Home Crime A Website Called 'RentAHitman.com' Is a Parody — But It Lures Actual People Who Want to Kill – PEOPLE

A Website Called 'RentAHitman.com' Is a Parody — But It Lures Actual People Who Want to Kill – PEOPLE

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A Website Called 'RentAHitman.com' Is a Parody — But It Lures Actual People Who Want to Kill – PEOPLE

Over the years, Bob Innes has found himself on more than one occasion scratching his head and wondering, "Can some people really be that dumb?"
"I mean, nobody could be stupid enough to hire a hitman on the internet, right?" he tells PEOPLE.
Well, as the northern California resident came to learn, they could be.
It all started in 2005, when Innes and some buddies in an IT program at a Santa Rosa, Calif., business school wanted to start a computer security company.
They chose a tongue-in-cheek website domain name: RentAHitman.com.
"Rent as in hire us," explains Innes, 54. "Hit as in network traffic, and men, because there were four of us. We thought it was funny."
When the school program ended, the four friends went their separate ways and never started the company. Innes all but forgot about the website until 2008, when he logged on just for the heck of it and found 300 or so emails in the inbox.
Some of the inquiries were not at all what he expected.
"How much for a hit? Do you perform asset extraction? Are you hiring?" were some of the eyebrow-raising questions people were asking, he recalls.
"There was even a female out of the UK who wanted to learn the business so that she could be a hitwoman," he says.
Then it dawned on him: He'd accidentally started a fake hitman-for-hire site — one that would end up catching real-life criminals.
All for the $9.20 for the domain name.
Seeing that some people out there thought this was an actual murder-for-hire website, Innes decided to have some fun with it.
He tweaked the original content and turned it into a parody site.
"There are customer service awards and fake customer testimonials," he says. "And if you click on the banner ad, it opens up a brand-new window to the FBI Internet Crime Complaints Center.
"If you see that, and you still move forward with filling out a service request form, then I'm your man," he says.
He vets potential clients (read: criminals-in-the-making) by waiting 24 hours before responding to them. He then asks if they still require the site's services and if they want him to put them in contact with a field operative. If they say yes, he gets in touch with one of the more than 17,985 "operatives" at his disposal, which happens to be the number of police departments in the U.S. in 2016, a figure he found on Google.
The site has led to at least 30 arrests, according to Innes, and some convictions.
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The first one was Helen Kaplan, a British woman who emailed the site in 2010 asking to have three family members killed over her claims that they'd cheated her out of her inheritance.
"The only way she thought she could get even with them was to solicit murder," he says. "She provided their names and their addresses. All the information was easily corroborated. This lady was definitely in a very dark place."
Thanks to information Innes gave police, Kaplan, who was living in Canada at the time, was arrested and charged. She pleaded guilty to soliciting to commit murder and spent four months behind bars before she was extradited back to the UK.
For more about Bob Innes and RentAHitman.com, subscribe now to PEOPLE or pick up this week’s issue, on newsstands Friday.
Other than t-shirts he sells and donations he accepts to help keep the site running, the married father of three — who works full-time in pest control — makes no money from the 20 hours a week he spends monitoring it.
He would like to expand it, though, to spread the word about the dangers lurking online.
"There's a lot of beneficial information that can be shared to tell adults and children that the internet is certainly not a safe place," he said. "There are bad people out there."
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