This is a follow-up question to: What happens if I mistype the address when making a payment?.

Scenario:

  1. You're trying to send bitcoins to an address.
  2. You type in the wrong address, but the address (as unlikely as it may be) is well-formed.

What Happens?

  1. The wallet belongs to someone and you've just sent him money. (Can one contact this person and ask for it to be returned?) The key phrase is "can one contact" not "can you force him to give it back."
  2. The wallet (as seen in the quote below) is unowned and the bitcoins are lost!?!

Bitcoin addresses contain a built-in check code, so it's generally not possible to send Bitcoins to a mistyped address. However, if the address is well-formed but no one owns it (or the owner lost their wallet.dat), any coins sent to that address will be lost forever. https://en.bitcoin.it/wiki/Technical_background_of_Bitcoin_addresses

Is it lost? Or, if and when, this wallet is created are the "missing" bitcoins attached to it?

  • As I understand it you can send notes along with bitcoins. Nope. – Nick ODell Mar 18 '15 at 15:23
  • @NickODell - you can't send a memo along with the bitcoin? Isn't the memo part of the blockchain? Or am I getting totally confused here? – Mayo Mar 18 '15 at 15:35
  • Isn't the memo part of the blockchain? No, it's stored in your wallet only. – Nick ODell Mar 18 '15 at 15:50
  • @NickODell - So, keeping track of your transactions could become tricky if memos stay with the wallet and you have numerous wallets. I guess bitcoin is like cash. ;-) – Mayo Mar 18 '15 at 15:55
up vote 3 down vote accepted

Most transactions create an Unspent Transaction Output (UTXO) which can only be spent by the owner of the corresponding recipient address. Any "well-formed address" can receive such a transaction, whether it has been used before or not.

Should somebody own the address, they might try to send the money back to the original sending address, however, it is not certain that the sender owns the address that he sent from. It would probably be better to try to contact the other via one of the numerous bitcoin forums: Since addresses are unique, they make great search terms.

Should nobody own the address, the coins are likely to be "lost", in the sense that they would be spendable, but nobody will ever generate the corresponding private key.

Also see

The wallet belongs to someone and you've just sent him money. (Can one contact this person and ask for it to be returned?) The key phrase is "can one contact" not "can you force him to give it back."

Not unless the owner of that address has publicly stated that she owns that address (perhaps on her blog or on a forum? Try googling).

The wallet (as seen in the quote below) is unowned and is lost!?!

If the receiving address is valid and has not been used (you can find out from any online blockchain explorer), then it is highly likely that you've sent your coins to an address that nobody can claim (yet). In fact, it is almost certain that nobody will ever be able to generate a private key for that address. Therefore those coins will most likely be stuck in that address forever.

However, if the receiving address has been used, then there's a possibility of you getting in touch with that person and hope for her kindness. The problem is that there's no facility in Bitcoin for getting to know the identity behind a bitcoin address unless they explicitly provide this information.

  • I take it that the money is not lost. The bitcoins are attached to that wallet - but since wallets are created randomly out of such a large pool then for all practical considerations the bitcoins are lost. – Mayo Mar 18 '15 at 15:04
  • @Mayo right, the funds are associated with an address to which no one owns the private key – Wizard Of Ozzie Mar 20 '15 at 12:29

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