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Dark Web`s Most Dangerous Scams

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ByHarper Stewart

Sep 1, 2023
Dark Web`s Most Dangerous Scams
Harper Stewart
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The dark web is one of the most dangerous places on the internet. One of the risks is that it’s hidden, and you often can’t be confident about your safety or the integrity of the transaction. In addition to ordinary internet users, the dark web is used by criminals including hackers. People looking for illicit goods and services are becoming the target of dark web frauds. Hackers are aware that because the victim of the fraud is likely not going to report it to the authorities, the scam will not be investigated.

At Black Hat Europe 2022, Sophos lead security researcher Matt Wixey spoke live on the meta parasite ecosystem at a presentation titled “Scammers Who Scam Scammers, Hackers Who Hack Hackers.” Based on the studies he conducted with colleague Angela Gunn, there are many different types of fraudsters in the underground economy that are effective in extorting millions of dollars from other cybercriminals each year. The two found thousands of successful fraud attempts after looking through a year’s worth of data from three dark web forums (Russian-speaking Exploit and XSS and English-speaking Breach Forums).

Identity theft, the selling of weapons, human trafficking, and credit card fraud are all commonplace on the dark web. It gives cybercriminals a safe sanctuary to operate in anonymity, making it challenging for law authorities to find them. Even while not every activity on the dark web is illegal, users should be conscious of the dangers and repercussions associated with using this obscure section of the internet.

In this article we will provide the most dangerous scam methods that hackers frequently utilize to take advantage of your persona, including your private data, finances, and even reputation.

Rip and Runs

An example of a rip and run scheme.

The term “rip and run” describes a pernicious behavior on the dark web in which someone steals from another and then quickly disappears without carrying out their end of the bargain. These ruses, which come in many different forms, prey on those looking to hire hackers, contract murderers, or buy software. Even when they pay, these victims get nothing in return.

The purposeful desire of the con artists to vanish without leaving a trace, cutting off all communication with their unwary victim, is at the core of these schemes. The complication comes from the fact that these victims frequently engage in criminal activity themselves, making it impossible for them to report the scam to law authorities because their behavior is illegal.

Yet, it’s important to recognize the moral conundrum that results from calling them “victims.” While engaged in illegal activities, these people may become victims of frauds, but they may wish to hurt others or commit evil crimes. It becomes difficult to have sympathy for those who willingly search the dark web for methods to damage innocent people or conduct crimes.

Exit Scam

Wall Street market`s accusation of an exit scam.

An exit scam is a specific kind of fraud that takes place in darknet markets and is popularly referred to as “SN exit scams” on the dark web. The term “SN” typically refers to the notorious dark web marketplace, “Silk Road.”

Exit scams entail a darknet market’s owners or administrators abruptly and unexpectedly closing it. When this occurs, the owners of the marketplace vanish and take the funds in escrow or kept in user wallets with them. Both buyers and sellers on the site are left in a position of helplessness as a result of this scam, unable to get their money back or finish off open deals.

Referral Scams

Screenshots of referral scam.

Dark web referral scams are a more sophisticated version of the famed “rip and run” fraud. In these techniques, a seller is suggested to the customer by another dark web user rather than the buyer dealing directly with the vendor. The referrer, however, is not an innocent bystander but rather a willing participant in the fraud, and frequently, it is the same person who is behind the whole scheme.

Scams that use referrals work by using social engineering and the power of trust. Bypassing the buyer’s innate mistrust, a vendor’s endorsement gives the impression of validity and trustworthiness. This strategy capitalizes on the fact that people are more likely to believe a suggestion coming from someone they know or who they see as reliable.

Such fraudulent operations flourish on the dark web because of the culture of anonymity there. It might be difficult to distinguish between legitimate recommendations and dishonest practices since cybercriminals can simply generate a large number of false identities. This makes it possible for the con artist to repeat the swindle undetected.

