BlockFi, the crypto lending and trading business, mistakenly deposited large amounts of crypto to user accounts. The payments were associated with a promotion they were running, in which users would receive bonuses in USD stablecoins.
The promotion was intended to be “paid out in one lump sum in GUSD” according to their website. Instead, some accounts were paid the amount denominated in Bitcoin, with some receiving over 700 BTC (worth >$28,000,000 at current prices).
A screenshot from one affected user who withdrew the funds shows threat of possible legal action should they not be returned, and a pay-out of $500 should they return them by a set time.
BlockFi clearly has their hands full dealing with the mistakenly deposited bonus payments, and users have reported experiencing additional issues with the company’s services. The BlockFi subreddit is full of posts with individuals receiving the mistaken funds, having difficulty withdrawing, and being unable to trade. One user claims to have been falsely accused of withdrawing mistaken funds after withdrawing USDC which he or she had been deposited a month earlier.
A statement by BlockFi, noted that “fewer than 100 clients were incorrectly credited,” and “BlockFi has contacted these clients and is working with them to rectify the issue.”
There are risks with using centralized services like lending platforms and exchanges—these are especially well known by early Bitcoiner’s who have witnesses a great number of hacks, exit-scams, and insolvencies wipe out customer funds held by large custodians.
BlockFi claims that “client funds are not impacted and are safeguarded.” After raising a recent $350 million funding round, the company likely has large pools of capital to pull from should they be unable to recoup any of the mis-credited funds from users who withdrew to personal wallets.
BlockFi’s previous promotion was, indeed, a friend referral promotion which offered (albeit small) BTC rewards.
I am the Director of Research and Development at Inca Digital, a data and intelligence provider in the digital asset space. I use Inca’s proprietary data system, NTerminal, to aggregate and analyze structured and unstructured data.
Before Inca, I helped start up a pharmacogenetics laboratory and worked in neurodegenerative research. My scientific background influences the way that I think about complex systems such as blockchain networks, and the models used to understand them.
Reversing the excess bitcoin rewards
One user who reached out to CoinDesk said they received a large sum of BTC in their account which they thought was a reward for referring their friends – so they sent it to their cold storage wallet. BlockFi’s previous promotion was, indeed, a friend referral promotion which offered (albeit small) BTC rewards.
The user said after looking at the transaction in more detail, they realized it was an error, so they requested a cancellation of the withdrawal. The cancelation request was confirmed via email and their account shows the BTC transaction was reversed, with a note specifying they had reversed the bonus transaction. Nevertheless, the user said the bitcoin reward ended up in their cold storage wallet. They shared these documents with CoinDesk, and the blockchain shows that the funds were indeed transferred to their wallet address.
The next day, they received a phone call and an email (which CoinDesk has reviewed) from BlockFi threatening legal action if they didn’t return the funds, but also offering $1,000 worth of the stablecoin GUSD for any trouble this may have caused.
Other users on Reddit posted images of BlockFi’s “generous” giveaway, with one deposit amounting to over 700 BTC. That transaction, according to the user, was reversed. Another said their friend received 5 BTC and was, in fact, able to move it off the platform.
Yet another user said they received both BTC and GUSD, only to have the BTC reversed. The GUSD remained, but a couple of days later when they tried to withdraw some USDC (+0.09%), a different stablecoin they had deposited a month earlier, BlockFi sent an email accusing them of withdrawing funds that weren’t theirs.