The operators of a deep-web market called Evolution Marketplace have disappeared with more than $12 million worth of Bitcoin in what seems to have been an “exit scam,” reported The Guardian Wednesday.
A Reddit user called NSWGreat, self-identified as a moderator for the website, raised the first red flag in a post published to the DarkNetMarkets subreddit marked “EVOLUTION EXIT SCAM.”
“I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but I’ve been suspicious the past few days,” wrote NSWGreat, as reported by The Guardian. “I have admin access to see parts of the back end, the admins are preparing to exit scam with all the funds. Not a single withdrawal has gone through in almost a week.”
NSWGreat wrote that s/he personally had $20,000 worth of Bitcoin in escrow at the site, and had confronted Evolution’s operators, who go by the aliases Kimble and Verto, on Tuesday evening. The administrators then confirmed the scam, according to NSWGreat.
Shortly thereafter, the site had vanished.
NSWGreat wrote in an update, “Servers have gone down, including back up server for staff. I’m sorry for everyone’s losses, I’m gutted and speechless. I feel so betrayed.”
Speaking anonymously to The Guardian, one Evolution vendor said they had been on the site for two years. “No it’s gone; I just lost my career,” the vendor said, adding they had lost approximately $5,000 in the scam.
Another vendor told the newspaper they had lost $50,000 worth of Bitcoin and felt “absolutely terrible.”
“I have lost everything I had worked for over the past year. That was my retirement fund,” the vendor said.
On Tuesday evening, hundreds of Reddit users took to the website to vent their frustrations at the scam, some even talking about hiring hit men to kill Kimble and Verto.
The scam may have some serious consequences for users, with one Redditor writing that he owed money to drug dealers in real life, reported The Guardian.
The newspaper reported that a user named DeepThroat told Evolution’s administrators that they had 24 hours until he would begin giving their identities to other users so that they could take revenge.
DeepThroat posted a screenshot purporting to be from Kimble and Verto, offering $5,000 in exchange for silence.
Revealing identities, known as “doxxing” – is considered taboo in deep-web circles. But DeepThroat implied in posts that the matter called for extreme measures. “Doxxing is forbidden and crossing that line is I don’t even know what. But in this case pressure has to be applied for them to realize they can’t walk away from this unscathed,” wrote DeepThroat.
The Guardian said it contacted DeepThroat to verify the claims but has not yet received a response.