General News Jan 22, 2022

Exit Scam: Monopoly Market and Cartel Market Make Noisy Exit

Both Monopoly Market and Cartel Market disappeared around the same time…

About two weeks ago, a post on the Dread forum by AlphaBay admin /u/DeSnake offered free vendor bonds to Monopoly Market and Cartel Market refugees after it turned out that the admins of both platforms had disappeared following alleged DDoS attacks.

The post on the dark web’s largest forum partly read:

 “No one has heard from either Monopoly admin or Cartel Marketplace. It is assumed by many they have both closed shop, if it is not the case I will remove this post.”

Around the same time, changes began happening to the subdreads belonging to users of both platforms as many people wondered whether this was another of the classic exit scams that have rocked the dark web in recent times.

Figure 1: A warning on the profile page of the Cartel market subdread.

Well, it turns out that both Monopoly Market and Cartel Market went offline since 29, December, 2021 and have remained so to this date. At this point, it is not very clear whether both markets are gone for good or may make an unexpected comeback.

What Happened?

An analysis of dark web conversations point to the fact that Monopoly and Cartel Market users began experiencing difficulties accessing the markets towards the end of last year.

Monopoly Market

It appears that Monopoly Market, in particular, went offline on December 28 after several users complained about receiving an error message when trying to access the platform. The error code that popped up was a “X’F0’ Onion Service Descriptor Can Not be Found.” which predisposed to the market going offline.

The real reason behind Monopoly Market’s disappearance was not clarified but a lot of speculation arose online, an aspect that drove a Dread moderator to lock down Monopoly’s subdread as a measure against boiled over theories that had rocked the platform concerning the issue. He said:

“Before this sub is filled with more FUD and more crazy theories are thrown out there, I've decided to lock it down. Scam? busted? Overdosed? We may never know what happened to /u/MonopolyOfficial . If we hear back from him soon we will give him back control of his sub, but for now I'd rather be cautious and lock it down.”

Figure 2: Dread moderator /u/Shakybeats decided to lock down the Monopoly Market subdread.


What’s interesting is that Monopoly’s admin came out to defend the platform by claiming that the market was going to be offline for just a few hours. He also confronted the vendors that was spreading theories about what could have happened to the dark web market. His post read (See screenshot):

“I am deleting all of these bullshit posts so we can keep the discussion in 1 thread, I am making a note of the links so everybody can see them and I will be going through them when I have looked into the market as that is priority.
/u/rxbp the minute the market comes back online you're done you stupid fuck. The market is down for hours, not days, just a few hours and you as a vendor creating these fucking stupid posts when you know damn well this is clearly a co-orientated attack considering most accounts posting are fresh. /u/bluegrind, you can also fuck off on your 3 hour old account making bullshit post after bullshit post. Godman, you can also fuck your mom too I know you are behind this, obviously you weird little man.”

Figure 3: Screenshot of the Monopoly admin confronting rumours on Dread.

What’s interesting is that a section of users, who all seemed to be in denial that an exit scam was underway, came out to defend Monopoly and called for patience on the part of the market’s fans who had already lost their cool and believed that they had lost their money and orders.

One user, identified as /u/BXCocaine wrote:

“From the view of a vendor.Yesterday admin was responding to our refeunded orders and manul review orders. Also processed withdrawl for 15-20k btc/xmr. Seems normal even the site going down for a bit, I never ever been on a market that didn't go down at some point. Admins are most likley working there ass off to get it back up for us. I can see how it would be stressful. By far our favorite market! 1 day down sounds more like a free vacation day for me :)”

Cartel Market

The Cartel Market admin disappeared, without notice, at the same time that Monopoly’s admin took off.

Right after the platform began developing issues, several Cartel users were quick to seek possible answers on the Dread forum about what may have happened. One vendor reported that they were unable to access the marketplace and got a “502 error” every time they tried logging in to the site (See below).

Figure 4: A user tried to seek answers after his Cartel Market account could not load up.

A quick scan of recent historical dark web posts indicate that the last cartel update was made on December 29 by a staff member identified as /u/Ryuu who announced that the platform had suffered a DDoS attack the previous Friday from the time he published the post on Dread.

The update read:

“So everyone knows that we got hit by DDOS on past friday, /u/6ix said that only on monday things will probably be back to normal, and that was the last time we spoke, he is offline for 6 days now. I don't have acess to the backend and i don't know if something happened with him. But i really believe that some serious shit is going on with him, i hope it's not the case. I talked with dread staff and we are going to wait a couple more days because of the holidays to see if something change.”

As soon as the post was published, several comments streamed in to rubbish claims that the market had only gone under because of some DDoS attack. As reported by one of the users, one of the vendors was locked out of their account just 3 days before the alleged DDoS attack and would not recover their account using their Mnemonic.

It turns out that after logging in on a new account, the user noted that after checking their vendor user name and viewing the platform, all their old deactivated listings became active and displayed current stock – this indicated that their account had been compromised because the site went down at around the same time that he had made the damning discovery.

With that, the users sought answers from other users about whether they had encountered similar issues. Lots of comments popped up to support the user’s sentiments about the conclusion that Cartel Market operators had pulled the rug on everyone.

One interesting comment was made by a user claiming that he had classified information that the admin knew what he was doing (See screenshot below)



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