With slightly less than 2500 product listings at the time of the writing of this guide, Cartel Marketplace is a smaller darknet market that has a totally original design. Other than that, unfortunately, it really doesn’t have a whole lot to offer as the majority of major vendors seem content to host their business elsewhere. Longevity is king when it comes to darknet markets, though, so if it manages to pick up steam and popularity, it could attract business as competitors inevitably fall.
The layout of Cartel Marketplace is a bit clunky but nonetheless easy to navigate. The market itself features all the regular categories of product listings, with nothing too out of the ordinary, and listings are spread thin among the many subcategories. Most listings don’t have any purchases as of yet, and there are seldom listings with more than 10 purchases to be found. Don’t expect to find any vendors with hundreds of sales under their belts, although Cartel does import sales counts and ratings from other markets.
Other than its captcha system, which can be a bit annoying, a few of the unique things we noticed about Cartel Marketplace were:
- Split payment orders. Pay for an item using both Bitcoin and Monero.
- FE discount. Vendors can offer discounts to buyers who agree to pay via Finalize Early.
- Buyer-oriented dispute resolution service. Dispute admins appear to lean on the side of buyers.
- Listings by PageRank. Cartel created its own metric of popularity by which listings can be sorted.
- Hybrid account / order wallet system. Prefund your account or wait until placing an order.
Other than displaying some innovation in the areas listed above, Cartel Market is pretty standard and there isn’t a whole lot special going on. They do accept Monero in addition to the usual Bitcoin, which is a plus, but then they also rely on the centralized market wallet model, which is a bit outdated at this point. Perhaps Cartel is in it for the long haul, but just like every other darknet market, only time will tell, ultimately.
Quick Facts about Cartel Marketplace
- Link: mgybzfrldjn5drzv537skh7kgwgbq45dwha67r4elda4vl7m6qul5xqd.onion
- Founded: 2020
- Number of listings: 2,500
- Listing categories: Fraud, Drops, Scans, Drugs & Chemicals, Guides & Tutorials, Counterfeit Items, Digital Products, Other Physical Items, Services, Software & Malware, Security & Hosting
- Coins accepted: Bitcoin (BTC) and Monero (XMR)
- Multisignature escrow: Yes
- Finalize Early (FE) Allowed: Yes
- Vendor bond: $150
Before Getting Started
It’s a good idea to have a basic understanding of some key principles to having a successful darknet market experience. These include the following:
- How to transfer/store Bitcoin and/or Monero.
- How to use a Tor browser.
- How to practice good operations security (OpSec).
You’ll need to know the basics of how to move cryptocurrency from wallet-to-wallet. Along with this comes a basic OpSec reminder that you should never send coins straight to a darknet market from an exchange. This is especially true with Bitcoin, where the blockchain can easily link your real life identity to a market like Cartel if you have provided the exchange with your personal information. Even if sending XMR to Cartel, it is better to send it to an intermediary wallet in your control before sending it to the market itself. This will break any direct blockchain link between you and the market.
If you insist on using BTC (say, for some reason you don’t have access to XMR, though that’s not really a good excuse to not use Monero on a darknet market), consider sending it through a mixer (such as ChipMixer) or else a coinjoin-type wallet like Wasabi. This will serve to help protect your anonymity in the future.
If you’re a big fan of privacy, it’s well recommended to only access Tor from a computer that isn’t linked to your personal identity. This can be done by using a privacy-oriented operating system like the Tails OS, which is bootable from a thumb drive and leaves no record that your computer ever visited a Tor website in the first place.
1. Type “about:config” into the Tor browser address bar.
2. Pass through the warning and click “Show All” to bring up Tor configuration options.
4. Set the “javscript.enabled” option to “false”.
Finally, don’t fall victim to phishers. Cartel Marketplace is a relative newcomer and not nearly as popular as some of its competitors, but nevertheless its users are the targets of phishing attempts to extract their login information. The best way to avoid getting phished is to only use links that you have previously saved or links hosted by a trusted provider and accompanied with a PGP message signed by the marketplace. Don’t visit links provided by random websites, and remember to be selective when it comes to choosing who to trust.
How to Register an Account
After you have arrived at the login screen, look toward the bottom, where underneath the login button in tiny print you can see the words “Don’t have an account? Sign Up”. Click the link to begin the registration process.
