By Hannah Perez
He thought he was buying Banksy’s first NFT, but it was all a trap. In the end he got lucky: the scammer returned – almost – all his money, and he didn’t get an authentic work, but he did get an unusual anecdote.
A digital art collector this week thought he was looking at a unique opportunity: to buy the first NFT (non-fungibletoken
) piece by the popular and mysterious artist Banksy. However, it was a great trick; one sophisticated enough to convince prominent anonymous NFT art collector Pransky.
Too good to be true
It all started earlier this week, when the urban artist’s official website promoted the sale of a tokenized piece of art. According to reports, Banksy’s website included a now-deleted NFT section, which linked directly to a work on the OpenSea
The piece, inspired by the famous CryptoPunks and called “Great Climate Change Disaster Redistribution,”
shows a pixelated figurine smoking in front of some industrial smokestacks in an apparent commentary on the climate impact of cryptocurrency and digital art. On
closer inspection, the work appears to be an adapted image of Punk #7804, one of the most valuable pieces in the coveted CryptoPunks
Although it didn’t look like a typical Banksy, it appeared to be – by all accounts – the acclaimed British artist’s first foray into NFT. By all accounts, it was posted on his own website, which was enough to convince the collector that he was dealing with a legitimate piece.
Pranksy, who is known to be an NFT “whale” (big investor) with a large collection of NBA Top Shots, told Decrypt that he became interested in the piece after a Discord user sent him information about the auction. The collector was quick to bid a figure of 100 ether
, valued at USD $380,000 by the time of publishing.
The bid was immediately accepted, ending the auction. What he thought was Banksy’s first NFT was his, and for only a fraction of the p
market prices. This year, prices for the street artist’s works have soared, with some fetching more than $12 million, according to a report in The Guardian. But not so fast.
Scammer returns money
An hour and a half after the auction ended, the subpage with the ‘NFT’ tag had disappeared from Banksy’s website. For Pranksy, who already had his doubts because of the speed with which the auction was conducted, this element confirmed all his suspicions: it was a scam.
“I assumed it was a three-day auction and when my bid was accepted [so quickly] I knew it must be fake,” Pranksy told The Guardian. The collector had previously shared his concerns in a Twitter post.
So my offer of 100 ETH was accepted for Banksy’s potential first NFT on OpenSea. The link was removed from his website, so it could have been a very elaborate hoax, I guess that’s what it will be, only time will tell!
– Pranksy ???? (@pranksy) August 31, 2021
He stressed to the media that he speculates the artist’s website was hacked to include the link; although a Banksy spokesperson declined to say whether this had been the case. Instead, the team assured: “The artist Banksy has not created any NFT artwork.” The artist’s authentication body, Pest Control, also confirmed that the work was not authentic.
Fortunately for Pranksy, and in an unexpected turn of events as bizarre as this story, the scammer decided to refund the money to the collector. About eight hours after the events, Pranksy received back 97.69 ETH (USD $371,222); equivalent to what he had paid minus fees. Perhaps, the hacker had repented or felt threatened after being identified.
“The refund was totally unexpected.Ithink the press coverage of the hack plus the fact that I found the hacker and followed him on Twitter may have spurred him to the refund,” Pranksy told BBC. He also suggested that the scammer was more motivated by the challenge than by getting money, and that his purpose may have been to show the website’s flaw.
Thirsty for Banksy’s NFT (or anything like it)
In talks with the <a href=”https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-58399338″>BBCThe collector said he felt fortunate despite being a victim of the scam. “Many others in a similar situation with less reach would not have had the same outcome,” Pranksy said. He added The Guardian that the incident does not dampen his enthusiasm for NFTs, although he says he is now being more cautious.
I haven’t lost faith in NFTs after the incident. I’ll get a little less excited when I see one linked through an artist’s website.
This isn’t the first time a Banksy work has generated controversy within the growing NFT space. In March, the company Injective Protocol bought a physical work by the artist for $95,000 to burn it and sell a video of the event as a collectible. The ‘burned Banksy’ sold for $380,000 in ether through OpenSea.
Previously, an artist sold NFTs created in Banksy’s signature graffiti stencil style for 447 ETH, today valued at $1.6 million, on the OpenSea and Rarible marketplaces. Although, unlike this week’s peculiar fraud, that creator never pretended his pieces were authentic Banksy.
If anything, it seems that NFT-hungry buyers don’t much care if they’re authentic works. Interestingly, the fake Bansky that Pranksy acquired still has bids of up to $50,000 on OpenSea.
Article versioned by Hannah Estefania Perez / DiarioBitcoin
Image by Unsplash