(Photo : Pexels/Pixabay) credit cards

The administrators of the UniCC site that run the largest illegal marketplace on the darknet, offering stolen credit cards, announced that they are retiring after they've made around $358 million in operation.

The owners of UniCC remained anonymous, and they've thanked their patrons for the "success" of their illegal online business. The owners cited health and their age as reasons for the closure of the site.

Other illegal marketplaces on the darknet have also been shut down recently for unknown reasons. The police said that the trend had left them with mixed feelings.

The darknet is a part of the internet that can only be accessed via special browsing software, according to Bleeping Computer.

Also Read: Dark net websites let pedophiles boldly watch and trade child sexual abuse images 

UniCC is Shutting Down

The cryptocurrency experts at Elliptic traced crypto payments worth hundreds of millions of dollars to UniCC.

UniCC posted on darknet forums about their retirement in English and Russian. The anonymous criminals said that it is time for them to retire as they are no longer young and their health prevents them from working.

UniCC has been online since 2013, and they've posted thousands of stolen credit cards for sale every single day.

Millions of payment card details have been stolen from online retailers, banks, websites, and payment companies before posting and selling on UniCC.

The stolen cards have value because they can still be used by criminals to buy high-value items or gift cards. The criminals can then resell these for cash.

Elliptic experts said that the website had received cryptocurrency payments since 2013, and the payment is around $358 million. The payment is made across Bitcoin, Litecoin, Ether, and Dash.

The closure of UniCC comes just under a year after another well-known illegal marketplace retired, Joker's Stash.

UniCC is also the latest in a growing list of criminal marketplaces voluntarily shut down in the last six months.

In October 2021, White House Market - known as the largest darknet market of its kind - announced that it would shut down. This was followed by Cannazon in November and Torrez in December.

When Torrez closed in December, one of the largest English-language marketplaces sold drugs, hacking tools, counterfeit cash, and offered criminal services.

A letter posted on its homepage said it was their pleasure to have served customers from around the world for years.

Historically, when darknet sites close down, the operators disappear with their customers' money - this is called an exit scam. They may also be hacked or caught by police and taken offline.

Voluntary Retirement

The ongoing trend for marketplaces shutting down in an orderly fashion is called "sunsetting" or "voluntary retirement."

Prof. David Decary-Hetu, a criminologist at the University of Montreal, said that sunsetting is happening more and more. Illegal markets are exiting gracefully with enough money to retire early--this is a perfect time to do it now before they get caught.

Decary-Hetu said that the administrators running these marketplaces could make around $100,000 a day in commission fees alone.

For police, who would prefer criminals to face justice, this type of shutdown causes mixed feelings, according to Forbes.

Alex Hudson, the National Crime Agency's head of darknet intelligence, said that he always celebrates anybody who realizes that they are in an occupation, which is criminalized and decides not to keep on doing it.

But he regrets that they did not do anything to hold these criminals accountable for their crimes, and he wants them to know that just because they've retired, it does not mean that the cases against them will be dismissed.

The closures are unlikely to signal the end of darknet marketplaces as new ones emerge.

New BBC research for Radio 4's File on Four found that at least 450 new vendors operating currently on the darknet have outlived previous police closures over the last 10 years.

In 2014, 400 darknet sites were raided by the police for the illegal drug trade.

In 2019, the authorities were able to shut down the largest child pornography site in the darknet.

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Written by Sophie Webster

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