You will need to input the following fields:
- Login ID (separate from your username)
- Public Username (accounts logged in to the market can view this name)
- Password (use a string of upper and lowercase letters, as well as a number and a special symbol)
- Confirm Password
- PIN (6-12 digits, used to place orders, make withdrawals, change PGP key and password)
- Confirm PIN
- Login Phrase (displays when you log in to confirm you are at the real market)
Don’t forget to save your login information someplace secure. If you prefer to view websites in dark mode, you can turn this option on beneath the Login Phrase text box. After you have filled all the required fields and solved the captcha, press “Register” to continue. If everything is good, you’ll be brought to the login screen with a message that says “Your account has been successfully created.” Now, enter your Login ID and Password to enter the market for the first time.
Notice that from here you can also set how long you want to go before being auto-logged out.
After clicking to log in, you’ll be transported to the mnemonic screen; a mnemonic being a 15 word phrase used to regain control of your account if you should somehow lose access to it. If you get hacked or forget your password, the admins of the site will be unlikely to help you recover your site, which is why it’s important to save your mnemonic in a secure place.
After writing down your mnemonic elsewhere, re-enter it, fill the captcha and click “Submit” to continue. You will now be logged in to the market.
The first thing you’ll want to do is attach a PGP public key to your account. This is necessary to receive encrypted communications from other members of the market. It can also be used as a 2-FA method if you’d like an extra bit of security on your account. To do this, click the “Account” menu option toward the top center of the screen. Scroll down to the bottom of the account options until you see the box to paste your PGP public key. It should look something like this when correctly filled:
After you have entered your PGP key and PIN, press “Save”. You will be returned to the top of the Account screen with a message that says “Please decrypt the code below to verify your key.” The code containing message to be decrypted can be found at the bottom of the screen. The code itself is a random series of characters and digits, and should look like this:
After pressing “Save”, you will be again brought back to the Account screen, this time with a message saying “Your PGP key has been updated”, if all was entered correctly.
Funding Your Account
Cartel Marketplace doesn’t work like more modern markets where deposits are only made to cover individual orders. Instead, they use the traditional market-based, centralized wallet system. These types of wallets are prone to hacking attempts and are a great way for admins to collect funds for an exit scam, so we recommend keeping only enough funds there for one order at a time.
Interestingly, you do not have to fund your wallet before placing an order and can wait until checking out to fund your account. If you’d
Cartel accepts 2 cryptocurrencies: Bitcoin (BTC) and Monero (XMR). For the more privacy-minded individual, Monero is the preferable option between the two, as its blockchain does not record potentially indentifying information such as addresses and amounts. Monero can be a bit trickier to find, but there are a lot of exchanges where it can be purchased with Bitcoin.
To fund your account, click either the BTC or XMR balance in the upper-right corner of the screen, depending on which type of coin you want to deposit. For the sake of this guide, we will be demonstrating how to make a deposit using BTC.
The first thing you’ll need to do is generate a deposit address. You can do this by clicking on the button that says “Generate a new deposit address”. The screen will refresh and you will see the BTC address to which you will deposit your funds.
Funds will take 3 confirmations by the Bitcoin network before appearing in your account balance. Be sure to generate a new deposit address for each new deposit, as your account may not be credited if you use the same address a second time.
Note that you can make withdrawals from Cartel for 0.00026 BTC, which is quite reasonable.
Browsing Cartel Marketplace
Cartel Marketplace seems quite unique and almost built from the ground up. It is still quite easy to navigate and find the items for which you are searching. Right now, however, the market only has about 2500 listings, which makes Cartel Marketplace one of the smaller darknet markets we’ve reviewed. The market is divided into the following categories (and subcategories):
- Fraud (Accounts & Bank)
- Drops (CVV & Cards, Dumps, Personal Information)
- Scans (Other)
- Drugs & Chemicals (Alcohol, Benzos, Cannabis & Hash, Dissociatives, Ecstasy, Opioids, Prescription, Steroids, Stimulants, Tobacco, Weight Loss, Psychedelics, Other)
- Guides & Tutorials (Drugs, Fraud, Hacking, Security & Anonymity, Social Engineering, Other)
- Counterfeit Items (Clothing, Electronics, Jewelry, Money, Fake IDs, Other)
- Digital Products (Erotica, E-Books, Software, Game Keys, Other)
- Other Physical Items (Clothing, Electronics, Appliances, Digital, Self Defense, Other)
- Services (Social Engineering, Carding, Other)
- Software & Malware (Botnets & Malware, Exploits, Exploit Kits, Security Software, Other)
- Security & Hosting (Hosting, VPN)
The market is split into two panels, one with categories and the other with product listings, with menu options displayed in the middle part of the top title bar.