Vendor Impersonations 

Genuine dark web criminals are able to build solid reputations in their field. This is used by other novice hackers who pose as them on forums and chat rooms. They can profit from defrauding customers if they present themselves as a reputable seller and consumers fall for it. Here’s a close-up of a furious seller whose identity was stolen – it’s obvious that he wants to get retribution. 

Vendor Impersonation scam, illustration from Sophos Presentation, 2021 (Matt Wixey & Angela Gunn)


Malicious hackers often exploit personal information of individuals engaged in black markets, resorting to blackmail as a nefarious tactic. These hackers may threaten to report their victims to the authorities or expose their private details unless a ransom is paid. Contrary to the belief that only hardened criminals can be targeted, anyone accessing dark websites without a private connection can become a victim of such schemes.

The challenging aspect of the dark web is the lack of certainty regarding a website’s legitimacy until one visits it. Clicking on an .onion link, assuming it leads to an innocent fan club, may instead lead to a black market site. Thus, it is crucial to prioritize privacy when exploring the dark web to minimize the risk of falling prey to blackmail or other malicious activities.

A Reddit user received an unfortunate letter after visiting an illicit site on the dark web..

Backdoor Malware

An example of a backdoor attack.

Competent hackers provide software for carrying out complex cyberattacks on the dark web. Due to the time saved in creation, these programs draw additional threat actors since the cost of such software is very low compared to the possible rewards from successful hacking attempts.

Threat actors on the dark web take advantage of this desire, though, by giving their customers access to applications that are contaminated with malware. These gullible customers think they are purchasing potent hacking tools, but instead receive bogus software that is laced with malicious malware. Ironically, those who want to take advantage of helpless people often become victims of their own devious plans.


An example of a phishing email.

Phishing emails account for over 1.2% of all daily communications, or an astounding 3.4 billion emails every day, according to Astra Security. Even on the dark web, phishing is a common way to spread malware infestations. Threat actors persistently hang around on underground forums and markets, promoting nefarious links with the intention of tricking unsuspecting victims into clicking on them.

Unfortunately, many people become victims of phishing attempts since it is impossible to know in advance if a link includes dangerous payloads. People are susceptible to malware infections since it is difficult to recognize and prevent possible hazards before clicking on these links because of their ambiguous character.

Financial Fraud

An example of how hackers can steal your data using public wifi.

Financial theft is rampant on the dark web, where sellers sell eager customers’ bank and credit card information that has been stolen. According to Privacy Affairs‘ dark web pricing index, stolen credit card information may be purchased for as low as $15. There is a disturbing trend in the UK of adolescent school pupils participating in dark web fraud, demonstrating that this rich opportunity is not just available to seasoned fraudsters.

This technique, called “deetsing,” gives young people access to funds they otherwise wouldn’t have without their parents’ knowledge. One of these teenagers was profiled by Vice and gleefully told tales of extravagant exploits, including bringing dates to 5-star hotels and indulging in pleasures with these fraudulently acquired financial information.

Your financial information can be easily stolen, which emphasizes the significance of maintaining excellent cyber hygiene. It is essential to be watchful and secure financial transactions, especially while utilizing public Wi-Fi connections, in order to shield oneself from potential threats.

Police Lurk 

The officers are seizing the computer of a cyber criminal.

Police are constantly on the lookout, ready to catch individuals out, given the volume of illicit behavior that occurs on.onion sites. Even while you may simply be browsing unlawful websites out of curiosity, that defense won’t work if you come into contact with the FBI. 

Be advised that everything you say or do on the dark web might result in legal action. 
The methods used by law enforcement authorities to find your identification are quite advanced. Ross Ulbricht of the Silk Road would still be living a lavish lifestyle today if they hadn’t. Keep in mind that even slight invasions might result in legal action, so avoid being in the wrong location at the wrong time.

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Harper Stewart

With a deep understanding of the complexities of the Dark Web, Harper curates informative and thought-provoking content for our readers. Her knowledge of the hidden corners of the internet and cybersecurity helps shed light on the often mysterious and illicit activities that take place in this realm.