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The Dark Side Exposed: Delving into Darknet Market Operations
Last updated : May 22, 2024
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The Dark Side Exposed: Delving into Darknet Market Operations

 

Delve into the mysterious world of Darknet Market Operations, where hidden transactions and illicit activities thrive. In this article, we uncover the inner workings and complexities of these darknet marketplaces, shedding light on the intricate web of operations that take place behind the scenes. We’re certainly going to get into drugs. Join us on a captivating journey as we explore the clandestine nature of Darknet Market Operations, revealing the challenges, risks, and motivations driving this shadowy realm.

 

 

 

What Is A Darknet Market?

 

A Darknet Market is an online marketplace that operates on the dark web, a hidden part of the internet. These markets allow users to buy and sell various goods, including illicit items like drugs, counterfeit goods, and stolen data. Darknet markets operate anonymously, utilizing encryption and cryptocurrencies to ensure privacy. They often require special software to access and maintain a level of secrecy. While some may argue they provide a platform for illegal activities, others claim they serve as a means of free exchange.

 

Who Are Darknet Vendors?

 

Darknet vendors are individuals who operate within the hidden corners of the internet to sell various goods and services. They navigate the encrypted networks of the dark web, offering a wide range of products, including drugs, counterfeit items, hacking tools, and more. These vendors often use pseudonyms and cryptocurrencies for anonymity and conduct transactions on darknet marketplaces. While some vendors engage in illegal activities, it's important to note that not all vendors are involved in illicit practices. Understanding the role of darknet vendors sheds light on the complexities of the underground economy and the challenges faced by law enforcement agencies in combating cybercrime.

 

What Are The Reasons For Becoming Dark Web Vendors?

 

Curious about the motivations behind individuals becoming dark web vendors? Discover the underlying factors, incentives, and unique circumstances that contribute to this underground marketplace. Uncover the untold stories and shed light on the motivations behind those who choose to become dark web vendors.


1. Financial Incentives: Profits in the Shadows

 

Dark web vendors are enticed by the potential for significant financial gains. The anonymous nature of the dark web allows for lucrative illegal activities such as drug sales, counterfeit goods, and hacking services. This helps to make money on the dark web and overcome financial constraints people usually come across in their lifetimes. The absence of traditional financial regulations and the ability to accept cryptocurrencies contribute to higher profits and reduced chances of being traced by authorities.


2. Escaping Traditional Constraints: Freedom from Regulations

 

Operating as a dark web vendor provides individuals with the freedom to bypass legal and regulatory restrictions. Traditional marketplaces often come with numerous regulations, licensing requirements, and compliance obligations. By operating in the dark web, vendors can avoid these constraints and operate with relative anonymity, reducing the risk of legal repercussions.


3. Access to a Global Market: Expanding Reach and Customer Base

 

One of the key attractions of becoming a dark web vendor is the ability to access a global market. Unlike traditional markets that are limited by geographical boundaries, the dark web allows vendors to reach customers from all around the world. This opens up new opportunities for expanding their business and tapping into a larger customer base.


4. Anonymity and Security: Protecting Identity and Operations

 

Dark web vendors prioritize anonymity and security to protect their identity and operations. The dark web utilizes encryption and anonymity tools such as Tor to conceal the identity of both buyers and sellers. Vendors can operate under pseudonyms, reducing the risk of being identified and targeted by law enforcement agencies or rival criminals.


5. Specialized Skills and Expertise: Utilizing Technical Know-How

 

Dark web vendors often possess specialized skills and knowledge that enable them to engage in illicit activities. These skills can include hacking, programming, cybersecurity, and other technical expertise. Leveraging these skills, vendors can offer various illegal goods and services, such as stolen data, hacking tools, or forged documents, catering to the demands of the dark web market.


6. Supply and Demand Dynamics: Meeting Market Needs

 

Dark web vendors adapt their offerings to meet the demands of the market. They identify the specific needs and preferences of dark web users, whether it be drugs, counterfeit items, stolen credentials, or other illicit products. By catering to these demands, vendors can establish themselves as reliable sources, ensuring a steady customer base and potential profits.



