Empire Market Closes in Exit Scam
Empire Market has now been offline since August 22, prompting fears that it has exit scammed. In a test of its primary links, none worked; likewise, none of its mirror links are working.
If, as suspected, it is closed for good, then its admin has stolen an estimated $30 million in cryptocurrency. Users on Dread initially discussed the possibility that the site may have been down due to DDoS attacks (which is a common occurrence on Tor), but as the situation developed further, it appeared that it may be a permanent closure. Dark.fail lists all of Empire’s URLs as being offline, and also made an announcement regarding its disappearance:
ALERT: Empire Market disappeared with its users' funds. No updates from admin team. Be very cautious if Empire returns. Watch my Twitter for updates. (The link directs to dark.fail’s nitter account.)
Likewise, other prominent dark web news sites, such as Darknet Live, have also removed it from their lists of darknet markets. A post on Dread by one of the site’s moderators postulated that the site was closing down, but was not exit scamming in the traditional sense, as they had not disabled withdrawals, nor had they shown any of the other typical signs:
Its [sic] now been over 48 hours of the market being down. The market mod panel has also been down that long. I had hoped it would have returned by now. It is looking very unlikely that it will. The mod panel is down and the admins are not on jabber.
I don't think the admins ever planned an exit, planned exits usually disable withdrawals and continue accepting deposits for weeks sometimes even much longer. It was only a week ago when BTC on the market temporarily stopped working and the admins fixed it fast allowing BTC withdrawals again. If it was a planned exit i [sic] don't think they would have put in any work fixing BTC withdrawals that close to the end. They had frequently told me they wanted Empire to be the longest living market in history and for the most part i [sic] do think that was their intentions [sic] and is why the market was online for as long as it was. Having said that. It is sad the admins didn't give any notice of the closure and there is no excuse for that.
If Empire is truly gone for good, then the question remains: which market will take its place as the number one darknet market? White House Market, Monopoly Market, Dark0de, and other top markets have similar varieties of goods and large user bases.
Almost immediately following announcements of the alleged exit scam, Dread users began asking what the “new” market would be. Some of the responses suggested White House Market, Icarus, CannaHome, and DeepSea, though as is usually the case, several users debated over the merits of each.
Dark.fail, in a series of tweets, listed several of the major darknet markets that they suggested, along with the general qualities of each (accepted forms of payment, source code, numbers of listings, etc.).
A separate post in /d/DarkNetMarkets offered suicide hotline numbers and support for those who lost all of their money and assets. It remains to be seen who will take up the mantle of top market, but in the past, as when law enforcement seized AlphaBay and Hansa Market, users migrated to some of the largest existing markets while competitors took the risk of starting up brand new sites.