Spoiler Alert: Every single one of these issues is preventable by the user...
Humans are famously bad at learning from others’ mistakes, and we get it. Life is busy and full of information; it can be hard to retain words of warning when the danger is not happening directly to you. But it’s important to understand that these issues can and do occur every single day, and they can be avoided with a little bit of caution.
One of the best ways to learn is through repetition, so we’ve put together a list of top five issues that are most commonly addressed by our support team, and how they can (or can’t!) be resolved.
Read through these cautionary tales with a sense of urgency and respect, because sooner or later one of these situations will happen to you. How catastrophic or minor that event will be in your particular case depends in large part on your foresight.
Allow us to present – absolutely free and accurate foresight, courtesy of MEW support!
Issue #1: I don’t see my funds
Contrary to the initial panicked reaction, this does not usually mean that funds are missing. Most of the time, it’s a ‘settings’ problem.
Adjusting the way you are viewing your funds in MEW.
Understanding that there are many different networks and thousands of tokens. For this reason, decentralized interfaces like MEW may not show everything ‘automatically’. Sometimes, you will need to tweak your interface setup.
The first step in addressing the issue is heading to a blockchain explorer for an accurate view of your holdings. Blockchain explorers, like Etherscan or EthVM, can show you a complete overview of your funds at a specific wallet’s address (0x…).
A wallet interface can have errors that prevent it from displaying balances correctly. Checking explorers, on the other hand, can remove any doubts you have about your wallet’s balances. If it’s not showing there, you don’t have it.
If you’re looking for a token and see it on an explorer but not on your MEW web interface, all you have to do is add it as a custom token. (If you use our MEW wallet app, you can skip this step – the app will show all ERC-20 tokens automatically!)
If you’re not seeing your ETH balance on MEW, double-check the address you’re connected to compared to the address you’re viewing on the blockchain explorer. If your addresses don’t match up, then you’re not on the wallet you’re meant to be on.
This could be due to a variety of different reasons that may need further exploring on a case-by-case standard. You may get insight from Issue #5: “I can’t find a specific wallet/ I’m seeing unfamiliar addresses.”
If you’re trying to view a fork of ETH, such as ETC or CLO, viewing your funds is as simple as changing the network in the upper-right hand corner of our interface to the appropriate network.
It’s important to note here that the balance of a forked currency will not show on a regular Ethereum blockchain explorer, so you will need to seek out an explorer specifically for the blockchain you’re working with.
Issue #2: I was phished / hacked
Because it’s too late and there is nothing that can be done except learning some lessons for the future.
Best and Thorough Security Practices!!!
As wallet interfaces improve and the community becomes more engaged, instances of users reporting their funds were phished or hacked have lessened considerably. However, where there is money, there will always be people looking to steal it, and crypto is no exception.
Sadly, there is generally nothing that can be done for lost funds. The Ethereum blockchain is maintained in a decentralized fashion, so that each user has complete control and sole anonymous access to their assets. This means that there is no way to reverse or refund transactions, nor can we look up the IP address of a phisher or determine ownership of any wallet address.
There are a variety of ways that a wallet can get phished or hacked, but all of them come down to user error – albeit scammers can be extremely inventive and subtle.
The most common way for users to lose their funds is by entering their private information – private keys, mnemonic phrase (also known as recovery or seed phrase), and keystore files – directly into a website or giving it to a fake ‘support’ representative via messages, emails, and phone calls.
Another classic is the “send us ETH and get double ETH back” approach, or the “give us your private key to get free tokens dropped to your address.” In the history of the world, no one has ever given anything away for nothing. Blockchain has not changed those rules.
Phishing tactics are rampant and constantly evolving, so much so that it’s hard to keep track of all the different methods used. For the highest security in managing crypto, it’s suggested that you purchase a hardware wallet. They range from $50 - $1000 and offer leading security that makes it almost impossible to phish or hack your funds. Nothing can excuse you from staying attentive, skeptical, and vigilant, but hardware wallets relieve some of that burden by making you safer in your online blockchain interactions.
For the best security in a mobile wallet, try MEW wallet app which keeps your information secure within the smartphone's local storage and can function similarly to a hardware wallet when used with MEW web via the MEWconnect protocol. The only information you have to keep track of is your recovery phrase, which is meant for back-up and restoration purposes only.
Losing funds is very hard and discouraging, and we are sorry to see anyone go through the experience. That's why we write articles like this one and our best tips on avoiding phishing.
Issue #3: I’ve sent my funds to the wrong address
See Issue #2 (too late, learn lessons for next time…)
Again, nothing, unfortunately.
Taking your time and being very careful with address entry, and/or getting a plain-text decentralized domain and encouraging others to do the same.
As mentioned earlier, there is no way to reverse or refund transactions on the Ethereum blockchain due to its decentralized and immutable properties. As such, funds sent to a wrong address are lost forever. This is an easy mistake to make, as each Ethereum address is 42 characters long and just one wrong letter results in a completely different, often unused wallet.
One popular method of making this process easier is through blockchain domains. ENS (Ethereum Naming Service) is one of the systems designed to assign plain text names to addresses: for example, “username.eth” where ‘username’ is chosen by the person registering the ENS, based on availability.
It’s like an email address for your funds, so that people who send you money can type in this easy-to-remember ENS name instead of a cryptic 42 character Ethereum address. You can register an ENS domain or an Unstoppable Domain through MEW, and send to ENS names and other decentralized domains (like .crypto) from MEW. However, keep in mind that these services are not completely supported by all Ethereum wallets and DApps just yet.
