While most of us understand that non-fungible tokens are a tremendous scam, it’s not every day you see full-on art capers happening in the world of digital NFT’s. But we got a taste of what that might look like on Tuesday when one anonymous investor spent $340,000 on an NFT from Banksy’s website, only to learn it was a fake.
The forged piece of digital art popped up on Banksy’s official site on Tuesday morning under the now-deleted URL “banksy.co.uk/nft.html.” The only thing on the page was a JPEG of what was presumably Banksy’s take on the $1 billion dollar CryptoPunk hype train, featuring the artist’s usual kind of social commentary, this time about the awful carbon footprint that NFT artwork leaves behind. The title, in case you were wondering, was “Great Redistribution of the Climate Change Disaster.”
An image of said Disaster was listed on the Opensea NFT marketplace earlier today by an artist going by “gaakmann,” which matches a pseudonym Banksy had used in the past. In other words, it seemed legit—or about as legit as an NFT artwork can be, anyway—so people started bidding. The winner of the auctioned artwork ended up being an anonymous crypto-art collector named “Pranksy,” who spent a whopping 100 ETH (a little over $340,000 USD) on the work, according to blockchain records.
That’s when things started getting weird. The page on Banksy’s website was quietly taken down, with no word about how that page appeared on the site in the first place. Talking with the BBC about the incident, the anonymous buyer said that he suspected Banksy’s site was hacked, and some random scam artist was actually the one who put up the seemingly legitimate webpage.
In a statement sent to the BBC, Banksy’s team told the outlet that “any Banksy NFT auctions are not affiliated with the artist in any shape or form.” We’ve also reached out to Pest Control, the agency that acts as Banksy’s public mouthpiece for the press, about any updates.
At least thus far though, the bizarre NFT scam does seem to have a happy ending. Gaakman has apparently refunded the 100 ETH back into Pranksy’s account just hours after the auction on his faked piece was closed. The buyer confirmed to Motherboard that he’s planning on keeping the artwork—at least for right now.