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OpenSea tries to stop scammers from turning over stolen NFTs

OpenSea has announced that it will freeze sales of NFTs it suspects have been stolen in an effort to prevent scammers and hackers from turning over ill-gotten tokens. In a blog post on wednesdaythe company said it is “beginning testing a new system” that will mark NFTs involved in suspicious transactions as “under review,” blocking people from buying them through the platform.

Anne Fauvre-Willis, OpenSea’s VP of operations, marketplace and integrity, tells decode that the system will look at “some industrial data sources,” as well as how the NFT was transferred from the owner’s wallet and what else the wallets involved had around the time of the transfer. If it marks a transaction as suspicious, it will notify the previous owner of the NFT via email, giving them the chance to report it as stolen and provide a police report using OpenSea’s existing systems. If he doesn’t hear anything within seven days, the NFT will be unlocked.

Screenshot of an NFT with the warning: “This item is under review for suspicious activity and cannot be bought or sold at this time.  Come back later.”

What an NFT marked with this system will look like.
Image: Open Sea

Until now, OpenSea relied on people reporting stolen NFTs so that it could manually freeze transactions for that item. But given how quickly these scams can happen, the company says in many cases, a stolen NFT was resold before the victim had time to respond. The automated system will be launched in a “limited pilot phase” and will receive more training in the coming months.

Of course, there’s only so much that OpenSea can do – it can’t prevent the NFT from being flipped in another market that doesn’t have this kind of system. However, (despite a strong decline in sales volume and number of transactions in the past year) it is still the largest NFT marketplace by a fairly wide margin, according to data from DappRadar, so the move should at least make it harder to protect stolen monkeys. The company may also share some information about what it learns with other marketplaces in the future, according to decode.

If you freeze future sales, you won’t necessarily get your NFT back. As this support document notes, once an NFT is taken out of your wallet, the game is over; that transaction is written to the blockchain and there is almost no chance of getting it reversed without the help of the thief. So this system is a bit like Apple’s activation lock system where it doesn’t do much to get your phone back, but makes it a lot less tempting to steal in the first place.

To prevent things from being stolen in the first place, OpenSea also tries to reduce the malicious links shared on its platform by automatically detecting them through a list of known bad sites, as well as through simulated interactions and transactions. That’s certainly helpful, but as the company points out in its own blog, most links to scams are shared outside of the platform – Discord is especially widespread there.

Still, it’s a small step toward better security for a space that still struggling with scams. However, I’m not entirely convinced that trust and security concerns are “some of the biggest barriers to wider adoption of NFT today,” as OpenSea’s blog puts it. According to data from The Market Follower of NonFungible.com.

Shreya has been with australiabusinessblog.com for 3 years, writing copy for client websites, blog posts, EDMs and other mediums to engage readers and encourage action. By collaborating with clients, our SEO manager and the wider australiabusinessblog.com, Shreya seeks to understand an audience before creating memorable, persuasive copy.

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