolen item. So, that's the same thing that would- I would assume that once we figured out jurisdiction and things like that, if Interpol or whoever can enforce laws in crypto world, that the same thing would happen there.
Caleb: I love it when Inter- I get real excited when Interpol gets involved.
Greg: Is it- yeah.
Caleb: Very excited.
Greg: Right. And it'd be more like Cryptopol. So, that's kind of one chunk of what I learned, was just blockchain, how it does and doesn't prevent and deter theft. And there's ways that it does, and ways that it doesn't.
Caleb: Question. Question, before we move on. So, going to put you on the spot here. With those things in mind, blockchain, net positive or net negative?
Greg: I'm saying net positive.
Caleb: Okay. You heard it here, folks.
[00:47:39] Basic online security measures are very important
Greg: So, second chunk of stuff that I say I learned about NFTs and the fraud that goes there with, is that basic online security measures, the basic stuff that we all know is even more important when you have a $69 million Beeple collage in your NFT wallet.
You got it- ‘cause you've got just so much more at stake, so much more you could lose. So, you can't F around with the basic online security stuff. Phishing, that's how the Bored Ape Yacht Club tokens got stolen. Listen, if you don't already know it, don't click on shit if you don't- if you're not sure that it's sent from a legit sender.
So, I mean, that's stuff we all know, but it's weird because even people who 100 percent know that- I've got to assume most crypto people are- who dabble in this- have to be literate with online security. But even they can get duped. So, you gotta be extra careful if you've got $69 million worth of stuff that can be stolen.
Don't mess around with that. I mean, I guess just an aside also, multi-factor authentication, do that in as many places as you can. I am unsure- my understanding of NFTs and crypto is that the way it's set up, there's not a possibility for a multi-factor authentication.
You've got your one private key, you put that key into the transaction, and that's your authorization for the transaction to go forward. There's not a- nobody's going to send you a text that you have to enter a code to make sure it's you, to move forward. At least not at this point. That's my understanding; could be wrong.
But in other places, anytime you can opt in the multi-factor authentication you need to do that. Again, that's become basic online security measures. The other thing is pretexting. This is what happened when the guy lost his Bored Ape Yacht Club tokens. When the people showed up and said, “Hey, we're interested in buying your Bored Ape Yacht Club stuff.
Oh, you're having some problems with your wallet? Well, give us the code to get in, and we'll help you fix that.” That's pretexting- somebody showing up there pretending to be somebody they aren't. You gotta make sure that you're not falling victim to that.
And the main thing that you do, don't accept unsolicited help. If somebody comes in, and you don't know them, and they say you've got a problem with your wallet, or you think you have a problem with your wallet, go to a pro, go to a trusted IT professional, an IT source that’s separate even from where you identified the problem, so that you can get help there.
That'll help you prevent falling prey to pretexting. You also need secure and reliable storage of your private key. This is less fraud, more this- Caleb, I don't know if you remember this story, but I know there was somebody who didn't lose an ungodly amount of Bitcoin, but just lost his password. So, he couldn't get to his ungodly amount of Bitcoin. Does that ring a bell, that story?
Caleb: Yes, it’s- came from the UK, if I remember right. And I believe he is digging through the dump, maybe as we speak, to find- I don't know if it was a thumb drive or what, where he had his crypto key; yeah, the key to his Bitcoin.
Caleb: $270 million or something.
Greg: Oh my gosh. That's amazing. So, not so much fraud, but just risk management of your crypto assets, whether they're crypto coins, or cryptocurrency, or NFTs. Another thing that came up is cold storage for NFTs, versus an internet-connected hot wallet.
If you do cold storage, you're basically, taking your NFT, you're putting it basically, on a backup drive, and then you're unplugging that backup drive from the internet. So, it's just sitting on a shelf till you need it, and then you plug it back in.
Caleb: Also known as- I think they're commonly known as hard wallets.
Greg: Okay, yeah.
Greg: Cold storage, hard wallets, yeah. And a hot wallet is one where it's not like that. It's either a cloud-based wallet, or it's just a wallet that you maybe have on your local computer. But it's still not something that you can completely disconnect from the internet. So, the cold storage, the hard wallet, that's a much more secure thing.
The give and take is, it's not as convenient. So, if you've got to trade things quickly- if there's an opportunity you got to cash in on immediately, you might not be able to do that, but at least, people aren't stealing your shit. And finally, there are insurance products that you can purchase to insure your crypto assets.
Lloyd's of London does offer crypto wallet insurance. So, you can find that. Interestingly enough though, that would not be- that's not technically a way to prevent or detect fraud. That's just a way to mitigate the risk of fraud occurring. But it's something that you can do to help protect your crypto assets.
Caleb: Greg, that’s an excellent rundown, man.
