Millions in BTC, XMR possibly stolen after reports of darknet market ‘exit scam’

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Users of a major darknet marketplace say they’ve been unable to withdraw Bitcoin (BTC) and Monero (XMR) as of Tuesday, March 5, amid growing fears of an “exit scam.”

The marketplace — Incognito Market — is known mainly as a platform to trade narcotics and is valued between $10 million to $30 million, according to cyberthreat intelligence provider Dark Web Informer.

Accusations from users began to build against the marketplace’s administrators on March 5 after warnings from users that their crypto withdrawals were failing.

Screenshot of a Dread forum user warning of an exit scam. Source: Dark Web Informer/X

The reports even saw a response from Incognito’s administrator “Pharoah” who posted on the Reddit-like darknet-based site Dread to assure users the issues were merely due to changes in Incognito’s withdrawal systems.

“Please note that the initial stages of this upgrade may briefly affect usability in the first few days since the servers are multitasking on both old data synchronization and new requests,” they said.

Dark Web Informer on X

However, continued reports of withdrawal issues, followed by a Dread post from a known dark web security sleuth and administrator, have now seemingly confirmed the “exit scam.” 

In a Dread post, Hugbunter claimed they had been in discussion with “Pharoah” where they were eventually offered a “bribe” to remove any Dread posts about Incognito.

“Unfortunately, I can 100% confirm the exit scam now.”

“My warning here will not make a difference to funds already lost to Incognito, but hopefully, this will be enough now to try and ensure users stay clear and avoid losing more,” added Hugbunter.

Hugbunter also posted the warning on Reddit. Source: Reddit

The alleged exit scam comes amid a Bitcoin rally that has seen the cryptocurrency clear its previous all-time high of $68,990, notching a new one at just above $69,200.

Related: Darknet market crypto crimes on the rise in 2023, $1.7B revenue — Chainalysis

Monero has also gained in the past week, reaching a 7-day high of $151.74, though it has since fallen to $142.01 at the time of publication.

In late February, the Chainalysis 2024 Crypto Crime Report revealed that darknet marketplaces received revenue of at least $1.7 billion in 2023 — a rebound from its 2022 data when authorities shut down the world’s largest darknet marketplace, Hydra.

While no single marketplace replaced Hydra, the report revealed that smaller marketplaces are thriving by serving specific niches and developing more “specialized roles.” Chainalysis highlighted Mega Darknet Market leading the pack with over $500 billion in crypto inflows.

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