NFTs provide numerous benefits for artists and collectors, but only if the system works as intended. However, with such new technology, scammers often profit as much as or more than artists do. As such, you need a quick way to know if the stated ownership of an NFT is legitimate or not.
Luckily, right now there are seven ways you can check the ownership of an NFT. They all require some effort to do, but the peace of mind makes them well worth the time and resources. Some of these methods require very little knowledge of blockchain technology.
By reading further, you will learn what these verification methods are and how to use them. If done right, they can protect you from scams and copycats while ensuring that you get your money’s worth from your NFTs.
However, using full disclosure, proceed at your own risk when buying NFTs these suggestions are not full proof, they are merely suggestions!
This article is about buying and not minting an NFT. If you are not familiar with minting you need to read these articles: Minting Vs Buying an NFT: Are They The Same Thing? and How Much Does It Cost to Create an NFT? A Simple Answer.
7 Ways to Verify the Ownership of an NFT
Serving as a great alternative to art galleries and shows, NFTs (non-fungible tokens) provides many great benefits to artists and creators who want to profit off their creativity. Since its humble beginnings, NFT technology has expanded to cover everything from songs, images, videos, memes, trading cards, souvenirs, and much more.
However, like any new technology, it comes with some risks. While the base technology is sound, much of the legal aspects are still being hashed out by the NFT community like copyright issues and others. As a result, the NFT marketplace is filled with scams, fake items, and stolen assets. Until the technology matures, buyers and owners alike must tread carefully to ensure their investments are safe and secure.
So, before you whip out your credit card to buy the next Beeple NFT release please read on.
What is an NFT?
NFTs are digital, crypto tokens that are managed on a blockchain such as Ethereum, FLOW, Polygon, Katyn, and Wax just to name a few. This blockchain acts as a decentralized ledger that tracks the NFT’s ownership and transaction history. While they work like other crypto assets, NFTs are unique and not replicable.
It is this built-in uniqueness that gives NFTs their attractive value. They allow people to own pieces of intellectual property of artists, companies, and businesses. They also serve as financial investments based on the trustworthiness of the blockchain to trace NFTs back to their original creators. This arrangement potentially allows lets the creator to reap residual profits from the sale known as royalties. If NFTs and royalties are a new concept to you then you have to read this:
An NFT’s uniqueness comes from a special software called a smart contract. The smart contract governs all transactions concerning the NFT. It is through the smart contract that you verify ownership, manage transfers, link the NFT to another digital asset, or allocate automatic royalty payments from any subsequent sale.
Scams and NFT Authenticity Issues
However, trustworthiness becomes an issue when hackers and scammers come into play. While most scams are trolls that do nothing, you will occasionally see someone selling unauthorized copies or fake NFTs.
The main issue is the distinction between the ownership of an NFT and its linked underlying content. When you buy an NFT, you are not buying the linked intellectual property. You are only buying a link to it. The underlying content may not even be hosted in the blockchain but on a traditional hosting solution somewhere on the internet.
While neither the seller nor the buyer owns the copyright, NFT scams abuse the open-source nature of blockchain to claim ownership of the content. Because of this, NFT collectors can be left with counterfeit artwork that can land them in litigation or worse.
Therefore, you must verify the ownership of any NFT you plan to purchase. Sure, you can use the NFT’s metadata and history to authenticate ownership, but this data cannot help you link the NFT to a real person. The metadata can not even validate if the NFT’s creator owns or has the rights to produce NFTs for the content.
As a result, you must manually verify the ownership of an NFT before you buy it. Luckily, several methods may cut down on the amount of work you must do.
Method 1: Check the NFT Metadata and Transaction History
As mentioned above, the smart contracts that manage NFTs store the unique ID and metadata that can help identify the creator and owner of the NFT. You can also check the transaction history to verify any claims of ownership.
To acquire this information, you must go to the smart contract of the NFT. The contract should have a section marked “Details” where you can read and verify the metadata. If the NFT complies with the current NFT standard, you should find the following data once you click the button:
- The NFT’s Token ID
- Contract address of the collection
- The blockchain that hosts the NFT
- The NFT’s metadata status – is centralized or “frozen”
- The NFT’s encoding standard such as ERC-721
Once you have the token ID, you can look for its associated owner address in the blockchain’s and marketplace’s archives. You may also want to check any new transactions for suspicious activity.
An NFT’s status should be either “centralized” or “edible”. The underlying content of a centralized NFT is stored in a central location which the creator cannot alter. Meanwhile, the creator can change the storage link for an editable NFT. A frozen NFT indicates that the NFT was flagged for suspicious activity and cannot be sold or transferred.
Just remember, that this information will only give you the owner’s blockchain address. It will not reveal their full name or other credentials unless the specific marketplace makes it public.
Method 2: Use an NFT Verification Service
Once you have an ETH token ID and contract address, you can verify them against a marketplace database to see if they point to the content’s actual owner. Fortunately, there are several NFT verifications tools that will process the search for you, provided you use a service that is compatible with NFT’s coding standard.
