Empire Market, the world’s largest darknet marketplace, has exit scammed its users and stolen an estimated $30 million worth of cryptocurrency.
The latest news come hot in the heels of reports concerning the site’s downtime that was blamed on a major distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack that left darknet users in a 36 hour-long suspense.
Exit scams have now become far too common within darknet circles, where operators of a dark web site suddenly close operations without a clear warning – with user and vendor funds getting lost in the process.
Ideally, vendors are usually required to deposit cryptocurrency into a specific dark web market to be allowed to trade using a platform and the same goes for customers who need to maintain funds in a market’s wallets and escrow systems to facilitate shopping needs.
Exit scams have seen darknet market custodians walk away with these funds – that may amount to millions of dollars in held cryptocurrency – by closing operations and going offline.
Assumptions and Truth
As it stands, assumptions concerning Empire Market’s exit scam began flying across the internet as several commentators and users wondered about the market’s fate after a reported DDoS attack against the site.
On social media, the Twitter account belonging to the anonymous Tor researcher dark.fail published a post to alert users to Empire Market’s case as the conclusion to a lengthy “golden age” of trust.
According to the anonymous journalist, Empire was pulling a possible exit scam, considering that the site admins and law enforcement agencies had failed to give a timely statement concerning the market’s sudden offline status.
The Twitter thread went on to predict a rather uncertain darknet environment as more exit scams are set to be launched as “trust is rediscovered”. The researcher also reflected on Empire’s history following shutdown of AlphaBay , which was the largest darknet platform of its time.
Empire Market amassed 1.3 million users within a short time after AlphaBay was seized by authorities.
Well, to clear all doubts concerning the exit scam, /u/Melbourne, a member of the Empire Market’s moderators’ team confirmed the exit scam through a post of the Dread forum (See below).
Screenshot of a Dread post by an Empire Market moderator to confirm the exit scam.
The Empire Market moderator alerted users to the fact that the platform’s admin had decided to “disappear with funds”.
Even as the moderator’s statement seemed to show a whole lot of remorse to users who had lost their funds, it was still difficult to pick authenticity in the author’s tone even as the dark web is set to enter a new age of mistrust.
In an interesting twist, the statement was concluded with the assurance that the Empire Market moderator team would be available for future opportunities to work for other dark web sites.
Users Count Losses
The aftermath of the Empire Market exit scam has been marked by widespread messages from darknet users counting losses from the landmark event.
On Reddit, the forum r/darknet was filled with discussions about the incident, with a significant number of people assuming that Empire Market’s “money is gone” – even as a number of users have decided to check the crypto addresses they used when shopping on the darknet site.
In highlight, a number of users made contributions to a poll titled “how much did you lose” from Empire Market’s sudden exit – with some users reporting to have lost just a few dollars , others claiming hundreds, and a number of users grieving over the thousands of dollars they lost to the exit scam.
Further, several posts on Dread, a popular discussion forum in the darknet, featured vendor sentiments about losses they have since sustained due to the Empire Market exit scam (See below).
Screenshot of a Dread discussion about vendor losses sustained after the Empire exit scam.