What is a private key and recovery phrase?

As the names suggest, the private key is an encrypted key (string of letters and numbers) that grants access to the funds within your crypto wallet. When you first create your wallet, you will be given both the private key and a recovery "seed" phrase. If the private key is ever lost or destroyed, the recovery phrase can regenerate the key, and restore the wallet on ANY device.

It is strongly recommended to create physical copies of your private key and/or recovery phrase, and store them both in a secure location. Without either one, it is virtually impossible to access your funds.

In what scenarios would I need to use or share my private key?

First and foremost, the golden rule of crypto is to NEVER share your private key with anyone. There are many common scams which trick users into revealing or sharing their private key. These schemes can be very elaborate, so it is recommended to abide by this golden rule in all situations.

Here are just a few of the common ways scammers try to take users' keys in order to steal funds:

  • Posing as support team member to help resolve a technical issue on Telegram, Discord, Twitter, or other social media platform. (Keep in mind, official 1inch support team members will never contact you first)

  • Asking for the private key in order to trade tokens "over the counter".

  • Asking the user to paste their key into a dApp or website, in order to receive an airdrop.

  • A scam site might prompt the user to sign an approval transaction with their wallet, so a malicious contract can steal the tokens within

  • A user might click on a malicious link, which can install malware designed to find the key stored on or copied to the user's device

That said, there are only a few reasons one would need to expose or export their private key. Once your wallet is created, you will be able to use your wallet without exposing the private key. Most hot wallets will let you enter a password into the app, as the private key is stored on the device itself, and remains hidden.

If you wanted to move your funds to a different wallet application, (i.e. from Metamask to the 1inch iOS Wallet) you would need the private key to do so. Another common reason to expose your private key is to create a fresh backup of the key, to store in a secure location.

Want to learn more about private keys and how they are different from your public wallet address? Check out this article.

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