Dark web marketplace AlphaBay has mysteriously been taken offline, prompting some users to speculate its administrators may have pulled off an elaborate exit scam.
The site, which was dubbed as “the new Silk Road”, disappeared from the dark web late on Tuesday around the same time that users noticed massive Bitcoin transactions that may have been linked to the site’s accounts.
This has led some to suspect the site’s owners may have made off with its users’ money.
Tech site the Verge reports that one blockchain record showed withdrawal transactions that may have been linked to AlphaBay of 1,479.03904709 Bitcoins (€2.2 million).
Writing on Reddit, somebody claiming to be linked to the site told readers: “Will be back online soon. Servers under update.”
Exit scams, which have become common on the dark web, involve established websites disappearing from the internet while in passion of large amounts of customers’ virtual cash.
One AlphaBay user wrote on Reddit: “I think everyone posting hate messages and even threats toward [AlphaBay] staff should just chill out…
“I have A LOT of money tied up right now and I have faith the website will be restored. If it has not come back up in a couple days I will start to panic…
“YOU chose to use an anon website to buy illicit substances, these are the risks you take when doing so.”
Another Redditor posted: “Now I’ll admit I don’t know for sure what’s going on, and I am a bit nervous myself because if this is the end then I’ve lost a couple hundred dollars myself.
“But think about it. Last year AlphaBay went down for about four days.
“Everyone was saying for sure that this was it, but it wasn’t.
“It took the AlphaBay moderators days to update people on what was going on too, they’re known to do this.”
In May this year, the Outlaw dark web marketplace disappeared from the internet abruptly, with its owners claiming the site was brought down by hackers.
Users however speculated that the site’s admins might have pulled an exit scam after finding a recent surge in the value of Bitcoin too attractive a proposition to ignore.
Back in 2015, the owners of the Evolution Marketplace made off with its customers’ virtual currency in an exit scam that was thought to have made them $12 million (€10.5 million).
AlphaBay, the Outlaw and Evolution Marketplace filled the void left by the original Silk Road marketplace, which was taken offline in 2013 after its chief admin and founder Ross Ulbricht was arrested in a San Francisco library performing maintenance on the website.
Proponents of dark web marketplaces claim the sites make it safer for people to buy drugs and more difficult of dealers to sell poor-quality products.