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UniCC, the largest online marketplace for stolen credit and debit cards, announced it will close next week after facilitating $358 million in transactions over nine years, blockchain analytics firm Elliptic reported Wednesday — the latest in a wave of illicit dark web marketplace closures.
UniCC’s owners announced the site will stop operating January 22, in a Russian- and English-language message on dark web forums viewed by Elliptic.
According to analysis by Elliptic, UniCC received over $100 million worth of bitcoin in exchange for stolen credit cards in 2021 alone, a boom facilitated by the February closure of Joker’s Stash, previously the biggest marketplace for stolen credit cards.
UniCC’s owners urged the public not to “build any conspiracy theories” about the site’s closure, claiming the decision was made because “we are not young,” according to Elliptic.
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. UniCC’s shuttering is the latest in a series of closures on the dark web, a part of the internet that can only be accessed with special authorization or with special software and that is known for hosting illegal activity. Elliptic speculated that UniCC’s sudden closure could have been motivated by a desire to avoid increased law enforcement scrutiny after the shuttering of similar illicit online marketplaces. This month, the online drug site Monopoly Market suspended services in what Elliptic described as a possible exit scam, a scheme in which a business owner absconds with payments for orders that are never fulfilled. Online drug site ToRReZ Market also voluntarily closed around December 2021 and White House Market, a major online drug site that drew inspiration from the show Breaking Bad, closed in October 2021. Joker’s Stash, whose 2018 bitcoin revenues more than tripled UniCC’s according to Elliptic, voluntarily shut down last February. Additionally, in June, stolen login credentials market Slilpp was seized by the FBI and other law enforcement groups.
Launched in 2011, Silk Road was the first major illicit dark web market, selling everything from drugs to forged driver’s licenses and generating about $1.2 billion in less than three years. Ross Ulbricht, the site’s operator, was arrested in 2013 and given two life sentences without parole following a conviction for narcotics trafficking, money laundering and “engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise,” a charge usually reserved for mob bosses. Prosecutors dropped charges connecting Ulbricht to various alleged unsuccessful murder-for-hire plots.