What Do New Vendors Observe On The Darknet Marketplaces?

 

When new vendors enter the realm of darknet marketplaces, they encounter a unique environment with distinct observations. From understanding the dynamics of buyer-seller interactions to navigating the challenges of establishing trust, we delve into the observations that shape the experiences of these newcomers.

 

  1. Nobody uses their real name on the darknet. In fact, everyone is trying hard to hide from their real identity by using VPNs, cryptocurrencies, and pseudonyms.
  2. You can assume everyone is a criminal or a federal agent.
  3. The feds are actively looking to take down the criminals. The newcomers pay attention to all those methods on how the feds catch people. So, other people’s missteps become the rules of newcomers to live by.
  4. Most cannabis vendors grow cannabis themselves. Some of them are even botanists or studied botany. They import Master Kush seeds from the EU and refine them. They are quite knowledgeable about macro nutrients, micro nutrients, deep-water cultures, ScrOGs, all this kinda stuff; aeration and nutrient deficiencies and they can tell about nutrient deficiencies in plants.

 

How Do DNM Vendors Have Their First Dip Into The Vendor Pool?

 

DNM vendors take their first dip into the vendor pool through a step-by-step process. It begins with building trust within the darknet community, gaining reputation through smaller transactions, and gradually expanding their offerings. Vendors utilize secure communication channels, employ stealth techniques, and establish a solid customer base. They prioritize quality, reliability, and discretion to thrive in the competitive darknet market. By carefully navigating this path, vendors establish themselves as trusted players and become an integral part of the darknet ecosystem.

Moving on to making money on the darkweb by selling drugs, not a lot can be made initially. On the first week, a vendor can make around $300 and in the second week it could probably go upto $500. Some weeks there will be no income probably because there will be no orders or Bitcoin (BTC) value might drop 20%. And the vendors have to hold back till the BTC value goes back to at least 20%. It is definitely a slow start. Simultaneously, to keep up with the increase in the sales, they remain active on the various dark web forums and communities. This is because the engagement and posts they do on these hidden forums raise their sales exponentially. This helps the vendors or the newbies to remain the best manufacturer and seller. 

This is the sole way they maximize their profits. If they are the manufacturer and retailer at the same time, their ROI becomes insane. So, if they sell moonshine and spend $10 to $14, then they can turn that into $100 at a minimum. So, from this, if they make apple pie brandy, the earnings are multiplied by 5 and that their return becomes $500. 

 

How Do The Darknet Vendors Reduce Cost While Maximizing Their Profits?

 

Darknet vendors employ various strategies to reduce costs and maximize profits, ensuring their illicit operations remain lucrative. Here are key methods they employ:

 

  • Bulk Purchasing

 

Darknet vendors understand that buying illicit goods in large quantities offers cost advantages. By purchasing in bulk, they can negotiate better prices with suppliers and reduce the overall cost per unit. This strategy allows them to maximize their profit margins while still offering competitive prices to customers.


  • Cryptocurrency Transactions

 

Darknet vendors primarily rely on cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Monero (XMR) for transactions. Cryptocurrencies provide a level of anonymity and security that traditional banking systems lack. By using cryptocurrencies, vendors can avoid transaction fees associated with conventional payment methods and bypass the need for intermediaries, thereby reducing costs and increasing their profits.


  • Dropshipping and Fulfillment Services

 

Some darknet vendors collaborate with third-party suppliers who handle inventory management and drop shipping. This approach allows vendors to reduce overhead costs associated with maintaining physical stock and managing logistics. By outsourcing these aspects to specialized fulfillment services, vendors can focus on marketing and expanding their customer base while minimizing operational expenses.


  • Operational Security

 

Darknet vendors prioritize operational security to mitigate risks and protect their profits. They employ measures like using encrypted communication channels, utilizing secure operating systems, and implementing strict privacy practices. By maintaining a low profile and avoiding detection by law enforcement, vendors can continue their operations without disruption, ensuring sustained profitability.


  • Digital Marketing and Reputation

 

Darknet vendors understand the importance of building a strong online presence and positive reputation. They leverage customer reviews, forums, and word-of-mouth marketing to attract more buyers. Positive feedback and a reliable reputation increase customer trust, driving sales and profitability.


  • Encryption and Anonymity

 

Darknet vendors use encryption tools and virtual private networks (VPNs) to protect their identities and communications. These measures ensure their activities remain hidden from prying eyes, enhancing their security and minimizing the risk of detection. By maintaining anonymity, vendors safeguard their profits and avoid legal consequences.


  • Minimizing Operational Footprint

 

Darknet vendors often operate within decentralized marketplaces or hidden services. These platforms provide an added layer of security and make it difficult for law enforcement to track their activities. By avoiding centralized platforms and minimizing their operational footprint, vendors can reduce the risk of exposure and maintain their profitability.


  • Vendor Collaboration

 

Collaboration among darknet vendors allows for resource sharing, information exchange, and joint efforts to optimize operations. By working together, vendors can share costs, pool resources, and leverage each other's expertise. This collaboration ultimately leads to increased efficiency and profitability for all parties involved.


  • Efficient Supply Chain Management

 

Darknet vendors aim to establish direct relationships with manufacturers or trusted suppliers. By eliminating unnecessary intermediaries, they can reduce costs and ensure a reliable supply of illicit goods. Efficient supply chain management enables vendors to maintain competitive prices while maximizing their profits.

 

  • Shipping Supplies

 

Shipping supplies can easily start adding up. Thus, the best thing is to use the United States Postal Service (USPS). This is because they offer free supplies on their website. So, if a vendor wants to purchase bubble wrap for packaging, they have to buy a lot of bubble wraps from Amazon with credit cards. The order is sent directly at the doorstep of the vendor although it will cost a lot and could be some opsec mismanagement. But with USPS, you can get free envelopes that vendor’s can even collect by themselves, cutting down a lot of costs.

Similarly, if the vendors want to make their package really stuffed, they need to buy crumpled papers or crinkle papers off Amazon. To reduce cost and maintain opsec, the vendors order generic catalogs from USPS that are really big like Grainger having 500 to 2,000 pages in them. Then they can tear them and crinkle them or crumple them for their packaging. 

 

  • Continuous Innovation

 

Darknet vendors understand the importance of staying ahead of law enforcement and competitors. They invest in technological advancements, such as automated systems and improved stealth packaging, to enhance efficiency and minimize the risk of detection. By continuously innovating and adapting to the evolving landscape, vendors can optimize their operations and remain profitable.



How Do Darknet Vendors Hide Their Digital Footprints?

 

Darknet vendors employ various techniques to conceal their digital footprints, ensuring anonymity and evading law enforcement. Here are some key methods they use:

 

1. Encryption Tools

 

Encryption tools, such as Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), play a crucial role in hiding darknet vendors' digital footprints. By using a VPN, vendors can mask their IP addresses and encrypt their internet traffic. This makes it difficult for anyone to track their online activities, ensuring their anonymity.

 

2. Tor Network

 

The Tor network is a widely used method for darknet vendors to hide their digital footprints. It allows users to access websites anonymously by routing their internet traffic through a series of volunteer-operated servers. This makes it challenging to trace the origin of the user's connection and provides an additional layer of privacy and security.

 

3. Tails Linux Operating System

 

The darknet vendors use the Tails Linux operating system, which has some extra security features. But the thing about the Tails operating system is that it gets completely wiped every time you reboot or shut down and has no memory of what you’ve done before. This means every time when the dark web vendors need to log in and check their orders, they have to reload Tails and re-enter their PGP key and Bitcoin key and do all that in order to authenticate and do business on the site.

 

4. Cryptocurrencies

 

Darknet vendors often rely on cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin, for financial transactions. Cryptocurrencies provide a certain level of pseudonymity as they do not require personal information to complete a transaction. The use of blockchain technology makes it difficult to trace the flow of funds, ensuring the privacy and anonymity of vendors.

 

5. Tumbling Services

 

To further obscure the transaction history of cryptocurrencies, vendors may employ tumbling services or mixers. These services combine multiple transactions from various sources, making it challenging to track the origin of specific funds. By mixing their transactions with others, vendors add an extra layer of anonymity to their financial activities.

 

6. PGP Encryption

 

Pretty Good Privacy (PGP) encryption is widely used by darknet vendors to secure their communication and protect sensitive information. PGP allows for the encryption of messages, ensuring that only the intended recipient can decrypt and read the content. This safeguards vendor conversations from interception and enhances privacy.

 

7. Stealth Shipping

 

To avoid suspicion and detection, darknet vendors employ stealth shipping methods. They use discreet packaging and false return addresses to mask the contents and origins of their shipments. This reduces the likelihood of authorities identifying illicit items during the shipping process.

 

8. Home Internet Connection

 

When you get on social media, chances are you just turn on your phone or your computer and you’re already logged into the site, just like where you were before. But being a dark web vendor, you don’t want to do that with darknet marketplaces. This is because suppose you get caught by the cops and they take your computer and open it and they can just see that you’re logged in as a vendor on the site. That’s some smoking evidence that they’d have on you. 

So, the deep web vendors try to hide their tracks so that it looked like they were never even on a darknet marketplace to begin with. For one, they never use their home internet connection to do illegal things online. They points their antenna towards their neighbor’s house and are able to figure out a way to get onto their network.

 

9. Secure Communication Channels

 

Darknet vendors rely on secure messaging platforms, such as Pidgin, Wickr or Telegram, to communicate with buyers and maintain their privacy. These platforms offer end-to-end encryption, ensuring that only the intended recipients can access the messages. Some platforms even provide self-destructing messages, adding an extra layer of security.

 

10. Flash Drive and Alcohol

 

Having possession of the two private keys, PGP Key and Bitcoin Key would easily prove to the feds that the arrested (if arrested) is the vendor on the site. So, the dark web vendor needs to protect those keys very well, and thus he is required to store them both on a little USB flash drive. 

The deep web drug vendors mostly carry their flash drive with stored keys in case of emergency. Whether they are moonshiner or not, they carry 170 proof alcohol at all times. So, it’s possible for them at any time to take this flash drive out of their pocket, pour 170 proof alcohol on it and light it and hopefully melt it to a point where it can’t be recovered.

But really, obviously, that’s not a guarantee. It’s not like they always have thermite sitting around, even though that was an idea of theirs always.

 

11. Regular Perimeter Checks

 

Regular perimeter checks are important to locate any unusual activity around the operational area that can get the darknet vendors arrested. They usually watch and see if anyone is coming quite a ways away. The regular perimeter checks are usually carried out at least four times in a day. They walk around, look through almost every window in the house and just kind of look at what was going on outside. They try to find out if there is a car parked down the street and if so for how long, the regularity of the same car parked at the same spot etc.

 

12. Cell Phones Outside

 

The darkweb drug vendors do not own a cell phone and expect others to leave theirs in the car when visiting. Cell phones are not allowed for darknet market vendors to maintain security.

 

13. Online Operational Security Practices

 

Darknet market drug vendors are well aware of the risks involved in their activities and employ operational security practices to mitigate those risks. They frequently change usernames, use strong passwords, and employ burner devices (disposable or temporary devices) to avoid detection. 

“Do not drink and type” is one of the best mottos in the darknet market operations. The darknet vendors consider this to be even more dangerous than drinking and driving. Complacency happens when you become comfortable with someone, like when two people know each other for a few years on IRC. Then, one gets drunk one night and the other calls him by their username. But he says it's okay to call him by his real name, mentioning that. It's like that situation, but on the darknet, where the other could potentially be an undercover agent. Now, the undercover agent has some information about the drunk guy, like first name and a general idea of his location. Over time, more information will leak that the undercover agents can use to figure it out.