Luckily, most verification services will work with most legitimate NFTs, making them useful tools even if you have never written program code before. They also serve as one of the quickest and easiest ways to verify NFT ownership as non-standardized NFTs will present red flags through them.
However, these services are not foolproof. They cannot show you if work was stolen before it became an NFT. This is especially true for marketplaces that allow third-party NFT creations.
Method 3: Verify NFT Ownership Through Digital Certificates
Some NFTs come with a digital certificate that verifies their authenticity. Digital certificates work similarly to traditional certificates of authenticity you often receive with collectibles. These certificates list the name of the manufacturer and owner, production date, and programming info, along with the NFT’s status, serial number, and token ID. It should also have the owner’s digital signature.
If your NFT has a digital certificate, it will have it listed among its metadata in the blockchain. Therefore, you can easily verify the ownership of an NFT by looking for the certificate using a blockchain explorer. If it exists, it is a good sign that the NFT is legitimate and not a counterfeit as the certificate is as unique as the NFT itself.
However, not all legitimate NFTs come with digital certificates. Furthermore, not all NFT certificates are authentic. The data can be fake or become corrupted. As such, you should never use the certificate as your lone verification for ownership. Instead, you should use it in conjunction with other methods.
Method 4: Check the Owner’s Social Media Profiles and NFT Platforms
One of the best ways to know the authenticity and ownership of an NFT is to ask the owner. As long as you know who the owner and original artist are, you could follow their social media profiles to see if they announced any NFT releases. While you may see a few fakes, this info will tell you which NFTs the owner published themselves.
In the announcements, the owner will also post witch NFT marketplace you can find their stuff. Owners typically work with a single marketplace and blockchain. This information will help you narrow your search as the NFT should only be available in that one marketplace. If you can find it elsewhere or sell it on multiple platforms, that is a red flag for fraudulent activity.
However, because NFT metadata does not contain the real-world name and address of the owner, you must first do some research to find the owner’s name. You can use the NFT verification services as mentioned above to find this information, but you may getter better results with a reverse image search. Such a search will reveal all the variations of the image that exist as well as the age of the image itself.
To use the reverse search on Google, you just upload the image into the search engine if you are a desktop. Otherwise, you can just paste the link to the image into the search bar on your mobile device.
Method 5: Check to See if You can Sell the NFT Using its ID
Ownership verification is not just for buyers. Owners and sellers must know if they own the NFT before they can sell or transfer it. Fortunately, unlike buyers, owners can know if they own an NFT or not by checking their marketplace profile. Their profile will show them if they have access to the seller options such as setting the price, accepting bids, or updating the display text.
This simple check is easy if you have the NFT’s identification number. You can then do a simple search for the number. How you do this will vary between marketplaces, but generally means logging into your account and entering the number in the provided search box. Once you select “Go to the number”, you should see the seller options as buttons somewhere on the page.
Method 6: List all the NFT Numbers You Own
If you do not know the number of your NFT, you can use a more brute force method to see if you own it. This method can be time-consuming if you own many NFTs, but it will show you everything. You then treat any NFT not on your list as a forgery, especially if it claims to come from you.
This procedure works similarly to the last one, but you request to see all the NFTs you own. Once you have the list, you can then check each NFT to see if it is the NFT in question. It will even work if you do not remember the selling marketplace.
To get started, you head over to the blockchain network’s website and select the “owned Numbers” options. You then paste your wallet address into the space provided. Once you hit “Query”, you will have a complete list of NFT numbers you own.
Method 7: Monitor the Selling Price
The final verification method does not reveal the owner of an NFT. Instead, it may identify which NFTs are counterfeit, making it a good screen before you move onto other, more involved methods.
The trick here is that NFT has particular values. These values come from numerous reasons, but they are similar to the value associated with physical artwork. They are what a reasonable buyer and seller would agree upon during transfers.
Therefore, if you see your NFT priced significantly too low for what it is truly worth, that might be a sign that the NFT is fraudulent. You can then inform the original creator to see if the selling price is accurate to confirm or deny or suspicions.
The Future of NFT Ownership Verification
The above methods will help you determine the ownership of an NFT. However, they are not foolproof and are often vulnerable to the same fraudulent activity as the NFTs themselves, but at least they are a start. The NFT community has to provide better ways to authenticate NFTs. While nothing is finalized just yet, there are a few such projects in various stages of development.
One promising project is the self-sovereign identity (SSI) standard. The SSI authentication standard would work for the internet as a whole, providing an interoperable security and privacy protocol that would work in conjunction with other internet technologies. Once implemented, it would make NFTs viable financial assets for years to come.
As NFTs continue to grow in popularity, there is a greater need to know who owns what when it comes to technology. However, the underlying can often obscure this information. Therefore, you should use several of the above seven methods to check the ownership of any NFTs you have or want to purchase.
And of course, if you need to bolster your NFT IQ then by all means check out these extremely popular articles: