Stories of withdrawal requests ignored, vendors banned without reason, support/dispute tickets unprocessed for months, and five-figure balances trapped in user accounts are just the start in an avalanche of complaints against the now defunct AlphaBay darknet market. Many of such complaints are only recently coming to light thanks to the recent return of the Dread forum, and they paint a picture that suggests a well-coordinated exit scam by market architect and admin DeSnake.
Although Dread’s main Tor URL has been unreachable for most during the past few days, those with private mirrors to the forum are still able to access it. Several former vendors of AlphaBay have taken the opportunity to describe the difficulties they faced in the weeks or months leading up to admin DeSnake’s disappearance and the subsequent closure of the market.
Even before AlphaBay went offline completely, sometime around Feb 14th, an anomalous volume of users had been lodging complaints against it on Reddit, with buyers relaying stories of being credited with amounts of XMR lower than what they had deposited, and vendors complaining they had been banned for no reason; their funds confiscated by the market.
Not all former AlphaBay users are convinced DeSnake is a scammer. Source: Dread
One redditor went so far as to accuse a high-level staff member, The Cypriot, of having “gone rogue,” banning several vendors for the sake of appropriating funds from their accounts. Lending credence to this theory is the fact that shortly before Dread went offline in late November, several vendors expressed their concern on the forum that The Cypriot was indeed unfairly banning them, perhaps due to having insider knowledge that the market was about to go down.
“Yes a lot of us are getting banned for nothing,” wrote Dread user swissgod on Nov 19th, relaying an experience shared by at least a dozen other AlphaBay vendors in the month before Dread went offline.
“I had open ticket from a new account on market yesterday night no one had responded till now on the ticket. But on their subdread they had enough time to delete my post after I had reported the problem publicly and told me to open a ticket. Even after they had read on my post that no one answer to the ticket.” – Dread user swissgod
Among the most widely-discussed theories as to why AlphaBay went offline were the possibility that DeSnake had taken advantage of Dread’s downtime to orchestrate an exit scam, been incarcerated, or that his PGP keys were compromised by law enforcement before the market’s return, with the first option being considered the most likely.
“Honestly, it was pretty weird that they came back, given DeSnake was almost certainly doxxed by Cazes’ laptop records etc., and thus DeSnake should have been apprehended in the original busts dead to rights,” wrote Dread user duckduckcop in a post on Mar 9th. “But yeah. Occam’s razor. They stole. They ran off,” they conceded.
The rush for competitor markets to pick up disenfranchised AlphaBay buyers and vendors is on, with some smaller markets even waiving their vendor bond fee for former vendors of the market. For now, Tor2Door seems to have the most success in attracting former AlphaBay users, largely thanks to a supportive community and consistent outreach from its administration.
Long-standing, veteran Reddit accounts have also recommended former customers of AlphaBay migrate to Bohemia, noting that several well-known vendors have moved there in recent weeks, setting up the exact same listings they had on AlphaBay. While ASAP continues to dominate in terms of overall number of listings, Bohemia appears to be closing in on them in terms of most popular darknet market.