These practices minimize the chances of being tracked or identified by law enforcement agencies.

 

Shipping And Packaging

 

The darknet vendors strictly stick to USPS for shipping their products. This is because it’s run by the federal government, which means they require a warrant to open it. If the vendors ship through DHL, UPS, FedEx – any of those are private companies, they can open the package at will, whereas with USPS, they require a warrant and they need reasonable suspicion with probable cause in order to apply for that search warrant and have the federal judge sign off on their ability to even open that package.

Making a package safe to ship is actually kind of difficult because the deepweb vendors try to make it as generic as possible so that the carrier partners can classify almost any package as suspicious. For instance, if the vendors use, “too much tape”, which is arbitrary and upto them as to how much tape is too much tape, if the vendors have a fake return address, a handwritten address, if it’s not an official USPS box and even a fake sender address, all of these things culminate to create a suspicious package. Pairing the variables allows the vendors to combine them and establish probable cause. They can then present this case to a federal judge and request a warrant to open it.

Shipping packages can be a big task. The vendors cannot simply give them to the mail carrier who comes to their house. They need to find a way to send them anonymously, without being traced back to the origin. A public mailbox on the street corner could be a good option. The vendors put stamps on the packages and place them in the mailbox. However, it becomes difficult when they are trying to ship a bottle of moonshine. Additionally, it is not advisable to put all their letters in one mailbox or consistently use the same mailbox. 

Some vendors also have trusted people or family members to do the shipping for them but with rigid rules. Additionally, they also get a percentage or commission. This could be 5% of the total shipment, 5% of the total profit margin plus a standard fee. This means that they get $5 a package, plus the percentage, plus gas money, all the expenses, car payments. They are also allowed to enjoy some other amenities such as free wifi, a place to stay and basically every possible thing that they require. 

The vendors usually wake up in the morning to check their new orders while the other people engage in shipping. The DNM vendors print addresses on thermal labels or thermal paper because they don't have microprinting as it doesn't use ink, so their IP addresses won't be on the label. 

Printers often include tiny dots on printed pages, which are difficult to see and often go unnoticed. These dots are believed to be used for tracking purposes, allowing the paper to be traced back to the specific printer that produced it. The exact information encoded in these dots is not known for certain, but they serve as a kind of signature indicating the printer's origin. This feature may aid law enforcement in identifying counterfeit money and determining if it originated from the same source. While it is advisable to avoid using printers that employ this tracking method, it is unclear how effective it is in truly concealing one's tracks.

For instance, a darknet vendor sends one of their buyers half a pound of weed. He will print the buyer’s address and write half a pound of weed on the back. The package is sealed in his clean room. He will then use a fake return address and put a destination address on the box. He will throw away the label that says half a pound.

 

 

The people who do the shipping by themselves, could be worried that if they sent out packages and the FBI found them, the FBI would see their fingerprints. It's true. They can ask if that is a problem. Honestly, this is not a problem as if they touch a box at the post office, they can still deny it. However, if their fingerprints are on the plastic that seals the drugs or inside the box, it's a different story. So, personally, the DNM drug vendors seal the package while wearing latex gloves and regularly bleach the area to remove any DNA. There's a lot of things to consider when packaging it up.

There's a lot of work involved in packaging this stuff. Let's say a darknet vendor is packaging just an ounce of weed. He puts it in a sandwich bag, seals it, removes the air, and wipes it with rubbing alcohol using a new pair of latex gloves. Then he puts it in a vacuum seal bag, vacuum-seal it, and dip the bag in a rubbing alcohol solution. After it dries, he seals it in another bag. The final bag is a visual barrier.

A visual barrier is a solid-colored vacuum seal bag that anyone can't see through. The darknet vendor vacuum-seals the last bag and prints a label that says “Organic Dried Fruit”. He then attaches the label to the visual barrier. If he handed this to anyone, they would feel dried fruit inside but wouldn't be able to see it due to the visual barrier. Even if someone accidentally stepped on the box and tried to look inside, the visual barrier would not reveal its contents. The box can be opened, but all they would see is the label that says “Organic Dried Fruit”. To access the actual contents, one would need to open the box and cut through the 2mm thick plastic.

