The act of buying goods and services from the dark web is at times no easy task, especially for beginners who tend to experience issues caused by lack of experience.
The lack of experience may lead to serious consequences for the new dark web user, such as becoming the victim of a scam or exposing their identity to hackers.
As such, one ought to take extra caution if they’re inexperienced with the dark web.
Below are some of the main points users should consider before purchasing items or acquiring goods from darknet markets.
Note: If you’re new to the dark web, check out Dark Web News’ How to Access the Dark Web Guide for best practices, tips and advice.
A very crucial element to consider when opening a new account on any darknet market is the use of fake usernames. The username, along with any associated handles/profiles, should not have any similarity with your real name.
Failing to implement this measure may expose your identity in the event law enforcement initiates investigations into a particular darknet market.
Despite the fact that creating a fake username is a quick and easy step for protecting users’ identity on the dark web, many newbies forget to do so. One notable example is when Ross Ulbricht, the founder of Silk Road, used his real name to post on forums where he stated he needed coding tips involving his marketplace.
The use of his real name and email address gave investigators a clue as to who is the main culprit behind the market. Of course, other factors exposed his identity as well, like using his real photo to order fake IDs from vendors working in the marketplace.
Nature of the products & delivery location
There are a variety of goods and services offered on dark web markets.
Ranging from tangible to intangible, the list is pretty long and can fill hundreds of thousands of pages.
The notable bit is that vendors offer their goods and services to a select group. All this information is found on the vendor profile and in the specific listings of the products.
Additionally, sellers often indicate which regions they do or do not offer shipments to, and this information is shared among the market’s members.
There are several reasons why sellers may prefer one region over others—factors that come into play include the risk of police inspection, the level of fraud and scam activity in the region and the distance from the shipping location, which affects delivery time. For such reasons, it is important that vendors take steps to safeguard their interest and that of their business.
The reputation of the vendor
The status of a vendor is a prime factor to check when placing an order.
Given the fact there are similar products sold by multiple sellers, it can be quite confusing for a new buyer.
When one is considering a purchase, they should opt to buy from the seller with the most favorable reviews, as this leads to better ratings in the darknet market as a whole.
Different markets have different ways to rate vendors, but the most common is through using percentages, or stars.
A marketplace like AlphaBay, which was seized by law enforcement last summer, used a somewhat unique system that put two aspects into account—the vendor level and the trust level.
This rating system factors in the time an individual has operated on the market and their level of activity, which is determined by the volume of sales/purchases. The system also users’ first-hand experience with a vendor.
This way, it’s easy for users to compare and contrast vendors from one another, hence reaching a decision on which vendor they want to purchase from.
And again, another factor to consider is that some marketplaces, such as Silk Road 3.1, have established another platform that hosts only verified sellers. In the case of Silk Road, the market that hosts verified and active members is none other than Lunacy Market.
The mode of payment
Bitcoin was the first-ever cryptocurrency to become adopted by darknet markets. For this reason, the demand for the digital currency has risen among members of the dark web community.
There are, however, some challenges such as delays in the Bitcoin network. These delays may make a person wait for days for a transaction to get processed.
In turn, the delays cause inconveniences for both buyers and sellers who operate on darknet markets.
Recently, a few major dark web markets have notified their members that due to delays on the Bitcoin Blockchain, they will be integrating other cryptocurrencies as payment options, such as Litecoin or Ethereum.
The move will, in turn, give users a more extensive range of options when trying to deposit or access funds in the marketplace.
The reputation of the marketplace
A few dozen marketplaces are existing on the dark web presently. However, some of these markets are directly aimed toward users in a specific country or region.
A good example of this is the Russian Anonymous Marketplace (RAMP), which was strictly Russian before it went offline for an unknown reason. Technically, if one cannot speak or write in Russian, then they could not use the market.
Escrow payments are meant to provide a safe haven for user funds. However, some vendors in marketplaces do not want their clients to use escrow systems in making purchases.
When such happens, it is best to look for sellers who are open to escrow since user funds are protected in this case.
The most common form of encryption is Pretty Good Privacy (PGP), which encrypts data sent between two parties—the sender and receiver can read the content in a message or email with PGP.
It employs the use of a private key and a public key. The public key is given to sender of a message by the receiver. So—when sending a message, the sender will use it to encrypt the content and the receiver will use the private key to decrypt the content.
This standard encryption method is mainly used for highly confidential messages and content. Dark web vendors are very clear and make a user understand when and when not to use this type of encryption. For example, using PGP on a basic message like saying “hi” or “goodbye” makes no sense at all. Some vendors will make it clear that they will ignore such as they consider it a waste of time.