Yesterday was the worst day of my life. I lost four ultra-rare NFTs in a blip. All of a sudden, my heart and brain felt like they didn't belong to the same person. My hands were shaking. I cried and dried my eyes only to wet them again. On the plane home, the nice Jetblue lady asked me if I was okay and gave me a cup of water. I didn't know what or how to respond. I don't even remember her name. All I remember was replaying the scenario over and over again in my head, fantasizing about rewinding time, if only for 9 seconds. Eventually, I realized that stands aren't real and settled for the next best thing: sublimating all of my destructive emotions into an essay as they flashed through me. I hope the sharp blade of my pen and the red ink on my paper will serve as a gaping reminder of the perils of greed and allow me to heal and become a better person.
This morning, the scammer sold my BAYC #7954 for 74.2ETH on LooksRare. I've had my Prussian helmet ape since early last summer. I had just finished my econ final and was locked and loaded after flipping one of my mystic Axies. I remember staying up all night scurrying through the jungle, trying to snipe something off the floor. After chugging a Red Bull, I narrowed it down to my two favorite traits: the Prussian helmet for 3 ETH and the commie hat for 4. Then I pulled the trigger. I have held him through every boom and bust cycle from then to now. So many nights I have resisted the temptation to paperhand him, only to lose him to a carefully contrived scam.
I've had my Bob Ross cool cat the day the project launched on July 1st. It was on a hot midsummer day in Beijing, and I sat down in the lobby of the Puxuan hotel. I was refreshing OpenSea like crazy, and my VPN was bugging out. I finally found someone who got lucky with a Bob Ross TV head cool cat and decided to sell it for 2 ETH. I bought three cats that day and flipped one for profit, and I've held onto the other two till now, until yesterday. I still remember vividly the day someone offered me 100ETH for it (coincidentally, it happened to be the day I broke up with my ex).
The cat doodle was my favorite. I traded 60 ETH plus a rainbow head with 60s glasses and a popsicle to get it. It was a 1/1 custom doodle hand-drawn by Burnt toast himself. I've had it set as my profile pic ever since. When I launched her into space and saw her meow in her spaceship, I developed a deeply emotional, uniquely-mine-ownership connection with my NFT. I came to understand her as more than just a piece of art or a vehicle for parking ether. This was something I've never felt before degen-ing into liquidity pools: I've reconstructed my entire digital identity around her, and I was ready to never sell. My cat was genuinely something I thought I could pass on to my kids when they outgrew going to Doodleland on the weekend. Yesterday I entered the doodles holder discord channel asking for help. That was the first time I saw someone use the cat doodle emote. I had never used it before myself, and I decided to try it out then. It broke my heart. A lot has changed since I got my first BTC in 2017, and every single one of these NFTs has been an integral part of my journey.
Ultra rare NFTs from blue-chip collections are extremely illiquid. It is common practice for traders like me to source liquidity ad hoc by approaching strangers to do OTC deals. Trades involving a complex combination of NFTs from multiple collections and fungible tokens are not rare. Yet, this method of trading is inherently very risky. It's the Wild West out here, and there are no sheriffs. It was my decision and my decision alone to shoulder these risks, and as I got comfortable with doing them on a daily basis, I became complacent. When I became complacent, I let my guard down. When I let my guard down, I was ruined. There are many awesome people in the community, and doing crazy deals with them has been one of the best parts of my NFT journey. Yet, the more my faith and conviction in NFTs grew, the less careful I became.
I want to remind everyone that scammers will always be smarter than you. By profession, they spend all their time coming up with the best new way to scam. They innovate and iterate their product faster than most overhyped NFT metaverse brands. They work in teams to orchestrate elaborate schemes to get you when you least expect it. Unlike the days when people phished you by emailing google forms or sent you fake links to NFTTrader, Swapstr.io was made of sterner stuff: a team of experts who maintained a rigid corporate hierarchy. Even when I tracked down the erc20 address of the crony who scammed me and found that he bilaterally linked it to his own KYC'd Coinbase, he admitted to me under duress that he only took a small percentage cut and that he had transferred control of the precious NFTs to the "CEO."
The website they put up had a fully functional UI that held up to scrutiny. It didn't use generated links. It was a cleaner user experience than both NFTTrader and Sudoswap, to be honest. They set up a fake medium FAQ with 8.8k likes, a fake Twitter profile with 12k followers (Sudoswap only has 13k), and a fake discord with a fake sales bot that churned out fake trades every five seconds. They will stop at nothing. Sure, red flags were screaming at me from every corner, but I was too eager to get the deal done. I had already begun fantasizing about all the new NFTs I could buy. Once I started rationalizing my feelings of doubt, I sealed my fate. When I justified "testing the site out" to myself, I dug my grave.
As of writing, the scammer has sold everything besides the cool cat and mixed the ETH through tornado cash. I filed a report with the local police, but I strongly doubt that they or the department of homeland security will be able to do anything to this highly organized cybercrime syndicate probably based in Saint Kitts and Nevis. I feared shame and disgrace more than anything in the world, and by falling for this scheme and sharing my story, I have utterly destroyed myself. They say that the wise man learns from the mistakes of others: may I at least learn from my own.
Brace yourselves, doods—we have a long and rocky road ahead of us. Yet, the end of the tunnel looks brighter than ever. Crypto has gulped down the world sector by sector, and culture itself is next. I love this space more than anything and am ready to dedicate my life to it. Still, I think the future of NFTs and crypto will not be anonymous. Crypto will not be a vigilante veiled in shadow. Crypto is not about the Silk Road, the dark web, or night-watchman libertarianism. Crypto is about self-ownership, self-expression, democratization, securitization, and the new counter-cultural revolution. It is about openness, composability, interoperability, and the metaverse (whatever that means). Crypto is about the community of young and brilliant college dropouts who are discontent with how things are and want to build something better—something batshit crazy. It's about the Mfers, the covens, and the beans. I want to be a part of this, whatever it is.
Reality will not alter itself according to my ability to stomach it. I will bite my teeth and stare down life, red in tooth and claw. I will get through today as I have gotten through yesterday, and I will get through tomorrow unbroken, knowing that I will emerge a stronger, better version of myself. My mindset has changed. I will never fall for this again. Through rainbow-puking my thoughts down right now, I’ve come to the realization that the network, experience, and friends I have acquired along the way are far more valuable than the 400 ETH or a million dollars that I have lost: funny that it took a club to the head before I saw the stars. In the end, I just want to say that the space is big. Really big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mindbogglingly big it is. I want everyone out here to know that we are all way ahead of the curve, and there will always be more exciting opportunities ahead. There will always be more pie, and we love pie. And boba. WAGMI.
12 March 2022