The DNM drug vendor would do that because of permeation. He can put weed in a bag, stick it in a PVC pipe, and put it in a block of concrete. Then, he can place the concrete block in a gas tank. If he leaves it there for a while, a drug-sniffing dog will smell the cannabis through the metal of the gas tank, the gas, the concrete, the PVC pipe, and the plastic bag because it permeates. Nothing in this world is solid, everything is made up of atoms and even atoms are mostly empty space. Permeation can go through anything, but it may take longer for some substances.

Most vendors don't need to use concrete or steel like the cartels do when shipping large amounts. They use two to three-day shipping and seal it in four layers. This prevents the smell from permeating the bags and being detected by dogs. They make sure there is no residue on the outside by changing their gloves, using rubbing alcohol, and cleaning the package multiple times.

There is one more precaution to take with shipping labels. Every three packages should have a different return address because law enforcement is alerted to fraudulent return addresses. The darknet vendors have to find a database of legitimate return addresses. They want to make sure that they don’t use good people’s return addresses because it could have negative consequences. 

If they used good people’s addresses and illegal substances were found, the Department of Homeland Security could come to their house early in the morning, causing them to miss work or their boss finding out about the raid and them losing their job. It would be difficult to defend themselves in this situation, as everyone claims innocence. The stigma and trauma that their children would experience would also be associated with it.

The DNM vendors need a list of people to find, so they look at the sex offender registry and find the worst sex offenders, Level 3, to use their names as the return address. This made it a legitimate address where they could be reasonably sure that kids didn't live. If this person got caught, they didn't care because they have no sympathy for child molesters. These sex offenders are called "chomos" in federal prison and "pedos" on the darknet and elsewhere. Having this list was great because there are sex offenders all over the country, and the vendors didn't feel guilty about using them for their bad purposes because these sex offenders had used someone else for their bad purposes before. They see it as karma.

The vendors of the dark web hand over the packages to their shippers to send them. They also have some rules to follow. Each post office could only have three packages. So, if they were sending nine packages that day, the shipper would have to go to three or more post offices. The shipper would send the packages from these post offices, get receipts, and bring them back. Then, the vendors would cross off the town's name. The next day, they would choose a different county. That's how they rotated.

The vendors make sure they don’t go to that same post office for six months because they think if the authorities find out they sent a package from there, they might set up surveillance. They usually do that. So, enjoy because they won't be back for six months. 

 

All About Drug Usage

 

The drug vendors find it interesting how criminals avoid certain things for ethical reasons. The vendors could never run a darknet marketplace because it would stress them out and have negative effects on their health. They saw a warning poster in a coffee shop bathroom in a town. It advised people to be cautious as there was a dangerous batch of drugs, specifically fentanyl, circulating. 

This week, there were two deaths related to fentanyl in a town. One person was found dead in a bathroom and another overdosed in a jail cell. Fentanyl is an extremely powerful painkiller, fifty times stronger than morphine. The problem is that people can easily take too much of it and die, without even realizing they are consuming it.

A vendor on the darknet market was selling Xanax and oxycodone. However, the drugs were not what people thought they were. The seller had mixed fentanyl with the Xanax and oxycodone. This poses a danger to those who purchase these substances. Instead of going through the proper channels of seeing a doctor and obtaining a prescription, some individuals choose to order these drugs from a darknet marketplace. This is risky because there is a chance of receiving a product that is laced with fentanyl, which greatly increases the risk of overdosing.

It's important to test the drugs you buy because people often die from fentanyl. You can use fentanyl strips to check if the drug you purchased contains fentanyl. Most vendors wouldn't want to be a darknet market admin because if they knew someone was adding dangerous substances to drugs and causing deaths, they would feel obligated to find out who sold it. The person who sold laced oxycodone was arrested and sentenced to twenty years in prison. He is likely responsible for multiple deaths. Some vendors on darknet marketplaces don't care at all.

