Major Dark Net Site Is Closing Down

The administrators of the largest illegal marketplace on the Dark Net for stolen credit cards are retiring after making an estimated $358m (£260m). UniCC posted on Dark Net forums in both Russian and English about the site’s closure, claiming the decision was made because “we are not young."

UniCC’s owners announced that their site will stop operating on January 22. UniCC controlled 30 percent of the stolen payment-card data market, leaving some analysts wondering what will happen next. 

The Dark Net is a part of the internet only accessible through special browsing software and crypto currency analysts at Elliptic have traced hundreds of millions of dollars in crypto-payments made to UniCC. 

UniCC has been active since 2013 with tens of thousands of new stolen credit cards listed for sale on the market each day. Hundreds of millions of payment card details have been stolen from online retailers, banks and payment companies before being sold on online marketplaces such as UniCC. 

These stolen cards have value because they can be used to purchase high-value items or gift cards, which can then be resold for cash. Credit card information can be stolen through phishing or other scams, or by hacking bank and retail databases. The cards can then be sold or used to launder money obtained through other forms of online crime. 

Elliptic researchers say the website has received crypto currency payments since it opened totalling $358m across Bitcoin, Litecoin, Ether and Dash.

The closure of UniCC comes just under a year after the retirement of the previous market leader, Joker's Stash. UniCC is also the latest in a growing list of criminal marketplaces to have voluntarily retired in the last six months. 

  • In October 2021, White House Market - the largest Dark Net market of its kind - announced that it would shut down.
  • This was followed by Cannazon in November and Torrez over Christmas. 
  • When Torrez closed in December it was one of the largest English-language marketplaces in the world selling drugs, hacking tools, counterfeit cash and criminal services.  

When Dark Net sites close down, the operators typically disappear with customers' or vendors' money - this is known as an Exit Scam. They may also be hacked by other criminals, or arrested  by law enforcement agencies and taken offline.

These closures are unlikely to mean the end of Dark Net markets as new ones will surely emerge to replace those that have gone.

Indeed, new marketplaces are already emerging. In June, newly created All World Cards offered nearly 3 million cards for free as part of a publicity stunt. Meanwhile, UniCC’s founders warned, “We ask you to be smart and not follow any fakes tied to our comeback.”

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