Last week, Bitcoiners were surprised to find out about an entirely new way they could potentially throw their money away forever. As it turns out, those using the forked Bitcoin Cash (BCC) coin can actually send their coins to a Bitcoin (BTC) address, leaving their money at the mercy of whoever controls the BTC private keys.
Crossing Paths: Accidentally Sending Bitcoin Cash to a Bitcoin Address
Vice’s Motherboard put this issue in the spotlight last week when it published a report of Reddit users discussing their mistake of sending BCC to a BTC address and trying to get their coins back.
According to Motherboard, most of the people they saw discussing the problem on Reddit had sent funds to a Trezor hardware wallet, and accidentally used a BTC receive address. The publication noted that several people had made this mistake, despite multiple warning from Trezor about sending BCC to BTC addresses.
However, even experienced Bitcoiners can make this mistake using any kind of wallet — not just a hardware storage device.
Bitsonline editor Jon Southurst witnessed this first hand when testing a BCC wallet out with an acquaintance, who wished to remain unnamed in this article.
Jon sent a BCC payment to his friend, who had unknowingly given him a BTC address. Jon’s friend was using Bitcoin.com’s mobile app, which toggles between BTC and BCC wallets. He didn’t realize he was on the BTC screen at that moment, and accidentally created a receive address for BTC instead of BCC.
“Yes, I gave my Bitcoin (BTC) receiving address instead of Bitcoin Cash [BCC] to Jon by mistake,” Jon’s acquaintance told Bitsonline.
“So, I now have to figure out how to retrieve my [BCC] in my Bitcoin.com wallet.”
Real World Implications?
So, we know it’s possible to send BCC to the wrong address by accident, and our source proved that it’s an easy enough mistake to make. But what are the odds that someone will make this slip-up in the real world?
Jon said it’s actually pretty easy to make this mistake in the real world.
“Way too easy in fact. The wallets available now have BTC and BCC balances, so you have to switch between them yourself. They’re identical in format, and the app doesn’t always make it obvious which one you’re using.”
Lending to Jon’s statement, our anonymous source told us that he had actually sent BCC to a BTC address once before — in the real world.
“I sent my Bitcoin Cash to [a] Bitcoin address in an exchange, and I had to reach out to them to retrieve it,” our source said.
BCC Developer: Receiver ‘Can Do Anything’ With Keys They Control
And when you accidentally send your BCC to the wrong address, you’re really at the mercy of whoever controls the private keys, making this a potentially dangerous BCC flaw.
Some may be charitable and helpful in helping to retrieve your coins. However others won’t be — perhaps they’re inundated with similar requests, or it’s against their policy. Or they have a nice racket scooping up accidental BCC for themselves.
According to BCC lead developer Amaury Sechet, whoever controls the private key to the address you sent your coins to can “do anything with them, really,” all they need to do is import the private keys to that address into a software that supports BCC — then they have full control over your coins.
Essentially, if you send your BCC to a BTC address you don’t control, all you can do is hope the recipient is trustworthy. And as Bitcoiners have learned time and again, trustworthiness is in short order when it comes to cryptocurrency.
Prevention the Only Reliable Option, so Be Careful
So how can you prevent yourself from making this mistake? At this point, all you can really do is be extremely careful when sending a BCC payment: pay close attention to the recipient address.
Jon suggests that wallet providers could take the initiative and make the distinction between BCC and BTC address clearer.
“Maybe for the short term at least, they could put a warning, use a different color, or just make the currency symbol more prominent. It’s going to be a big problem if even experienced users are making the mistake.”
Sechet told Bitsonline that he and his fellow developers understand the difficulty created by this flaw, and have heard the community’s calls for a solution.
“We recognize this is an inconvenience for users and businesses,” Sechet said, “we are actively working on a new address format that will be incompatible with BTC addresses.”
Until then, be careful with your Bitcoin Cash.
Have you ever sent coins to the wrong address? What did you do?
Images via BitcoinCash.org, Jon Southurst
The ‘Bitcoin Cash’ section at Bitsonline is sponsored by Bitcoin Cash. In hopes of bringing cryptocurrency to the masses, Bitcoin Cash has set out to provide a digital currency with on-chain scalability, so everyone can use the blockchain affordably. Learn more at BitcoinCash.org.