The Dark Web has its fair share of urban legends and myths because of its mysterious nature and barrier to entry. There are a lot of rumors and misconceptions about the sorts of crimes and activities that go on there. Overall, the Dark Web isn’t as sinister as people think it is. Sometimes, though, these urban legends are based in some truth- as folktales often are.
Have you heard rumors before that you can find hitmen for hire on the Dark Web? It’s a persistent misconception even today, because the truth is you can go on the Dark Web and find websites that offer services like this. There have been a number of sites where you can submit information about a target that you’d like to have discreetly taken out and they will happily take payment, partial or full, for their promised kill upfront. Mostly, though, the story ends there. These sites have universally been found to be scams. People will set up a website on the Dark Web as a front, require some amount of payment upfront, and then make excuses over and over for why they never actually take a target out. Eventually, they just ghost their clients, take the money, and run. While morally reprehensible, it’s a smart business plan- after all, how can a client dispute the charge to get a refund? Doing so risks admitting that they paid for a hitman, which could land them in jail.
The most notorious case of one of these scams centered around a site called Besa Mafia. It followed the typical model as described, but it was the first to get a lot of media coverage. The full story is lengthy but fascinating, so I implore you to read it when you have the chance. It follows Chris Monteiro, a Dark Web researcher who is fascinated by cybercrimes and niche internet phenomena. He’s the one who, ultimately, exposed Besa Mafia. Though Monteiro had tried multiple times to warn police and FBI of what he’d found on the Dark Web, it wasn’t taken too seriously at first. Some of the identified hits were warned of the conspiracies against them, but not much else was done with his research. That is, until one of the targets listed on the site, Amy Allwine, was found dead. Her husband had put a hit out on her through Besa Mafia and, once he knew that the website had been shut down and at least partially exposed to the FBI, he unfortunately took matters into his own hands.
While Amy Allwine’s story is a tragic outlier, there are others who have had to live with the knowledge that someone in their life has a price they’re willing to pay to see them dead. Since the Dark Web is all done through anonymous means, some people, such as Alexis Stern, will never know who put the hit on them. Even if the site they used to hire the hitman is a scam, the thought alone is unsettling. Who’s to say they won’t simply come after you again? Or, perhaps, find a way to hire a hitman that isn’t just a façade?
The founder of Besa Mafia used this exact train of thought to justify their site’s existence. They claimed to be doing a moral good by giving potential killers time to rethink their actions and preventing them from hiring legitimate hitman services. They kept in contact with Monteiro through the whole ordeal, writing, “[It] is a moral right to scam criminals and would be murderers if this helps saving victims”.
The moral repercussions of sites like Besa Mafia are interesting. On the surface, it’s all-around horrible: The people running them are trying to steal money and the people using them are trying to commit murder. However, if you look a little deeper, you can see a bit of moral grey in the truth behind this Dark Web myth.