Darknet Marketplaces Expanding Amid Growing Appetite for Illegal Goods

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In Brief
  • Darknet platforms are increasing in number.

  • Operators of these illegal online bazaars are pulling exit scams.

  • Government agencies are going after darknet vendors to combat online drug trafficking.

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Despite tightening law enforcement actions, darknet marketplaces are multiplying as the appetite for illegal goods and services like drugs and firearms continues to grow.

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Several reports from investigations by government authorities show cryptocurrencies being a popular payment method on these illicit online marketplaces.

According to crypto forensic firm CipherTrace, darknet marketplaces are on the rise. Research by CipherTrace shows 35 active platforms hosting numerous vendors servicing thousands of users.

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Given the existence of dark market templates, new platforms are reportedly emerging at an accelerated rate. Intending darknet store operators now need only to purchase such a template that they customize to their taste before installing on secure servers.

Data from CipherTrace claims that it costs only $599 payable in Bitcoin (BTC) or Monero (XMR) to acquire these templates. Operators can also receive additional customer support for a fee of between $50 and $90.

Based on the relatively small upfront cost and the potential for a huge upside, the darknet marketplace arena is also seeing frequent exit scams. Having built up a sizeable reputation with massive amounts held in escrow, these scammers often disable the withdrawal option while still accepting deposits.

In the end, users eventually catch on but not before the operators siphon more money from unsuspecting customers. According to Vice, the defunct Empire darknet market absconded with about $30 million back in August.

Apart from the allure of stealing user deposits, the increasing focus of law enforcement agencies on the illicit dark web trade is another likely reason for the many exit scams. As previously reported by BeInCrypto, a U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ)-led crack team announced the seizure of $1.6 million in crypto from darknet vendors back in September.

Despite the anonymity of the dark web, government agencies are arresting and prosecuting black-market bazaar operators on the dark web. In August, the DoJ charged two darknet opioid sellers with money laundering and wire fraud.

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Osato is a reporter at BeInCrypto and Bitcoin believer based in Lagos, Nigeria. When not immersed in the daily happenings in the crypto scene, he can be found watching historical documentaries or trying to beat his Scrabble high score.

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