In the meantime, the best line of defense against sending to wrong addresses is double and triple checking your transaction details before confirming. Using copy and paste is a surefire way to make sure every character remains exactly the same. You can also save addresses that you use frequently in your MEW 'contacts' list, and select them from a dropdown on Send and Swap pages.
Also, it’s important to understand that sending assets directly to a contract address (like an address that was used to establish a token) will always result in the permanent loss of your funds. That's why both MEW web and MEW wallet app will show you an alert when an address you entered in the 'To' field is a contract address.
Issue #4: I can’t send transactions
This is another ‘settings’ problem, though it can be urgent depending on circumstances.
Adjusting transaction information, putting ETH in your wallet.
Understanding that all Ethereum transactions require gas paid in ETH, that different blockchains exist, and that transactions between different blockchains are impossible.
The number one reason users cannot send their transactions boils down to one thing - gas. Gas is the fuel that makes all of Ethereum run and allows the creation of new blocks. It’s required with every single transaction, it’s always paid in ETH, and it usually takes a very small amount to make your transaction successful, although this can vary widely depending on gas prices. (You can check Eth Gas Station for the most up-to-date gas requirements.)
Every action you make on the Ethereum blockchain is a ‘transaction’. Even if you’re trying to swap tokens for ETH, you will still need at least a little ETH at the same address where your tokens are to make the swap.
Another reason transactions can stumble is incompatibility between blockchains. If an ERC20 token has forked or moved to mainnet (launched its own coin on a completely separate blockchain), the new currency will not be compatible for sending and receiving on the Ethereum network. Users will often try to send their tokens to the new address type, but will be puzzled by the requirement of a ‘Memo’ or get an ‘Invalid address’ error. ERC20 tokens can only be sent to other Ethereum addresses which begin with 0x.
Generally, big exchanges like Binance offers support for token swaps from ERC20 to mainnet coins. You may be able to send your tokens to an Ethereum address on Binance, and they will deposit the same amount of the new coins into the new blockchain’s wallet address in your Binance account.
There are hundreds of thousands of tokens out there, so it’s hard for us, or any Ethereum interface, to keep track of all of them. It’s imperative that you stay on top of your own token investments to see if they are planning any transitions to a mainnet blockchain.
Issue #5: I can’t find a specific wallet/ I’m seeing unfamiliar addresses
This is usually another ‘settings’ issue, but resolution is somewhat more involved and depends on method of access used.
Most of the time, resetting wallet access and adjusting access settings. When access info is incorrect or missing, solved by nothing.
Being very careful to note all wallet access information, including derivation path and public addresses used; Double checking seed phrase correctness at the very beginning of wallet setup; Keeping careful track of all various wallets created and their access information.
The 'lost wallet' issue takes many forms, depending on the method of access used for one’s wallet.
Let's start with hardware wallets: they are very secure and reliable, and they will always bring you back to the same generated addresses, as long as the seed phrase and the derivation path is correct.
The first thing to do is check the derivation path you’re connected through. Some hardware wallets, like Ledger, take a different path than the standard. In the MEW interface, you can check your derivation path on the same screen where you choose the address to interact with. By clicking through different paths, you might see your familiar addresses.
If you don’t see any addresses that look right to you or that hold a balance, perhaps you should reset your hardware wallet with the seed phrase given to you when you first set it up. The phrase is tied to a specific root private key that will always bring you back to your familiar wallet, so it’s essential that you take excellent care of it.
This is all assuming that you can access the hardware wallet at all. Sometimes bugs or outdated firmware can cause your hardware wallet to stall or error out of the access screen. Most of the time, these scenarios can be fixed by making sure that your hardware wallet has all the latest firmware updates, it’s not open in some other software at the time of access, you’ve got any pop-up blockers disabled, and our interface has been refreshed to its most current version.
If you’re using MetaMask, check to make sure that you haven’t added any additional wallets into the extension. These can show up as separate addresses that you can switch between within the interface. If not, you can try restoring your MetaMask wallet with the 12 word mnemonic phrase given when you created the wallet for the first time.
If you’re using a private key for access, a change in one single character will result in a completely different wallet address. The best practice for this is double checking your key. No one can recover this key for you, so it’s in your hands.
Keystore files require a password to unlock, and they always point to the same address. Keystore files are basically just encrypted private keys, so these two points of access are closely tied. Odds are if you have a private key, there’s probably a keystore file on your computer. If you’ve lost your private key, you can try searching for ‘UTC’ and if you find one, try accessing it with any passwords that you might use. You may get lucky!
Then there is direct access by mnemonic phrases (different from a hardware wallet or MEW wallet app in that there is no hardware device involved, just the phrase). To refresh, the phrases are lists of 12 to 24 words that may or may not include an extra 13th / 25th word as a password. Where you made the phrase is what determines if the password is necessary or not. Most phrases do not require an extra word as a password, so if you’re including it, that’s likely why you’re seeing different addresses. Try excluding (or including) a password to see different addresses.
If your phrase is not accepted at all, it’s likely you’re misspelling a word or putting them in the wrong order. Reference the list of words used in mnemonic phrases for any possible spelling errors. You may also want to try entering your phrase words into the same interface you received them from (hardware wallet, MEW wallet app, MetaMask), rather than putting them directly into the MEW interface (which is not recommended in the first place).
For even more tips on troubleshooting wrong addresses with phrases, also check out this article.
So there you have it!
These 5 issues truly cover more than 80 percent of all MEW support inquiries! Preventing them does not require too much effort or cost – just some time to gain an understanding of how blockchain and wallets work.