Items are default displayed by PageRank score, which is a metric developed by Cartel that tracks the popularity of items. Clicking a category or subcategory will display its listings, which can also be sorted by rating, price and list date. Checking the “Advanced Options” box will allow you to further filter listings by price, ship from and ship to.
Before making an order with a vendor for the first time, visit their vendor page by clicking their name on the product listing page. Here you can see pertinent details related to their shipping practices, how long they have been at Cartel Marketplace, a breakdown of their sales and buyer feedback, and what products they are currently offering. You can also see their activity imported from other darknet markets, which will help to give you a rounder idea of their experience as a vendor.
Notice that you can also see a breakdown of the vendor’s Cartel feedback, showing their positive, neutral and negative trusts accumulated over different periods of time. For instance, the vendor whose page is displayed above received 62 positive feedbacks and 1 negative feedback over the last 12 months, which makes them a fairly successful vendor. They also have a Trust Level of 10 – the highest such level at Cartel – which indicates a good amount of sales and positive feedback.
Down at the bottom of the vendor page you will see 3 tabs. The first, titled “About”, is where you can find information left by the vendor pertaining to their particular items. The second tab contains the vendor’s PGP key, and third tab is titled “Feedback”. Click this tab to take a look through the vendor’s feedbacks left by buyers. You can learn a lot about the practices and competency of a vendor by reading through these feedbacks.
Remember: it’s always better to go with the more experienced vendor even if an inexperienced vendor is selling the same product for a cheaper price. The time and headache saved from an unsuccessful darknet market experience can be immense by only picking vendors with good reputations.
There are only 2 payment options available at Cartel Marketplace: Escrow and Finalize Early (FE). In Escrow orders, funds are held by the market until the buyer releases them to the vendor. In FE orders, the buyer releases the funds to the vendor after the order has been marked as shipped. This was, the vendor can get paid faster. This option should be reserved for trusted vendors who have several successful orders under their belt.
Cartel offers an interesting feature which is FE discount. This means that the buyer can get a discount on their order price if they agree to use the Finalize Early feature. Again, you should only use FE if you have absolute confidence in the vendor with which you are dealing.
Placing an Order
After you’ve found an item you wish to purchase, select the quantity you wish to purchase, the shipping method you want to use, and press “Buy Now” from the item’s listing page.
From here you will review the order total and select whether you are paying with BTC or XMR (most vendors accept both). Beneath this is a section called “Notes to Vendor” where you will input the encrypted version of your shipping information. There is an option under the text box that will encrypt the information for you, but it’s better to simply do it on your own. Cartel makes this as easy as they can for you by displaying the vendor’s PGP key directly beneath the vendor notes box. Import the vendor’s PGP key into your PGP client and encrypt your shipping information with it before pasting it in the box.
When successfully encrypted, shipping information should look something like this:
Don’t forget to also input your PIN and the captcha before clicking the green button that says “Place Order”. After continuing, you will be brought to the order confirmation screen. If your account was already funded, the amount for the order will be subtracted from your balance, and the vendor will receive a message letting them know to begin preparing your order. If you haven’t yet funded your account, you will be shown a payment address to which you will send the BTC amount displayed on the screen.
You have 72 hours for the payment to be confirmed by the network, or else the order will be reset and you will need to replace it with a new one. After payment has been detected, the order will be marked as paid, and the vendor will begin preparing it for shipping.
For FE orders, the sale should be finalized as soon as the vendor has marked the item as shipped. For normal, escrow orders, wait until you have received the order before releasing the funds to the vendor. You can keep track of order statuses by clicking the “Orders” menu option located toward the top middle of the screen.
If you receive your order and it’s not what you expected, or you never receive it at all, you can open a dispute, in which case a Cartel dispute admin will take a look at the problem. It would appear that Cartel is more willing to take the side of the buyer than other markets – or at least that is the impression they give off in the Dispute section of their FAQ. Once a dispute is opened, vendors have a choice to refund 75% or 100% of the order; only after providing a good reason will a dispute admin consider refunding a lesser amount.
Cartel Marketplace is a young market that is short on listings and vendors but big on originality. Depending on the competency of the admins, it has the possibility to go far, and could quite possibly see a fair amount of growth in 2021. While it’s a bit disappointing they don’t offer multisig escrow transactions, they do offer the option of only depositing on order, and they support Monero as a payment option, as well.
In all, Cartel has most of the ingredients essential to provide a world-class darknet market service, but they have a while to go before getting adopted by a large-scale audience. Not only are they largely unknown as of present, but they have a while to go before establishing a strong degree of credibility within the community.