Fraud Fighter ‘Bobbear’ to Hang Up His Cape

The owner and curator of bobbear.co.uk, a site that specializes in exposing Internet scams and phantom online companies, announced Saturday that he will be shuttering the site at the end of April.

Bobbear and its companion site bobbear.com, are creations of Bob Harrison, a 66-year-old U.K. resident who for the last four years has tirelessly chronicled and exposed a myriad of fraud and scam Web sites. The sites, which are well-indexed by Google and other search engines and receive about 2,000 hits per day, often are among the first results returned in a search for the names of fly-by-night corporations advertised in spam and aimed at swindling the unsuspecting or duping the unwitting.

Indeed, bobbear.co.uk has been extremely valuable resource to krebsonsecurity.com, which has used it to track the constant stream of new fraudulent corporations used to recruit so-called money mules, people lured into helping organized criminals launder money stolen through online banking theft.

In an interview with krebsonsecurity, Harrison said he’s been considering this move for some time now, and finally decided to quit the site for health and quality-of-life reasons.

“The wife says I spend about 15 hours a day on it, although it may not be quite that much,” joked the pseudonymous Harrison, speaking via phone from his home near Kent, about 50 miles outside of London. “Things are quite hard and health isn’t that good, so the time has come.”

An example of a money mule recruitment site exposed by bobbear.co.uk

Since its inception, the site has been a fairly frequent target of denial of service attacks — presumably perpetrated by the very same groups whose fraudulent activity Harrison has been exposing. Groups opposed to his work also have targeted Harrison with so-called Joe job attacks, reputation assaults in which perpetrators send out spam e-mails that spoof the name of the target and attempt to tarnish the name of the apparent sender.

But Harrison said he wasn’t retiring the site because of those attacks, which he said have dropped off in recent months anyway. On the contrary, Harrison said he spends more time making sure he doesn’t get sued for erroneously categorizing a legitimate Web site as fraudulent.

“We had so many messages of thanks, and congratulations on the site, but it is so stressful and takes so much out of you, and there is always the worry of litigation hanging over your head,” Harrison said.

The fraud fighter said he plans to spend his upcoming free time finishing a house he started building in 1999, and spending more time with his wife and family, which includes two cats and three geese.

In the meantime, Harrison said he’s hoping to receive some serious offers from an entity or individual interesting in carrying on his work and his sites.

“I haven’t had any offers yet, but it would be nice if someone would take it over, redesign the site,” Harrison said.

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