 

How Do DNM Vendors Usually Cash Out?

 

It's really easy for a darknet vendor to cash out. One of the easiest ways is through drugs. People might be surprised, but it's simple. A high-quality ounce of weed costs around $225 to $250, in most cases. On the darknet, the vendor can buy an ounce for only $30. So, their plan is to buy a lot of this cheap weed and sell it to people they trust, who are social and won't talk, for $1,600 per pound. That's $100 per ounce, compared to the usual price of $225 to $250.

This guy can sell ounces for $150, undercutting everyone by almost a hundred bucks and making a good amount of money. He doesn't have to put up any money. He can do this and come back with the profit in about a week or two. So, the darknet vendors are getting cash from various sources.

So basically, the theory of the darknet vendors is that if this person got caught, they wouldn't snitch on him because he was giving them good deals. In addition to converting their cryptocurrency into cash using this method, they also exchange their Bitcoin for Monero, which is more private and harder to track. Then they cash out their Monero.

At the end, there was a vendor on the darknet named Gold (G-O-L-D). He would charge a fee of five to ten percent and you could send him your Bitcoin. In return, he would send you cash through the mail. The darknet vendors really liked this system because it offered a new way to convert Bitcoin into cash. Instead of dealing with crypto exchanges that require a lot of personal information, they could simply give their Bitcoin to someone and receive cash in the mail.

 

How Do Darknet Markets Usually Settle Disputes?

 

Darknet markets operate in a unique and clandestine manner, including the way they settle disputes between buyers and sellers. Instead of relying on traditional legal systems, these markets employ their own mechanisms. One common approach is the use of escrow services, where funds are held by a trusted third party until the transaction is completed satisfactorily. If a dispute arises, an arbitrator or mediator, often chosen by the market administrators, steps in to resolve the issue. 

Communication platforms and forums within the market also play a crucial role in dispute resolution, allowing parties to present evidence and negotiate. The mediator decides whether to give a full refund or a partial refund based on factors like the buyer and seller's reputation, account age, and presence on other darknet markets. While this system may lack the formalities of traditional legal processes, it aims to maintain the integrity and trust within the darknet market community.

 

Not All Darknet Market Vendors Are “Feds”

 

Contrary to popular belief, not all vendors on darknet markets are government agents or "feds." While law enforcement agencies do monitor and occasionally infiltrate these platforms, it's important to understand that the vast majority of vendors are independent individuals operating for various reasons.

There are various people who work for feds, probably have had darknet related sentencing as well at one point but now appointed to work for feds to lessen their sentence. The government sees potential in them as they already know the nitty and gritty of the darknet market operations. The government usually gives them a laptop to continue taking orders. The government doesn't want them to actually send drugs, but just gather information. This offer is available to all those who are arrested to be a part of drug cartels and get arrested. 

Operation Dark Gold is just the case. Gold was arrested and questioned by the federal authorities. They offered Gold a choice: either work for them or go to jail. Gold agreed to cooperate, and this operation was called Operation Dark Gold. As a result, a vendor sent Gold some Bitcoin, and Gold sent the vendor some cash. However, the vendor found this situation confusing. He believed that there was no wrongdoing in exchanging Bitcoin for cash between friends. The vendor, when arrested, informed the authorities that this exchange was not a crime. The United States Attorney argued that paying a ten percent fee to cash out Bitcoin indicated criminal intent.

 

What Are Some Backup Plans Vendors Have If They Get Arrested?

 

Vendors operating in the darknet market understand the risks involved and often have backup plans in place to mitigate the impact of potential arrests. While specific strategies may vary, here are a few common backup plans vendors may employ:

 

1. Limiting Packages

 

Often the shippers or associated shippers become careless. Usually, 3 packages per post office is the ideal deal. They go to the post office with, say, twelve packages. Out of those twelve, three bear the same return address. The next three bear a different return address from another town. However, they keep going to the post office with more packages, sometimes even fifteen or twenty. And now, every three packages bear a different return address. This is the only reason that mostly raises suspicion. Keep in mind this isn't enough for a warrant. It will be suspicious and give reasonable suspicion, but not probable cause.

