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Salvadorans Claim Bitcoin Is Going Missing From the State-Run Chivo Wallet

Bitcoin
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

El Salvador's decision to make Bitcoin legal tender was accompanied by introducing an official Bitcoin wallet, Chivo, that was supposed to help convince Salvadorans to embrace the cryptocurrency. But people have started complaining on social media about funds going missing from their wallets—and the lack of assistance from El Salvador's government—months after Chivo's debut.

Twitter user "El Comisionado" collected a series of tweets about this issue on December 18. The complaints allege that various amounts of BTC worth anywhere from $100 to $16,000 have disappeared from Salvadorans' wallets via numerous unauthorized transactions. El Comisionado's thread includes 50 tweets complaining about a total of $96,223.83 in BTC missing from the users' Chivo wallets.

Tom's Hardware contacted the Ministry of Justice and Public Security Government of El Salvador for comment on these complaints but has not received a response.

Many of the tweets collected by El Comisionado include screenshots depicting the unauthorized transactions from the affected Chivo wallets. The user who complained of $16,000 in BTC disappearing, "DVBT Multiservices," also complained about the El Salvador government's apparent inability to help investigate the missing funds and threatened to go to the media if the government doesn't get to the bottom of the problem.

Losing hundreds, thousands or tens of thousands of dollars worth of Bitcoin via Chivo probably won't instill confidence in El Salvador's official wallet. Not that many Salvadorans were likely to be particularly confident about the wallet in the first place—issues had marred the software before it even launched.

There were initial concerns about Chivo because the wallet relies on facial recognition software to prevent unauthorized access to the funds. Facial recognition is a fairly standard security measure used by Windows Hello, Face ID, etc. However, biometric authentication for a government-run program is still a privacy concern—especially when the Salvadoran government heavily pushed Chivo as it did.

The wallet's debut also suffered from technical issues. The BBC reported that "platforms such as Apple and Huawei weren't offering the government-backed digital wallet" and that "servers had to be pulled offline after they couldn't keep up with user registrations" when Chivo's rollout started in September. Not exactly a good look for the software that's supposed to kick-start the crypto revolution.

Oh, and the facial recognition was easy to fool, too. CoinDesk reported in October that identity thieves were claiming unused wallets to steal the $30 worth of BTC given to every Salvadoran who signed up for Chivo. The app was supposed to prevent such abuse, but one person reportedly made a wallet for their grandmother after scanning "a photo of a poster on his wall of Sarah Connor" from "Terminator."

All of which leaves Salvadorans with a government-backed Bitcoin wallet that couldn't keep pace with demand when it launched. It requires them to use facial recognition that identity thieves showed was easier to trick than a few generations-old iPhone with Face ID and seemingly allows thousands of dollars to disappear without recourse due to a combination of technical and bureaucratic limitations.

It's hard to imagine this experience with Chivo leading many Salvadorans to consider moving to the Bitcoin City that El Salvador President Nayib Bukele wants to build.

  • Mandark
    Hahahaha. They better get used to it. It’s just another way for crooks to pick your pocket and to use you to do the work for at least part of it

    Anyone who thinks crypto is anything special really needs to get a hold of them selves and realize that the true wealth holders in the world will either own it or eventually shut it down. All these little guys thinking that they’re gonna make it big makes me die laughing

    It’s nothing but a Ponzi scheme
    Reply
  • GM Crypto
    True wealth holders? You mean the people who have been piling in for the last 3 years? lol, they are going to make some stupid announcement that makes all of the plebs like you say "o now its ok", and then you will proceed to buy it.
    Reply
  • InvalidError
    State-run crypto wallet developed by a country near the bottom of the human development ranking gets somehow used to steal crypto from people? shocked
    Don't make cyber-money a national currency when you don't have the sufficiently skilled and competent software developers and information security scientists/engineers needed to make it work.
    Reply
  • sgtdragon
    Mandark said:
    Hahahaha. They better get used to it. It’s just another way for crooks to pick your pocket and to use you to do the work for at least part of it

    Anyone who thinks crypto is anything special really needs to get a hold of them selves and realize that the true wealth holders in the world will either own it or eventually shut it down. All these little guys thinking that they’re gonna make it big makes me die laughing

    It’s nothing but a Ponzi scheme

    And any central banks FIAT currency isn't?
    Social security?
    Reply
  • Mandark
    sgtdragon said:
    And any central banks FIAT currency isn't?
    Social security?
    That’s not my point. My point is those who own the Central Banks aren’t going to allow crypto to go anywhere or do anything and it will always be used as an underworld currency primarily and eventually they will shut it down so it won’t amount to anything
    Reply
  • sgtdragon
    The concept of crypto itself isn't a ponzi scheme - it's decentralized money. You are saying they would never allow it to be mainstream. In theory that may be correct, but they would have a hard time enforcing it in a true crisis.

    Turkey will provide us with some real world experience - because they officially banned Crypto for goods and services in March, and are eyeing further regulations. Yet bitcoin is trading at an all time high in Turkish Lira. Why?

    To protect yourself from a hyperinflation like what is happening in Turkey, with a leader that has no clue about the currency market - the only safe place for the masses will be gold or crypto. You have cities in US with professional shoplifters that don't get arrested and walk in and take up to $950 without anyone doing anything. When a panic eventually happens in a more developed economy, you think people will listen to central bank rules?

    Much of the worlds inequality are tied to central bank policies...so I don't think many people on both sides will really be defending them when the next financial crisis hits.
    Reply
  • daworstplaya
    I'm sure they can just trace where all that money went .... oh wait. :tearsofjoy:
    Reply
  • InvalidError
    daworstplaya said:
    I'm sure they can just trace where all that money went .... oh wait. :tearsofjoy:
    Depends on what the people who stole it did with it. If they were dumb enough to move the stolen crypto to their own known wallets, then it is easy. If they moved the crypto to nameless wallets created specifically for the heist and abandoned as soon as they are done dumping their crypto into "mixers" to launder it, then it becomes a whole lot more difficult.
    Reply