- MetaMask is paying an investigative firm called Asset Reality.
- The process will help users respond to token and NFT hacks.
If someone steals your credit card or goes on a shopping spree with your debit card, there's a good chance Visa or your bank will reverse the charges and help you untangle the mess. But for fraud victims in the crypto realm, the experience is very different.
"If you lose your crypto, it’s a very humbling and lonely experience. And the amount of people who get scammed twice is huge," says Aidan Larkin, CEO of investigation firm Asset Reality, who notes that victims are often preyed on a second time when they seek help getting their crypto back.
That's why Larkin's company is partnering with leading crypto wallet MetaMask on a new service that could make the process of seeking help less miserable. And it could also improve the chances of victims getting their crypto back.
On Thursday, MetaMask announced a plan to put hacking victims in touch with Asset Reality. The investigative firm may then help victims band together and, in some cases, put them in touch with lawyers, forensic services and law enforcement.
"Victims of scams often have difficulty getting sufficient resources and attention from law enforcement. Asset Reality’s offering allows multiple victims of a scam operation to join forces and build a larger forensic investigation against a scam operation," said MetaMask in a statement. "They will take the heavy lifting off the users to build an investigation into each scam operation."
Alex Herman, a security expert at MetaMask, told Decrypt that the partnership came about after the wallet's head of operations Jacob Cantele grew frustrated with existing crypto recovery services, which he found to be mostly "vaporware" or outright scams.
"We wanted to provide a guiding light. MetaMask is paying for this as a service extended to our users. We’ll cover a first level investigation," said Herman, who added that company has already increased customer service staff to help fraud victims with the process.
In practice, this involves a new section on MetaMask's website that will invite users to report funds lost to hackers, and to supply details about how the hack took place. In response, Asset Reality will contact them and, in some cases, help them to take steps to recover the funds.
According to Larkin, this will not only create a more empathetic experience for hacking victims, but also supply valuable data to help crypto owners marshal a response to a given hack. He adds that Asset Reality will use the data to trace the stolen assets and, in the case of NFTs, warn marketplaces that their platforms are being used to fence stolen goods.
Of course, it remains to be seen how effective the MetaMask tool will prove. Crypto thieves—many of whom live in rogue nations like Russia or North Korea—are adapt at whisking stolen assets into wallets that are out of reach of law enforcement. And the process of assembling a series of random cries for help into a formal investigation is likely to prove challenging.
Larkin acknowledges that the mission is not an easy one, but says it should be a dramatic improvement over users' current attempts to respond to a crypto hack, which typically involves turning to places like Twitter for help—where they are just as likely to encounter more scammers rather than help or sympathy.
More broadly, he believes the MetaMask effort could be the first step on the way a safe, more user friendly version of Web3—one where the response to a financial hack is more like Visa than the Wild West.