Darknet News

Keep Off Televend Market – Ongoing Exit Scam or Law Enforcement Infiltration

The dark web community is still confused about whether Televend Market has decided to pull an exit scam on users, or it has been infiltrated by law enforcement.

The news comes hot in the heels of the platform’s vendor complaints that they have been locked out of their vendor panels on the site.

According to a number of posts that have been made on the Dread forum, the vendors have been unable to gain access to critical Televend resources that were available previously. It turns out that vendor Bitcoin deposit addresses for customer orders were tampered with and replaced with addresses not belonging to them (See below).

Figure 1: One of the vendor complaints about Televend Market.

As such, we are warning users to stay away from the platform to stay safe – just in case undercover law enforcement agents are collecting evidence that would lead to arrests and prosecution of exposed users.

Importantly, a post made on the Dread forum by admin /u/HugBunter brought some attention to the latest event that adds to the long list of cases involving dark web markets that pulled the rug on their users.

Figure 2: Dread forum admin’s post announcing the Televend Market issue.

No One Knows Whether It’s an Exit Scam or Law Enforcement Seizure

At the moment, no one really knows what happened with Televend Market – whether the platform’s operators decided to exit scam users for massive financial gain, or if an undercover law enforcement agent infiltrated the platform to collect evidence on users.

One Dread user, /u/cabodepalos, believed that the market has exit scammed by first disabling the admin panel for sellers before altering their Bitcoin wallet addresses before leaving the bots to “do their job”.

The user also pointed out that the current uncertainty is bound to last for some time until Telegram chooses to delete all the bots that were being used to collect customer orders (See screenshot).

Figure 3: A comment by Dread user /u/cabodepalos about a possible exit scam by Televend Market.

The same sentiments were expressed by other users who could not figure out a better explanation to the changes that were done to their Bitcoin direct deposit addresses, which included delays in escrow withdrawals for a number of days. A vendor even noticed that their logins had been disabled, an aspect that would ascertain that the market had exit scammed everyone (See below).

Figure 4: Some vendors are quite certain that Televend Market has exit scammed.

Although a minority, a number of dark web users believe that Televend Market has been compromised by law enforcement agents who are currently hard at work gathering evidence that would be used to prosecute users before eventually shutting it down.

Figure 5: Some users believe that the market has been compromised by police.

Otherwise, the possibility of a law enforcement operation against televend Market would spell doom for many people if they fail to keep off the site. A look at how Dutch authorities managed to infiltrate and close the now-defunct Hansa market points to what the police are capable off.

Then, the Dutch National Police located and took over control of the dark web market from as early as June 2017. During the entire length of the operation, the law enforcement agency modified the site’s source code, which allowed them to gather passwords, PGP-encrypted order information, IP addresses, Cryptocurrency and other relevant information for user identification.

Ultimately, investigators managed to monitor and gather evidence on the users without their slightest knowledge. The fact that Hansa Market had served the main purpose of hosting online refugees from the first version of AlphaBay meant that the scale of data that was collected was massive.

Televend Market’s Model Was Seriously Flawed

News about Televend market being compromised aroused mixed feelings among dark web users. Some people believed that the market had decided to exit scam its users while other came in its defence to dispute such claims.

Above all, it appears that the common consensus among the majority of Dread users discussing the topic is that Televend Market was an absolute OPSEC mess concerning its model of operation.

Though popular within the hidden web ecosystem, Televend Market’s design appeared to deviate from standard rules of the darknet economy. While traditional markets hid behind anonymizing tools, Televend relied on Telegram bots for collecting customer orders.

Televend described itself as “a direct deal platform which uses Telegram bots to interface with customers via a shop front inside the app and a Tor based .onion vendor panel for vendors to manage orders and customers, completely automated”.

The heavy dependence on the encrypted messaging app, which failed to make it to our list of recommended private messaging apps, meant that it was just a matter of time before law enforcement would breach it (just in case it has done so).

Quite interestingly, it turns out that a number of users were fully aware of Televend’s weaknesses even before the latest event that has cast confusion over the dark web community (See screenshot)

Figure 6: A user remarks on Televend’s longstanding OPSEC problem.

One Dread user, /u/holycowshit, opined that Televend’s rise was attributed to internal issues within the dark web market community regarding the devastating distributed denial-of-service (DDoS attacks that led to destruction of markets like Dream.

According to the user, Televend appeared immune to the DDoS attacks that kept coming, including a time when all HugBunter vendor shops were knocked off the internet. NamasteLSD, who was recently arrested, once said that his store had been hit so hard that he had to let it go.

The other factor that contributed to Televend’s popularity was the fact that it came off as a more convenient platform for buyers looking to buy drugs from dark web vendors. This was especially attractive to darknet users that were not very tech-savvy.

As observed by Dread user /u/bobnotbob, the market appealed to the dark web masses of under 25 years old who were not familiar with Tor or PGP. It was unfortunate that vendors trusted that using Tor alone would be a safe bet for their dark web needs.

Quite interestingly, some of Televend’s OPSEC weaknesses could be avoided. Dark web buyers had the opportunity to access the market via Tails or Whonix and employ a service paid by Cryptocurrency to enable the user account – it turns out that many people may have overlooked this function.

The combination of user ignorance and market dynamics made Televend particularly risky for both buyers and sellers from the point of law enforcement. A simple multiagency undertaking would have led Telegram to surrender all the phone numbers that interacted with the Telegram bot for illicit purposes.

Having said that, we must all accept the fact that Televend market had its time and advocate for better OPSEC standards for everyone. It is pretty scary that no one really knows whether a law enforcement operation is underway because buyer arrests may lead to significant busts running from the bottom to the top of the dark web market’s value chain.

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