AMARILLO, TX- As law enforcement agencies close down synthetic smoke shops across the nation, there's now a new hurdle in the war against drugs.
The digital "black market" for synthetic narcotics is growing and police are alerting parents they are going to be a key element in stopping this new wave of drug dealing.
The Silk Road Anonymous Market is one of the latest stores to hit the web.
Though similar to eBay or Amazon, buyers aren't looking for electronics and gadgets.
Instead, you'll find everything from synthetic marijuana to cocaine.
"We are aware of it," LaViza Matthews with Impact Futures said. "The Internet has made this so accessible."
Online drug shops are popping up left and right. Matthews says the operation is being mainly fueled by teens looking to purchase "knock-off" versions of narcotics such as "Spice" and "K2."
Finding sites like 'Silk Road' isn't as easy as typing it into a search engine or entering a URL into a web browser.
Instead, the site is operating through a complex network NewsChannel 10 has chosen not disclose at this time.
Web Developer Josh Knapp says the network was originally created so law enforcement and government agencies could protect their messages and data. Now, it's being used by criminals and working to their advantage.
"It takes your IP address and encrypts it multiple times," Knapp says. "The encryption makes it hard for anyone to track where that person is. It's almost impossible."
On top of that, sellers use screen names instead of real names.
The DEA office in Washington acknowledged they are actively investigating sites like 'Silk Road' and say it's a constant challenge and problem to crack down on this cyber activity.
"It's something we need to get a lid on if we can," substance abuse counselor Jim Cameron said. "I think it's definitely appealing to an addict."
Unlike risking getting caught on the streets buying drugs, addicts can hide their addiction because the entire transaction is completed online.
"You need to keep the computer in the room where the parent is," Matthews said. "Kids can search anything online which is the scariest thing."
While it's impossible for parents to keep tabs on their children 24/7, there are some helpful tips you can use to identify suspicious behavior.
Since these drug transactions take place online, the "merchandise" will arrive in the mail.
Parents should look for letters and boxes that don't contain a sender name.
Drug dealers will not put their real name on a package and chance getting caught if the item gets inspected through the postal service or other mail agency.
Also, beware of packages shipped for overseas.
NewsChannel 10 noticed several products were being sold online from other countries including but not limited to the UK, Africa, Germany and Spain.
Please Note: NewsChannel 10, nor its affiliates encourage children, teens or adults to attempt to purchase or consume illegal narcotics. As a media organization, our goal is provide a warning to parents about a growing problem now spreading on the Internet. The DEA and ATF are both aware of 'Silk Road' and have launched their own separate investigation into the company. While using such sites may be "difficult" for law enforcement to trace, we want to warn you that no Internet transaction is 100-percent untraceable. Whether purchased on the streets or online, we remind you that possessing illegal narcotics carries penalties including but not limited to a fine and jail time. On a final note, any viewer who posts information on how to access the site mentioned in our story will be deleted and blocked. We do not authorize viewers to post links or any other material which may promote drug activity in any way. As always, we thank you for your cooperation!