03/13/2023 The fear of someone disclosing private information about you online if you don't agree with their demands may be the scariest thing ever. Online blackmail is what this is, and it can be extremely hurtful, embarrassing, and stressful.
This steps will cover topics such as what online blackmail is, how to handle it, what to do if someone is trying to blackmail you online, and how to protect yourself. Additionally, we'll outline how DeleteMyInfo can help shield you from future online extortion.
What is online blackmail?
Threatening to expose damaging private information about a person online in return for money or another reward is known as online blackmail (also known as online extortion).
It's essential to remember that blackmail is always illegal and is seen as theft in practically all states. Sextortion, or threatening someone with the public disclosure of embarrassing information in exchange for sexually explicit images or favors, is one of the more popular types of internet blackmail.
Threatening a victim in order to obtain anything of value constitutes both extortion and blackmail. Both offenses are frequently categorized as theft, commonly known as "larceny." Some states have unified all of the definitions into the crime of theft. As you can see from the list of pertinent state statutes above, there are several names for the crime of blackmail, but it is virtually always regarded as a type of theft.
How to distinguish Blackmail from Extortion?
The terms "extortion" and "blackmail" are frequently used interchangeably. Blackmail is a type of extortion in several states. Extortion, which meaning "twisting out," is derived from the Latin word "extortionem."
Extortion is a crime that occurs in most states when someone is forced to pay money or carry out a specific task under threat of physical violence or injury. The threat of revealing information about the victim that is morally repugnant or will harm the victim's reputation is another form of extortion. Blackmail is a type of extortion that happens when someone threatens to divulge sensitive personal information.
What Behaviors Qualify as Blackmail?
Threatening to reveal something damaging always has the intention of receiving something in exchange. Someone is blackmailing you if they threaten to reveal something embarrassing or unfavorable about you in exchange for cash or another type of favor.
Here are some prevalent instances of blackmail:
Blackmail under the Hobbs Act, revenge porn, sextortion, and celebrity blackmail.
What is the Maximum Penalty For Blackmail or Extortion?
Blackmail is punished differently by the federal government and each state. Blackmail and extortion are often felonies that can result in prison time. In certain states, there are multiple levels of extortion, with serious penalties for blackmail involving bodily harm.
Here are a few instances of how various states deal with blackmailers:
Extortion is a third-degree crime in Ohio, which carries a maximum penalty of $10,000 in fines and/or 1 to 5 years in jail.
In New York, the severity of larceny by extortion sentencing depends on the value of the taken item and whether any violence took place. Blackmail is, at the very least, a class "E" felony that carries a maximum 4-year penalty.
Extortion is considered theft in Texas, and the severity of the penalties depends on a number of criteria, including the value of the goods taken. A conviction can result in jail time, fines, or both at the at least.
What to do if you're being blackmailed online?
Although becoming the victim of internet extortion might be distressing, there are steps you can take right now to protect yourself.
1. Avoid talking to blackmailer
First and foremost, stop talking to the blackmailer right away. Responding could lead to further violent threats because you can come off as a soft target.
The wisest course of action is to be completely silent. Never negotiate and never yield to pressure.
2. Keep copies of all communications as proof.
You should gather as much proof of the blackmail as you can if you are being victimized online.
Take note of any potential personal information about the blackmailer, such as usernames, emails, or phone numbers, and take screenshots of any contact.
3. Inform the FBI about online blackmail.
As soon as you have acquired all the available proof, you should inform the authorities. The FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center accepts complaints (IC3).
After being processed, complaints submitted to IC3 may subsequently be forwarded for additional investigation to regional, national, international, or local law enforcement or regulatory organizations.
Simply complete the IC3 online form to submit the complaint. Accept the terms and conditions, enter your personal data, describe the occurrence, add any supporting documentation, and then sign and send the complaint.
4.Inform the local police about online blackmail.
You should also report the crime to the neighborhood police after submitting an IC3 report to the FBI.
When dealing with local authorities, it is more preferable to appear in person at a headquarters close to you as opposed to completing the IC3. Nevertheless, you must still offer all relevant details and proof.
After reporting the incident to the local police, you'll probably get advice on what to do next as well as details on your legal rights.
How to safeguard yourself against online blackmail
The truth is that you run the risk of becoming the victim of internet blackmail if you post a lot of personal information online. The more information about you that is accessible to potential blackmailers, the more exposed you are.
Best practices for Internet privacy are listed below. In the end, the best method to protect yourself is to delete any existing online information about you.
Create strong passwords
Strengthening password protection for online accounts might be the first line of defense to secure any sensitive information, including personal accounts or social media profiles, since incidents of blackmailing usually arise as a result of breached internet security.
Use a distinct password on every platform, and change your passwords frequently. Your personal information is safest when you use strong passwords (12 characters long, with a combination of numbers, letters, and symbols) for each account.
If managing many passwords becomes challenging, you can use a password manager to store all of your credentials safely in one location.
Use social media with caution
Share as little information as you can because blackmailers frequently attempt to exploit the public data from your social media profiles against you. To prevent possible blackmailers from seeing your list of friends, set your profiles to private.
Think about cutting off communication with any internet contacts you don't know in person. Never add a person you just know online as a friend, especially if you've just met them.
Report the situation right away to the relevant social media platform if the blackmail takes place there to stop the blackmailer from targeting others.
Recognize typical blackmailers
In many cases of blackmail, the perpetrators bluff by using the same blackmail scheme on hundreds of victims in the hopes that one of them will fall for it.
Knowing basic con tricks will help you possibly call their bluff right away.
One typical extortion tactic involves a blackmailer pretending to be an FBI, IRS, or other federal agency and accusing the target of committing a crime or owing money. Usually, they demand money in order to "lower charges" or "call off an arrest."
Another deception is when a blackmailer says they have access to a target's webcam and/or browser history because malware was installed on the machine. Blackmailers frequently claim that their victims have "accessed adult websites." and has been “recorded on camera.”
Refuse to use data-broker websites
The safer you are, the harder it will be for extortionists to blackmail you. To preserve your privacy, it is therefore strongly advised that you remove your data from data brokers.
Data brokers amass enormous amounts of personal information online and then resell it, frequently to the highest bidder, for a profit. Your phone number and marital status can be among the details they use to create a profile of you using this data.
You would be startled, we promise, to learn just how much information data brokers have about you.
Unfortunately, transactions like these violate your privacy, expose you to unsolicited mail, robocalls, and spam texts, and may make you more vulnerable to identity theft, phishing, and text scams. They expose you to certain worst-case scenarios, they open you up to online blackmail or extortion.
Your profile needs to be removed from each data-broker website separately to prevent your information from getting into the wrong hands. Using our free removal guide, you can complete this process yourself. You can subscribe to our service as well.
Let DeleteMyInfo assist you if you want to proceed to the next step in protecting your personal information online. Over the past 10 years, our knowledgeable privacy teams have assisted millions of clients in removing their information from the more than 500 data-broker sites currently operating in the United States.
We can accomplish the same for you for as little as $9.99 per month.
Visit our website for additional details.
Continue to fight online blackmail
Internet blackmail can be a terrible scenario, but as you can see, there are ways to deal with it and take precautions going forward.
The most crucial thing to keep in mind is to never give in to pressure, gather proof, and notify the appropriate authorities. Following the reporting of the occurrence, you should concentrate on taking precautions to safeguard your online privacy in order to ensure that it never occurs again.
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