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With the Mt. Gox Bitcoin exchange offline – at least for now – a primary concern of customers who had accounts there is getting back lost bitcoins – can they be retrieved?
The exact number of Mt. Gox customers at the time the website went dark is uncertain, but as of last December the exchange said it had 1 million.
According to an unofficial "Crisis Strategy Draft" circulating on the Internet, Japan-based Mt. Gox owed its customers 624,408 bitcoins. At current Bitcoin prices of about $500, that's the equivalent of $312.2 million.
Those who did not bail out before Mt. Gox suspended Bitcoin withdrawals on Feb. 7 are now kicking themselves, commiserating with fellow victims in online forums and trying to figure out if there is any way to get back their lost bitcoins.
Mt. Gox had to shut down because criminals exploited a flaw in the Bitcoin code that allowed them to make duplicate withdrawals from Mt. Gox accounts.
According to the Crisis Strategy Draft, Mt. Gox has lost 744,408 bitcoins, or about $372 million.
Anger from people who had large amounts of bitcoin stored at Mt. Gox spilled out on a Reddit thread entitled, "Gox horror story thread – How much did you lose?"
"160 coins, give or take some small change," wrote someone going by Falkvinge. "As much as I kick myself for not getting it out, I'm also patting myself on the back for getting most of my holdings out in time, when the writing on the wall became clearer."
Other Mt. Gox customers fared much worse.
"I am the biggest loser at 4,700+ BTC," wrote goxloser. "I don't know how dying feels, but I'm pretty sure that's how I feel now."
It's possible that Mt. Gox could come back online and allow its customers to withdraw their bitcoins – the Crisis Strategy Draft mentions a rebranding and relaunch of "Gox" on April 1 or later. But most in the Bitcoin community assume that the exchange is hopelessly insolvent and, for all practical purposes, dead.
So for those set on getting their lost bitcoins back, is there any recourse at all? Here are the options, such as they are…