Image: WIT OLSZEWSKI / SHUTTERSTOCK
There are typos, and then there are typos.
Someone appears to have made a mistake this morning when transferring the cryptocurrency ether (ETH), the younger sibling to bitcoin, from one digital wallet to another. After all, when moving around $134 dollars worth of digital currency, it hardly seems like anyone would intentionally pay a $2.6 million fee — and yet that's exactly what happened.
That's right. Someone paid 10,668.73185 ETH, worth approximately $2.6 million at the time, to move 0.55 ETH from one wallet to another. The transaction, in all its painful glory, is visible on Etherscan — a tool for viewing and searching ETH transactions.
For the record books https://t.co/MzZ4czqjKw
— Etherscan.io (@etherscan) June 10, 2020
A new ATH @ethereum transaction fee?
10,668.73185 $ETH ($2,597,729.52)https://t.co/pYfvvjrLq0 pic.twitter.com/lvqeG1GzAa
— Binance (@binance) June 10, 2020
Ouch!!!! Over 10,000 $ETH paid as a gas fee! That's over 2.5 Million USD!https://t.co/fAcpJM3WUg
— griff.eth (@thegrifft) June 10, 2020
While the internet loves a good conspiracy, and many on Twitter are speculating that this is evidence of some elaborate form of money laundering, a much simpler explanation is likely: a mistake.
Ethereum users can dictate the terms of their transactions, setting both the amount of ETH they want to send and the amount of fees they are willing to pay. The higher the fee, the thinking goes, the more likely their transaction will be included on the next block — i.e. it will go through more quickly. It's possible, therefore, that someone attempted to send $2.6 million worth of ETH with $134 in fees and simply reversed the two fields.
Someone missed a decimal point in their gas price. Oops.
— Kate Baucherel (@KateBaucherel) June 10, 2020
Which, yeah. Oops.
Of course, we are talking about cryptocurrency, so some kind of convoluted scam is always a possibility. However, this wouldn't be the first time that an unusually large fee has been paid on an otherwise small transaction. In February of 2019, someone accidentally paid 2,100 ETH in fees to move .1 ETH.
Coindesk reported at the time that the South Korean blockchain firm behind the error admitted to the mistake, contacted the mining pool that had benefitted, and worked out a deal where the firm got half of the accidentally sent ETH returned. Notably, that partial happy ending 100 percent relied on the goodwill of the mining pool, as ETH transactions are non-reversible by design.
Is that what happened this time around? It's impossible to know for sure with the information that's publicly available at the moment, but either way, the next time you fat-finger a text message or make an embarrassing typo just keep in mind that it could be worse. Like, $2.6 million worse.