The cliché used to be “thieves maintain honesty among themselves.” However, this may not always prove to be true today.
The hot news going around right now is that the supposedly clandestine darknet market, AlphaBay, has shut down and this could be a typical case of an exit scam.
For now, the darknet site is not opening, instead displaying a message that the “server is not responding.”
Since the site went down at midnight on July 4th, the widespread speculation is that the people behind AlphaBay have simply vanished after swindling the millions of dollars lying in vendors’ escrow accounts.
The currency they were held in was bitcoins.
Selling Banned Items Online
AlphaBay, an online marketplace for selling and buying products like drugs, guns and other items which you cannot buy from legal sources—since they are classified as illegal trade.
These include counterfeits, stolen credit cards and so on.
Since the trust factor is nil in such darknet trade deals, vendors and buyers need to park some amounts of money in designated escrow accounts.
All of this is fine as long as transactions do take place and products are delivered according to the payments made.
Transfers take place in bitcoins and are conducted in complete secrecy. In all probability, the funds that belong to the buyers and sellers in AlphaBay are also not of the clean variety.
Not the First Instance
One staffer from the site posted a comment on the AlphaBay subreddit that the shutdown is only temporary for maintenance.
This has happened multiple times before and they have come back online, so why wouldn’t they again.
What caused panic among the users in the AlphaBay trading platform is that they are shitting themselves of another exit scam, and being that AlphaBay is the biggest dark net market EVER, it will hit very hard if it is the case.
Exit scams are a common occurrence on the dark web, two such fresh incidents are in the memories of dark net market users.
One is the case of “Evolution,” a darknet site that underwent an exit scam amounting to an estimated $12 million.
The perpetrators vanished without a trace, with the cryptocurrency funds that were parked in vendor’s escrow accounts. This happened in March 2015.
In May this year, another exit scam was reported wherein the darknet market “Outlaw” claimed that the site was hacked.
However, those in the know believe it was just an excuse to swindle the deposits held in escrow.
Even so, since it is an illegal operation, many people have already burnt their fingers and their pockets being cheated out of deals on dark web sites such as AlphaBay.
Big Money at Stake
At the time of writing this post, no one knows for certain whether the AlphaBay case is yet another swindle or not.
Experts have tracked, through a blockchain record, that a number of small withdrawals in bitcoins have been made from several accounts, totaling approximately $3.8 million.
This more or less tallies with a post by one of the AlphaBay vendors, which said vendors on the market parked about 50,000 dollars and there would be around 80 members like him.
But another figure puts the number of vendors at 500.
The actual figures for funds stolen, if this is an exit scam, would be much bigger than $3.8 million, I would estimate between $20 to $50 million.
This is only based on the fact that Evolution was estimated at around $12,000,000 and Alphabay is much larger.
Whatever the actual figures are, the admin and staff running AlphaBay had practically everything to gain and nothing to lose by pocketing these amounts and disappearing.
It may not be feasible to trace them, either for the authorities or for those who feel wronged by the exit scam.
Anger More than Panic
While panic would be the initial reaction among those who lost their dollars on AlphaBay, forums and communication platforms show members posting expressions of anger and even calls for retribution.
Some say they are ready to pitch in money if there’s ever a search to trace the AlphaBay administrators and punish them.
There are also a few people who admit they would have cheated and stolen from users if they ever ran a darknet market, so, what’s the big deal?
The jury will be out on that one.
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