Dark Markets: How to Buy Things from the Deep Web’s Black Markets
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The deep web (a.k.a. the darknet or dark web) has become famous for its black markets, where intrepid shoppers can use Bitcoin and other cryptocurrency to purchase everything from drugs to guns to stolen credit card details over the internet. If have ever wondered how to access these dark web markets and how to buy things from them then this article is for you.
One thing that may surprise you when you first access the internet’s famous black markets is that these are not the kind of ‘anything goes’ free for all that you may have seen portrayed in popular culture. Yes, you can use them to buy illegal items, but all of the main marketplaces have rules about what vendors are allowed to sell. In fact, you will find that the most popular marketplaces often seem to be the ones with the strictest rules. You will not see vendors selling poisons, explosives, videos depicting violence, or anything to do with weapons of mass destruction. Some marketplaces also ban guns (even for customers in places like the USA where you can legally buy firearms) and other ‘lethal weapons’, as well as stolen data such as hacked accounts or stolen credit card details. By far the most common thing you will find is drugs, including recreational drugs like cannabis and ecstasy and prescription medicines. You will also find things like counterfeit clothing, accessories and jewellery, and lot of legal items such as e-books and guide, as well as self-defense products such as pepper spray, and software for helping people protect their privacy and stop internet spying.
Another thing that you should be aware of is that many of these marketplaces have downtime. If you click a link to visit a dark web market and it is offline don’t panic – it is probably temporary. Yes, these markets do come and go as they may be shut down by authorities or the administrators may disappear, but they also suffer from a lot of temporary outages due to attacks from other market operators, maintenance, or the side-effects of security measures.
Tor Dark Markets
The first thing that you will need is a way to access the deep web, whilst protecting your own privacy whilst browsing these sites. You can use either TOR or I2P – these are both anonymous networks which allow users to browse in private whilst also allowing webmasters to set up ‘hidden services’. All of the markets listed here in this article can be found within the TOR network, as this is the most popular at the moment. It is also the easiest to use for newbies.
Accessing TOR is no more difficult that installing a new browser, but if you would like more information then please read our article How To Access the Dark Web
Using a VPN like IPVanish alongside Tor is not essential, especially if you are just buying the odd little thing, but it is recommended if you want the best possible privacy protection and is good practice for your regular internet browsing in any case.
CryptoCurrency & Private Payments
Once you have your computer set up to access TOR onions (the name given to TOR’s hidden services, which use the .onion domain suffix), the next thing that you will need is some digital money to spend. Obviously shopping for illegal items, as some people do on these sites, using credit cards or Paypal is not a good idea because all of your payments could be tracked and linked back to you, so all of these markets use Bitcoin or other alt coins for making payments.
Bitcoin allows you to create a wallet without revealing your identity, but it is not entirely anonymous. All payments which have ever been made are stored on a public blockchain that anybody can view. If you want to be really safe, therefore, it is best to use a mixing service when transferring coins to your marketplace shopping wallet. This makes it more difficult for any investigator to tell where the coins came from.
The easiest way to go about this is to buy some coins from a peer-to-peer exchange like LocalBitcoins, or a wallet service with built in exchange like Coinbase. Remember that the price may change a little between when you buy the coins and when you use them to make a purchase, so if you are looking to buy a specific product it is best to exchange slightly more than you need just to be on the safe side – you can always sell what you don’t use later. You will probably need to provide ID to buy the coins, so if you are concerned about your purchases being tracked back to your real world identity you must transfer them to the marketplace via a ‘coin mixer’ (See: how to use a bitcoin mixer for a step-by-step guide). These services are very simple to use – instead of sending your coins directly to the deposit address for your marketplace account, you just give the deposit address to the mixing service and they provide you with an new address to make the payment to – they then do their magic before passing on new ‘clean’ coins that can’t be traced back to you. They will usually charge you a couple of percent on each transaction for providing this service. Here is a link to a popular coin mixer Best Mixer.
The marketplaces themselves will also use disposable addresses and may even have their own basic mixing service, for added security.