Greg: Thank you.
[00:53:02] Will more accounting firms get into crypto?
Caleb: Yeah. What do you think- here's a question for you. There are- obviously, there are accounting firms that are- that specialize in crypto, in blockchain, in NFTs, you know? If you're a firm who maybe has one or two clients that kind of dabble in this stuff, and- I mean, is this something that you would expect more firms to pursue niches into this area?
Or do you think it's going to be the- the NFTs, and blockchain, and crypto, this is going to be the mother of all niches when it comes to accounting firms? I'm just curious as how you see that evolving.
Greg: The way I see crypto accounting as a niche- which that's the proper way to pronounce the word- I see it being very niche, but very lucrative for the firms that get into it, which is how a niche is supposed to work. If you become- because this is obviously very, very complicated stuff, and we haven't even gotten- we haven't even touched the complexities-
Caleb: Oh, we just scratched the surface, yeah.
Greg: And even other areas. If you're talking about tax compliance, with cryptocurrency, you're in a whole new area that most people don't even want to touch. So, if you get that specialized knowledge, there's a very significant and a very wealthy community of people who need your help.
So, it's a wonderful niche to get into, but again, you're not talking about a huge community that needs those services. So, there's room for a select few of firms to get in early, and to establish themselves as experts in the crypto, including NFT market, to serve clients with the accounting services that those people need.
Caleb: Yes. Yes, Greg.
Greg: I have one last thing that I learned from this podcast.
Caleb: Oh. Oh, yes, please share.
[00:55:05] Greg is still an NFT hater
Greg: NFTs are total bullshit, and you're not buying anything. And 100 percent don't invest in it, because you're not- there's some people who will make a lot of money really quickly. Rank and file people, it's snake oil, and it's not just snake oil, it's a snake oil bubble.
And my prediction is that the vast majority of people are going to get left holding the bag, and being out of a lot of money, because they thought NFT was really cool. That said, the company that's looking at my comedy show, Comedy Church, it's 100 percent going to pay off in the long run, and you shouldn't give up.
You need to gobble up as many content creators as you can right now and pay them handsomely for what they create. Okay, Caleb, before we wrap up this podcast, I do need to say- make one point of clarification-
Greg: -that came to mind that was brought up about what we said earlier. And just- because I know that there's crypto bros who are losing their goddamn minds because we weren't specific enough about this. But yeah, the actual- whoever- there's a public blockchain, and to an extent, we know who is the owner of any particular crypto asset.
But we only know the identity of that person or group to the extent that they've allowed their identity to be known on the internet. So, on the blockchain, you might just know that a- that the fucking Beeple collage is owned by crypto user 90210, or something like that. You don't know who it- so, yeah, I get it.
So, they're- we do know publicly who owns it, but we don't really- unless they're doxed or they out themselves, we don't know exactly who that person is. So, we get that. So, relax crypto enthusiasts who are very disappointed in us. It's okay. And like we said before, this isn't a doctoral dissertation on NFTs.
This is a very high-level look at what's going on, and hopefully, how it relates back to the accounting profession.
[00:57:20] Thank you for listening, earn free CPE on Earmark
Caleb: All right. That's it for this episode. Don't trust anyone who has the handle includes Evil.
Greg: And also, remember the NFTs are a horrible investment. There are 100 percent bullshit, and please, don't hesitate to purchase the Comedy Church NFT available soon on Ethereum. Hey, Caleb, if people want to reach out to you and vent their hate, how can they find you on the internet?
Caleb: Yeah, @CNewquist on Twitter, Caleb Newquist on LinkedIn. Bring it on. And Greg, what about you? Where are you hanging out?
Greg: Twitter, I'm @GregKyte, and LinkedIn, Greg- I think I'm Greg Kyte, CPA, bald guy, beard, glasses, in a shirt and tie, that's me; you'll find me. So, that's it.
Caleb: Oh My Fraud is written by me, Caleb Newquist and Greg Kyte. Our producer is Blake Oliver, music supervision, sound design, editing, and mixing by Zach Frank. If you like the show, leave us a review, or share it with a friend.
And be sure to subscribe on Apple podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify, or wherever you're listening. Join us next time for more avarice, swindlers, and scams from stories that will make you say, “You damn, dirty bored apes!”
Oh my fraud.
[00:58:31] Thanks for listening, now go earn some free CPE credit
Blake: Thanks for listening. I hope you enjoyed this episode, and that you learned something new. And if you did, wouldn't it be nice to get some CPE credit for it? Well, I've got great news. My new app, Earmark CPE, offers free NASBA-approved CPE credits for listening to podcasts, including this one. Visit Earmarkcpe.com to download the app, take a short quiz and get your CPE certificate. That's earmarkcpe.com.