The Money Shot - trash and treasure

Image of rubbish dump
The Money Shot's search for the £4m hard drive begins in earnest
"Once something has been thrown away, it’s incredibly difficult to get it back, and you may find you insurer won’t cover your enthusiastic spring clean!" Ben Wilson,
  • | by Kristian Dando

Somewhere in Newport, under several feet of household rubbish, lies a fortune.

By now, you’ve probably heard about the case of James Howells, a Welsh IT worker who absent-mindedly slung out a hard drive containing a digital wallet stuffed with Bitcoins he’d ‘mined’ a few years ago when the currency was near-enough worthless.

Since then, Bitcoins have gone legit. Well, as legit as a currency best known as one you can quite easily buy drugs and weapons with can be. Anyway, the coins in Howells' digital wallet are now worth about £4m.

Given the amount of resources it takes for the police to find something in a rubbish dump, the chances of him ever being reunited with his hard drive and its digital bounty are slim to none.

“But what’s the insurance angle on this?” the Money Shot imagines you’re all asking. Well, we asked's resident home insurance expert Ben Wilson for the skinny.

“It’s a timely reminder to be mindful about what you keep and what you throw away,” says Wilson. “Once something has been thrown away, it’s incredibly difficult to get it back, and you may find your insurer won’t cover your enthusiastic spring clean!

“From an insurance point of view, there seems there is very little he could do as the Bitcoins themselves would probably not have been covered. But the bigger point is would he have been able to get them covered? It seems an important issue that insurance companies should consider. After all they exist to cover us for most eventualities.

“The ever-changing world means that insurance companies need to be in touch with how people are living their lives and what new technology - or even currencies - they are using," says Wilson. "The virtual world, where commodities exist, is something that insurers need to consider.”

Wilson also reckons that regular Bitcoin users would do well do heed the advice of  'Dem Miami Boyz' hitmaker Pitbull and "back it up like a Tonka truck".

"If you work a lot with computers and digital equipment make sure you create back-ups," he says. "If you have a desktop computer for your home but a tablet for outside, make sure both are covered. Some insurers may cover for loss of digital data, but not all. Be sure to check, as you may need a specialist insurer."

That said, Howells has probably dodged a bullet. A shiny, diamond-encrusted bullet, but a bullet nonetheless. A survey published this week has added credence to Notorious BIG and Puff Daddy’s assertion that mo' money invariably leads to mo' problems.

The World Values Survey (no, us neither) reckons that as a country’s GDP rises above a particular level, people get less happy. Going on this logic, 28 year-old Howells would be far more miserable after trousering sufficient moolah to keep him in mansions and Benzes for, oooh, a good few years. So, if anything, he should probably be grateful that he lost the hard drive.

Anyway, the Money Shot has some pressing business to attend to. Has anyone got a shovel?

Short change - money news in brief

A study revealed that seaside resorts have almost double the number of bankrupt people residing in them as inland locations.

Average house prices are up 6% on a year ago, according to Nationwide.

This week’s dose of big six energy outrage came from the news that each firm makes around £53 on every home.

Speaking of energy, the government has asked the industry to freeze prices for the next two years. But did you know that you can fix your energy prices without the government’s help?

Bargains abound as Black Friday – a scary-sounding American post-Thanksgiving retail tradition – hit the UK.

It’s thought that British drivers pay more to keep their car on the road than those in quite a lot of other countries.

The Smith Institute – an authority on financial matters as well as the popular Manchester beat combo – reckons that over-50s should conduct a thorough financial MOT.

And finally

We’ve spoken before about cannabis farms.

This week, police discovered one near Kidderminster, in a disused cold war nuclear bunker. They managed to find narcotics with a so-called ‘street value’ of around £650,000.

The Drakelow Tunnels, which were designed to be a seat of government if it all kicked off between the west and the Soviet Union, are reportedly haunted by up to six ghosts. But given what’s just been discovered, the ‘Shot reckons that there might be an explanation for the ‘paranormal sightings’ down there…

Join us NEXT WEEK for another THRILLING instalment of THE MONEY SHOT.