Reports of dark web users getting scammed by vendors are not anything new—in fact, they occur on a relatively frequent basis.
These scams could be instigated by a variety of reasons, and it is up to the buyer to take precautions to ensure they do not fall victim to fraud.
In one of the most recent incidents, a Reddit user by the name Jamespaint complains of getting scammed by a Dream Market vendor known as Legit_Seller after he placed a Finalize Early (FE) on the order.
Further revelations by user indicate that the reason why they did a FE was to save time by finalizing the order at that time, rather than saving the task for later after the user received the items. After the user marked the order as FE, all attempts to reach the vendor proved futile.
The opposite option, known as No-Finalize Early (No-FE), is used by the hidden markets to protect buyers from getting scammed by sellers. Those who buy from darknet markets should not Finalize Early but instead, wait for their order to arrive before proceeding to mark the order as FE.
By placing a No-FE on the order, the purchaser’s funds automatically move to the market’s wallet—which is commonly known as “escrow”—instead of the seller’s account. But by placing an FE on the order, the funds will go directly to the vendor’s account, and they can make withdrawals without even processing the order.
Market users should, therefore, ensure that they follow the rules set out in any given marketplace to avoid becoming victims of fraud. So apart from using escrow, buyers should also be wary of vendors who request users to reach out to them via anonymous messaging apps such as Jabber, ICQ and Wickr, among others.
These messaging apps are often used by scammers to convince the buyer to initiate offline orders, which may lead to fraud. The vendors may come up with excuses meant to convince the buyer that making offline payments is more convenient, which is not the case due to the risks involved.
As things stand, all hope is not lost as the markets are very keen to ensure that buyers are not scammed on their site, as it may ultimately cause reputational damage and loss of revenue. And for this reason, many darknet markets may ban a vendor if they have been found to engage in fraud-related activities.
When using the FE feature, it is vital that the buyer takes note of a few things.
One key point to consider is that not every market has the same policy—each market has a different way of handling both FE and No-FE.
For example, some markets have a built-in feature whereby if a vendor has marked an order as processed, the buyer can opt to FE by themselves; and if they don’t, the system will automatically FE after a specific time.
When this happens, one important consideration to take into account is the nature of the goods being bought and sold in the transaction. Tangible goods take a longer time to auto-FE, whereas digital products may finalize quicker.
But, as stated, most markets have established their own unique policies on this subject.
For instance, the newly established Empire Market, which is modeled to operate like the now-defunct AlphaBay Market, does not permit FE unless it is under special permission from the site admins.
Asking for FE without approval is in violation of the rules and will likely see the seller banned from the market. The idea behind this policy is to prevent vendors from potentially scamming users during the finalization phase.
That said, many other markets are more flexible when it comes to Finalize Early. Some darknet sites, mostly older ones, allow vendors to ask for FE.
But as much as Finalizing Early might save time in future, It is not advisable. The best option is to look for a reputable vendor who is willing to take No-FE since the buyer can confirm that the goods have been received before they can release funds from the escrow account.
Finding a vendor should not be an issue because one can look at reviews and profile descriptions to find out if they accept or do not accept FE.
A spot check by Dark Web News on some of the markets shows that vendors have had their accounts banned because of fraud-related issues.
There are many reasons why a vendor might be banned from a market, such as delivering substandard products or goods not described in the listings, or trying to scam persons who place FE using anonymous messaging apps.
The escrow system is one that has been used over the years even before darknet markets existed. The system brings a third party into the scene who holds onto the funds until it’s confirmed that a good or service has been received by the buyer.
The funds are then released from escrow if the buyer confirms shipment after a specific period has elapsed, and no complaints are made.
In other cases, a vendor may not be around to process and order. If the client has placed a No-FE, then the funds will be automatically returned to their account after a few days.
Still, scams do occur regularly in darknet markets.
And for this reason, even if the vendor has the highest possible ratings in any marketplace, it is not advisable to place a FE because of the possibility of an exit scam, in which the market’s admins suddenly run off with users’ funds.
A normal user may happen to trust a high-rated vendor on a top darknet market, but the truth of the matter is that no one will know when they intend to scam their customer base. It can happen to anyone.
So, if one is careful, they can avoid falling victim to fraud by taking a look at the mistakes of others before them. It is evident that these are the same tactics being pulled by different people.
True to the saying that a wise man learns from the mistakes of others and a fool learns from his own mistakes, users should protect their funds, stay safe and never Finalize Early.