Treasure hunts are reminiscent of a playful childhood. Parents hiding treasures around the house, or perhaps the garden, giving clues to gleeful children on how best to find treats in their hidey holes.
We’ve seen adult treasure hunting explode across the world through geocaching, where people use GPS coordinates to leave small treasures, where others then locate the treasure and mark it off an online list.
And now there’s a new form of treasure hunting exploding in Russia: scoring drugs, by way of tricky GPS locations, pictures, and clues, facilitated by RAMP, a Russian deep web drug market.
Russia and drugs
In Russia, drug use and distribution is taken very seriously. While in other places around the world, drug policy may focus on user rehabilitation, this is not so in Russia.
Drug cases account for over 1 in 5 prisoners in the prison system, and possession, even of very small amounts of marijuana, can land you an extended stay in prison.
However, as we all know, this system doesn’t deter drug dealers and drug users from spreading and consuming drugs: it only makes them more clever in the ways that they go about trading.
RAMP the Russian Anonymous Marketplace
Deep web marketplaces are nothing new. It has been over five years since the rise of these black markets, places online where illegal (as well as legal) goods and services like drugs, counterfeits, and hacked accounts are traded, all anonymously, via the Tor browser.
RAMP is the Russian Anonymous Marketplace, the most popular deep web market in all of Russia.
This Russian language market mainly deals in drugs and is structured as a message board, where dealers advertise their wares, and potential buyers message them to arrange a trade.
RAMP transactions are either conducted in either Bitcoin or via phone transfer.
However, unlike online marketplaces in other parts of the world, which typically send drug packages via the postal system, RAMP generally operates as a drug drop system or a treasure hunt.
Treasure hunting with RAMP
Drug drops are done in a very discrete way with RAMP. After funds have been transferred to a RAMP seller (a treasure man), the treasure’s GPS coordinates and a picture of the pickup spot are sent to the RAMP buyer.
This treasure is often placed by the seller days, weeks, or even months in advance, where it awaits a buyer requesting that exact substance and amount.
What it means for buyers is that they might be sent on a mad treasure hunt in a far-flung location within the city.
Sometimes RAMP drugs are hidden a little too well, or even not well at all, which can result in a buyer not finding the package, or even discovering that the package is not there.
A feedback system for RAMP
This is all detailed in public feedback to the seller on RAMP. Customers will detail whether they had a good experience in their RAMP treasure hunt, one that involved far more effort than should be necessary or one that resulted in them going home empty handed if they weren’t able to locate their treasure.
Some treasure hunts may result in customers searching for treasure for hours, especially if they are in a strange area like abandoned buildings, rubbish dumps, or even in the woods.
Searching for RAMP hidden treasure on private property can also draw the eye of others.
One customer’s feedback berated the seller for hiding a package on university property, when the buyer was not a student of the university, and required getting their details recorded in a guest register, simply to gain proper access to the grounds.
Will treasure hunting for drugs become a common practice in other parts of the world, too? It seems logical that a less risky method of delivery than the postal system would become a regular practice.
Perhaps in the years to come, we will see people hunting around areas, seemingly looking for something. Perhaps these people could even pass off their strange behavior under the guise of geocaching.
If RAMP can make treasure hunting popular in Russia, then it stands to make sense that another marketplace could do the same in other countries. Only time will tell.