If they feds cut open the package and spot the contents within, they put the suspected vendor on surveillance. They can even get to their home or workplace by following them. 

 

2. Frank’s Hearing

 

The accused’s lawyer can apply for Frank’s Hearing. A Frank's Hearing is when you can prove that law enforcement broke the law to catch you. It is very challenging to obtain Frank’s Hearing. It is extremely difficult to get one. However, it has always been the security plan for the dark web vendors in the darknet market operations from the beginning. They make the maze so complex that the law enforcement would have to jump over a wall to catch them. It's like what you see on Law & Order, where they break the law and everything they found is considered invalid. 

They have no other options. If all the evidence from the arrest and search warrant is dismissed, there is no case. Remember, the federal government has a 99% conviction rate. They rarely lose. It's like playing chess with someone who has all their pawns turned into queens. They are almost guaranteed to win. That's what it's like that goes against them. Thus, in most cases, the United States Attorney refuses to go to the hearing. 

If the attorney attends the hearing, the conspiracy charges of the accused remain while 90% of the other charges drop. This is basically a part of the PSR or Pre-Sentence Report. A PSR is a report that tells about the vendor’s life. When the accused vendor is arraigned and released, his lawyer asks if he wanted to do a proffer. Proffer is telling the feds or law about the accused’s actions, employers, customers, and vendors.

 

What Are The Scams Done By Some Vendors On The Darknet Markets

 

Scams perpetrated by vendors on darknet markets have unfortunately become a prevalent issue. It's important to be aware of these scams to protect yourself in the online realm. Some common scams include:

 

1. Non-Delivery Scam

 

In this scam, vendors on darknet markets and vendor shops accept payments from buyers but fail to deliver the ordered products. They may provide fake tracking numbers or disappear altogether, leaving buyers frustrated and without the items they paid for. This scam often preys on the anonymity of the darknet, making it difficult for buyers to track down the fraudulent vendors.

 

2. Substandard Product Scam

 

Some vendors advertise high-quality products on darknet markets, enticing buyers with promises of superior goods. However, when the products are delivered, they turn out to be of subpar quality or even counterfeit. This scam capitalizes on buyers' expectations and trust, leading to disappointment and wasted money.

 

3. Exit Scam

 

Exit scams involve vendors gaining the trust of customers over time by delivering products as promised. However, when they have amassed a significant customer base and received a substantial amount of money, they suddenly disappear, leaving buyers without any recourse. This scam can cause significant financial losses for unsuspecting buyers.

 

4. Underweight or Shortage Scam

 

In this type of scam, vendors manipulate the quantity of the product they sell. For instance, they may advertise a certain weight of a substance but provide a lower quantity upon delivery. Buyers end up receiving less than what they paid for, resulting in financial loss and frustration.

 

5. Phishing Scam

 

Some fraudulent vendors set up fake websites or listings on darknet markets to collect buyers' personal information or payment details. They create an illusion of legitimacy, tricking buyers into providing sensitive data. This information can be used for identity theft or unauthorized financial transactions through phishing, causing severe harm to the victims.

 

6. Account Hacking Scam

 

In this scam, scammers gain unauthorized access to legitimate vendor accounts on darknet markets. They then change the payment details associated with the account, redirecting funds to their own accounts instead of the genuine vendor. Buyers unwittingly send money to the scammer, believing it is going to the trusted vendor. This scam can result in significant financial loss for both buyers and legitimate vendors.

 

Conclusion


Our exploration of darknet market operations has shed light on the hidden world of illicit online trade. We have delved into the intricate workings and complexities of these secretive marketplaces, revealing the risks and implications they pose. By understanding the dark side, we can better protect ourselves and our online communities.



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Published at : 07/07/2023




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