What to do when your favorite source for illicit substances goes offline for less than 24 hours?
Well, if you're a customer of the Dark Web marketplace AlphaBay who happens to have an untold amount of cryptocurrency tied up in the enterprise, the answer is clear: You start freaking the fuck out.
Oh, and allege that the proprietors of the site have stolen all your Bitcoin for good measure.
However, thankfully for those trying to buy everything from drugs to Australian Medicare cards, the situation may be a lot simpler than what first meets the eye.
Dark Web marketplaces burst into the public consciousness following the 2013 FBI seizure of The Silk Road and the arrest of its founder, Ross Ulbricht. The online services, accessible via TOR, allow for the sale of typically illegal goods and services and rely on rating systems for potential buyers to evaluate sellers and their products.
AlphaBay is one such marketplace, and until July 4 things seemed to be humming along as smoothly as things at an illegal international online drug bazaar can. Then the site went down, and customers started crying "exit scam."
The theory, as so much as there was one, was that the AlphaBay founders had absconded with any and all cryptocurrency tied up in the site — never to be seen again.
What was especially galling to some was that, as speculation spiraled out of control, no one from the site jumped in to calm the worried masses down.
"HEY MAN WHAT IS PISSING ME OFF IS WHY NOBODY FROM SUPPORT POST SOME FUCKING UPDATE HERE TO CALM DOWN EVERYBODY ABOUT WHAT'S GOING ON MAN ????," wrote one Reddit user in a thread titled "WHY NOBODY FROM ALPHABAY STAFF POST SOME FUCKING UPDATE HERE ???."
"Because they are sunning themselves with our fucking money," read one typical response.
Others took it further, noting that "If it's an exit scam i'm gonna make a fundraising company to find and bomb them :)."
Various media outlets picked up on the story, further adding fuel to the certainly not-drug-induced-paranoia fire. Other Reddit users didn't help, with one claiming to have "an internal source that has confirmed it's an exit scam […]."
Reddit sleuths, which are known for getting things right, went down various rabbit holes of Bitcoin transactions suggesting they had proof that cryptocurrency was being moved from AlphaBay's wallets in mass. All the while, the digital mob continued to grow.
And, to be fair, the idea of an exit scam is not too farfetched. After all, it's happened before. But when it comes to an AlphaBay exit scam, there's just one problem: According to one Reddit poster who actually has confirmed involvement with the workings of AlphaBay, the site merely went down for some standard IT work.
"Will be back online soon," explained the user known as Big_Muscles. "Servers under update."
So there you have it, denizens of the AlphaBay corner of the Dark Web. Your cryptocurrency, drugs, stolen IDs, and whatever else you've got going on are safe for now. That is, unless Big_Muscles is in on the scam too… but that's a conspiracy theory which will just have to wait for another day (or another Reddit thread).