October 1, 2020

Sources Say World’s Largest Darknet Empire Market Exit Scammed, $30 Million in Bitcoin Stolen

One of the world’s largest darknet markets (DNM), Empire Market, allegedly exit scammed after the marketplace was taken offline for a number of days this week. DNM patrons are upset about Empire Market’s departure and customers say that $30 million in bitcoin held by the darknet’s admins has been stolen.

Three days ago news.Bitcoin.com reported on the Empire Market’s recent downtime, as our report had shown the DNM was offline for more than 36 hours. At the time, much of the blame was cast at a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack. However, as time continued to unwind; customers, vendors, and DNM researchers started discussing “exit scam” theories more regularly.

An exit scam is when the moderators of a darknet marketplace suddenly shut the operation down with no warning, and users and vendor funds are stolen. For instance, at times vendors pay a deposit in order to list wares on specific DNMs and customers also keep funds in the DNMs wallets and in escrow systems during exchanges.

Exit scams in the past have allowed DNM moderators to walk away with millions in bitcoin by suddenly shutting down the operation and going offline.

It is assumed as of right now that Empire Market has officially exit scammed, as discussions about the downed DNM are all over forums and social media on Wednesday. The Twitter account @Darkdotfail or Dark.fail explained early Wednesday morning (ET) that the DNM is gone, ending a long “golden age” of trust.

“Empire, the largest darknet cryptomarket is gone. With no explanation from its admins and no announcement from law enforcement, this looks like a devastating exit scam,” Dark.fail tweeted. “The darknet was in a golden age of trust. Expect a rough year of exit scams ahead as trust is rediscovered.”

Dark.fail’s thread continues by adding that the massive DNM was launched in January 2018 after the fall of the infamous Alphabay marketplace. Empire Market quickly grew to 1.3 million users in a matter of no time.

Dark.fail’s Twitter thread estimates that Empire staff members may have gotten away with around $30 million from the exit scam. “A staff member estimates under the condition of anonymity that the admins profited 2,638 BTC, $30 million USD,” the researcher notes.

Empire Market has been down since it went offline on August 22, 2020, which is a total of four consecutive days. Reports say that even though the DNM operators have stolen around 2,638 BTC, onchain funds stemming from the DNM have not moved yet.

On the Reddit forum r/darknet a great number of the 128,000 subscribers are talking about the incident. Some posts assume that the Empire Market “money is gone” and people have been checking the BTC addresses they leveraged while using the marketplace.

Individuals are also discussing how much they lost from Empire Market’s sudden departure. Some Empire users claim to have lost just a few dollars, others lost hundreds, and a few people said the moderators got a few thousand from their purses.

“$5.5k in escrow [right now] for me,” said one Empire patron. [Two] orders arrived yesterday, $500, and $350 (couldn’t finalize em though).”

On the DNM forum called Dread, a known Empire staff member named “Se7en” said the marketplace was indeed down but he doesn’t believe it was an exit scam. Although many DNM insiders do not believe Se7en’s story and some have insisted that “Se7en deleted his Dread account.”

The researcher Dark.fail has also been discussing the character called Se7en as well. Dark.fail’s recent Twitter thread highlights that “eight major sites exit scammed in 2019 after Wall Street Market’s seizure, yet Empire remained trustworthy.”

The Twitter account and a number of Empire fans on the Reddit forum r/darknet also said a lot of people assumed Empire Market would be different. “Launched ‘in the memory of Alexandre Cazes’ – the alleged AlphaBay admin who committed suicide – many believed that Empire was not operating out of greed, but to continue AlphaBay’s movement,” Dark.fail added.

The Twitter account and DNM analyst further stated:

What really caused this sudden disappearance with everyone’s money? We may never know.

What do you think about the possible demise of the DNM Empire Market? Let us know what you think about this subject in the comments section below.

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