For the vast majority of users simply making use of a mixer when depositing or withdrawing any unspent coins will be enough, but for serious users or just those with an interest in the subject, you can learn more in our article How To Buy, Sell and Use Bitcoin Anonymously.
Some marketplaces also accept alt coins like Dashcoin, which have their own anonymity features built into the protocol.
PGP and Secure Communications
PGP stands for ‘pretty good privacy’. It is often used to encrypt messages so that only the intended recipient can read them. The marketplace websites themselves should uses encryption within their messaging system, so most users will not even need to think about this stuff – just make sure you use the messaging system provided and don’t start communicating with vendors via email.
But there is always a possibility, however unlikely that this internal system could be compromised. So for power users who want added protection, you may want to consider learning how to use PGP so that you can encrypt your communications yourself.
The most important thing to encrypt is your shipping address, as this can obviously be used to link purchases to you personally. Beware of marketplaces which ask you to store your shipping address on the site or communicate it with sellers without using encryption, as this could expose you to the risk of being tracked.
If you are completely new to this you may like to take a look at How To Send Encrypted Messages Using PGP – The Easy Way
How To Protect Yourself From Scams – Escrow and Multi-Sig
When you buy something from a stranger over the internet you obviously need to be careful. More than anything, there needs to be a system in place to stop the vendor from taking your money and just disappearing, without bothering to send you the product. All marketplaces use reputation systems, which go a long way to achieving this – a well established reputation has a high value, so these vendors are unlikely to sacrifice that by trying to scam you. But reputation along is not always enough, as a good reputation can be manipulated or entirely faked, and in any case you may wish to buy from a new vendor who hasn’t yet established a reputation.
In order to protect you some kind of escrow will be used. This involves a trusted third party (almost always the site admin) arbitrating between the buyer and seller when there is a disagreement. Most markets use a central escrow service, in which this third party takes control of the coins you are paying with until you hit the finalize button to indicate that the product has been delivered. If the product never arrives you must contact the escrow provider to ask for a refund. This usually prevents vendors from scamming people, but it introduces a risk of an exit scam by the escrow agent themselves – something which doesn’t exactly happen often (especially if you use one of the recommended sites below) but is certainly not unheard of.
Some sites allow vendors with a very good reputation to require their buyers to ‘finalize early’ (FE), which means that you do not get this escrow protection.
A safer alternative is multi-sig escrow, which is a bit more technical to set up and isn’t offered by all marketplaces, but protects you against any risk of the escrow provider stealing your coins. To learn more check out this article which will teach you how to use multi-sig escrow on dark market sites.
Recommended Dark Markets Review List
Please keep in mind that these sites do sometimes have temporary down time – if any of these links aren’t working then just try again later or pick a different site.
Dream market is well established site with a solid range of products across most popular categories you will find on the deep web. It seems to load quickly unlike others which can be slow and cumbersome, and it is very easy to use. It is also well established and reliable, but has few additional features and uses only the admin provided escrow service. When you sign up the site generates a PIN number for you in addition to the password which you provide.
This is a European site, but with worldwide shipping it is open to buyers from pretty much anywhere. Its invite only, so you will need to use the special link provided below or you can’t get in. They have a huge range of drugs including prescription / pharmacy medication for conditions like ADHD (Ritalin, Adderall etc), painkillers, anti-depressants, Viagra and other items.
The Real Deal
The Real Deal features multi-sig escrow with the choice of using an external bitcoin wallet, or a wallet created on the site using client side key generation, which means that the site’s admin’s never get access to your private key and so cannot disappear with your coins – even if you create a wallet using their site. This dark market is popular for hacking / cracking software and information, but also has listings for drugs, weapons and other products. Offers a choice of mobile phone or PGP based two-factor authentication.
Mostly used for drugs, but also some other products and services. You choose your currency, then prices are displayed in that currency when you are shopping. Offers a nice section with special deals and free samples from vendors whio allow you try a small sample of their product if you pay for the shipping costs. Admin escrow only.
Middle Earth Marketplace
Wide range of products and multi-sig option as well as admin escrow service – although not all sellers accept multi-sig purchases.