Bitcoin, Altcoin Exchange Bittrex Eyed With Suspicion Due to Thousands of Mysterious Account Closings

We have posted a follow-up to this article, located here.

Cointelegraph recently began receiving complaints about the Bittrex exchange disabling users’ accounts for no apparent reason. One consistent theme in every complaint we’ve received is that users have attempted to open tickets and have even sought help on the exchange’s Slack, only to be ignored and banned, respectively.

One user complained that he has six Bitcoin in his Bittrex account--over $30,000 at today’s values--and no longer has access to his funds and receives no answers to his support tickets.

Another user comments:

“My Bittrex account is disabled for more than 3 days without any warning or announcement. Their support do not answer anything.”

Another wrote:

“Although we submitted tickets about this issue to their support team, they with all obscenity and indecency, instead of responding to their users’ tickets, they just ignore us.”

Still another user suggested the bans may be tied to users’ nationalities. He wrote:

“In Iran, more than 3,000 accounts have been deactivated without reason.”

Another Bittrex customer emailed us, saying:

“I talked to many users in Telegram groups and the most affected countries are Syria, India, Iran, Russia, Pakistan and Turkey.”

Many of those who emailed us pointed out that they are using verified accounts, suggesting that it isn’t a KYC/AML problem.

At least two threads have been started on the Bitcointalk forum, here and here.

The affected customers are all getting the same message when they attempt to log in to their account:

Bittrex

The silence is deafening

Bittrex did not respond to our request for comment. Bittrex.com/news is blank. An attempt to sign up for their Slack channel failed, with the message “invite_limit_reached.” Bittrex’s Facebook page simply directs any users with problems to go to their support website and file a ticket.

There is no announcement on Twitter, and only one official reply to the numerous tweets that have been directed at them:

Reports of strange happenings

It’s extremely unusual for an exchange to suddenly disable thousands of accounts without any announcement or any replies to support tickets. It’s even more bizarre that Bittrex is apparently banning people for asking for help in their support Slack. But these aren’t the only weird goings-on at Bittrex lately.

Blogger “The CryptoSyndicate” posted last week suggesting that an internal mistake at Bittrex caused an exchange-wide selloff of altcoins, triggering declines on all other major exchanges. The CryptoSyndicate writes:

“Basically, every single cryptocurrency (alts) listed on Bittrex has fallen in a very similar pattern in relation to one another. Not every coin, but coins that are listed on Bittrex. Between the hours of 12:00 and 09:00 at UTC-4 on 8th October 2017, a large number of alts experienced a mass dump executed within minutes of each other. Coincidence?”

He speculates that this could be the result of an error related to exchange fees; namely, that Bittrex may have accidentally dumped the fees it had collected on every trading pair all at once, converting them to Bitcoin and causing the price of each altcoin to fall. He continues:

“No other exchange has experienced these patterns in their assets. Cryptocurrencies that were NOT listed on Bittrex were not affected in the same way. Every other exchange we looked at, Binance, Kraken, Bitstamp, Coinbase, GDAX, Coss, Cryptopia, Yobit – all experienced patterns that were indicative of market reaction stemming from a single source of flash sell-down: Bittrex.”

Exasperation and fear

Following the monumental collapse of Mt. Gox a few years ago, it’s no wonder people are easily alarmed when dealing with exchanges. Since you don’t actually control the private key to your funds--the exchange does--you don’t actually have custody of them. If anything goes wrong, be it a hack, theft, or simply a database error, you stand to lose everything. Mt. Gox customers learned this the hard way.

When Mt. Gox collapsed in early 2014, users lost access to 850,000 Bitcoins that were held by the site, although 200,000 Bitcoins were later “found,” bringing the total loss to 650,000 Bitcoins. At today’s prices, that’s a staggering $3.5 bln.

Even exchanges that remain solvent can sorely test their users’ patience. Cointelegraph has previously reported on the slow speed at which support tickets are resolved at Poloniex, with some users having waited over a month to have their tickets answered. Likewise, Poloniex’s sudden change to their Terms of Use resulted in alarm and consternation.

Likewise, the Bitfinex exchange has been eyed recently due to its loss of banking, a certain trader (or traders) apparently manipulating the markets and the unusual situation surrounding their sister company’s Tether token. This is hardly a surprise, considering the exchange was hacked just last year. As the saying goes, “once bitten, twice shy.”

Bizarre behavior

Given these and other unfortunate events, it’s not surprising that users would become very worried when thousands of accounts are apparently frozen without notice and when Bittrex’s support team will not answer support tickets.

The banning of users from Bittrex’s support Slack is perhaps the most alarming aspect of these reports. Even if a company is overwhelmed with support requests, banning customers from Slack seems highly unusual.

Following up

We are still awaiting from Bittrex on our request for comment. If we receive a response, we will post an update.