Difference between Blackmail and Extortion

Jul 9, 2024 | Crypto Scam Defense, Fraud | 0 comments

The risks of blackmail and extortion are on the rise more than ever. These tactics involve threats to reveal sensitive information or demand payment. Yet, with advancing technology, criminals can easily hide behind anonymous profiles, complicating the protection of personal and professional data.

Both people and businesses are becoming increasingly vulnerable, which emphasizes the need to stay informed and vigilant. This blog post will help you understand these threats and offer practical advice on how to protect yourself.

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Two individuals exchange a stack of money in a dimly lit setting, depicting a scene of blackmail and extortion

What is Blackmail?

Blackmail is a manipulative tactic that involves using threats to force someone into doing something against their will. Typically, it involves the threat of revealing damaging information or causing harm if specific demands are not met. This behavior leads to a traumatic dynamic and can lead to stress and anxiety for the victim.

Types of Blackmail

  • Personal Blackmail: In personal relationships, blackmail might involve threats to expose secrets or personal information that could embarrass or harm someone.
  • Business Blackmail: In the professional context, blackmail could mean threatening to expose sensitive company information or illegal practices unless certain demands are met.
  • Digital Blackmail: Utilizes the internet to threaten victims, such as by distributing intimate images without consent. This form takes advantage of digital platforms to take control over victims.

Examples of Blackmail

  • Threatening: Involves scaring someone with the threat of violence or harm to force them into compliance.
  • Sextortion: A specific type of extortion where the blackmailer threatens to release intimate images or information unless they receive money or sexual favors. Exploiting victims’ fear of embarrassment, by 2023, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) received 26,718 reports of this crime.
  • Emotional Blackmail: Often found within close relationships, where one person manipulates another by using their emotional responses. This can involve guilt, fear, or obligation to control the other person’s actions and is sometimes associated with romance scams.

Some examples of blackmail can occur on social platforms like WhatsApp. If this is the case, you must read: What to Do If Someone Is Blackmailing You on WhatsApp?

What is Extortion?

Extortion is the illegal use of force, violence, or intimidation to obtain money or property from an individual or entity. This crime typically involves threats made against the person, property, or loved ones of the victim. 

The threats can also extend to reputational harm or adverse government action, making it a dangerous and serious offense. Here are some characteristics of extortion: 

  • Illegal Practice: Extortion involves the wrongful use of threats or actual force to gain financial benefits.
  • Broad Impact: It can affect individuals, families, and businesses, and it is not limited by geography, impacting victims locally and internationally.
  • Included in the Hobbs Act: Enacted in 1946, this act makes it a federal crime to commit extortion that affects interstate or foreign commerce, providing a legal framework for prosecution.

Types of Extortion

  • Personal Extortion: This might involve individual criminals or small groups threatening a person for money or favors, often exploiting the victim’s vulnerabilities.
  • Cyber Extortion: Involves malware, such as ransomware, which locks access to the victim’s data until a ransom is paid, frequently in cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. The digital nature of this crime enables global execution, with incidents rising by 67% in 2023, as reported by the 2024 NTT Security Holdings Report.
  • Protection Rackets: Local businesses may be compelled to pay “protection money” to avoid harm to their property or personnel, a tactic commonly associated with organized crime syndicates.
  • Corporate and Government Extortion: Larger-scale operations may involve sophisticated networks that carry out extortion against major corporations or manipulate governmental actions.

Digital Dependence and the Growth of Extortion

Extortion has adapted to technology, exploiting modern society’s digital dependence on it. According to the 2024 Cy-Explorer report by Orange Cyberdefense, cyber extortion victims have increased by 77% annually, with small businesses being four times more likely to be targeted than larger ones.

Whether it’s a demand for money under the threat of personal harm or the encryption of crucial digital information, the core element of coercion remains unchanged, presenting challenges for both security and law enforcement agencies globally.

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Man in a hoodie using a smartphone and laptop, symbolizing cyber blackmail and extortion activities

Difference Between Blackmail and Extortion

Blackmail and extortion are both forms of coercion that force someone to act against their will, but they differ quite a bit in their methods and specifics:

  • Extortion: This broader category involves using threats, violence, or intimidation to force someone to give up money, property, or services. These threats might concern the victim’s physical safety, their property, or their reputation.
  • Blackmail: A specific form of extortion where the coercion involves the threat of releasing private or damaging information unless certain demands are met. 

While all blackmail is considered a form of extortion, extortion involves a wider range of coercive tactics beyond just the threat of revealing secrets.

How Are Blackmail and Extortion Used?

Both blackmail and extortion are manipulative tactics used to exploit victims, leveraging a power imbalance where the perpetrator holds control. Here are their characteristics:

  • Reliance on Fear and Intimidation: Both tactics use fear and intimidation as primary tools to compel victims to comply with the demands.
  • Power Inequity: Perpetrators take advantage of power inequalities, maintaining dominance over their victims to manipulate or control their actions.
  • Threat of Revealing Information: Blackmail specifically involves threats to expose private or sensitive information if demands are not met.
  • Range of Threats: Extortion employs a wide variety of threats, which may include physical harm, financial penalties, or reputational damage, extending beyond mere disclosure of information.
  • Impact on Victims and Legal Proceedings: Understanding these distinctions is crucial for grasping the nuances of these crimes and addressing their legal implications effectively.

How to Protect Yourself against Blackmail and Extortion

1. Secure Your Computer

Ensure your computer has the latest antivirus software installed, with virus definitions updated daily. Be cautious of unwanted emails and unknown links, and watch for signs of malware, such as a sudden slowdown in your computer’s performance or excessive pop-up ads. 

Protect other electronic devices, including smartphones and tablets, and ensure your wireless network is secured with a strong password. Consider securing WiFi-enabled security cameras to prevent unauthorized access.

2. Watch What You Share

Keep your social media profiles private and regularly check your security settings to ensure you’re protected. Be mindful of what you share online. Even seemingly harmless information can be used by someone with malicious intent to blackmail or extort you. Sharing less personal information reduces your risk.

3. Be Aware of Current Scams

Stay informed about common extortion schemes, including those that impersonate government agencies like the FBI or IRS. These scams often involve threats of legal action or demands for money. 

If you receive a suspicious call or email claiming to be from a government agency, report it to the police immediately to avoid falling victim to extortion. Awareness of the latest scams and how they work can make it harder for scammers to succeed. Educating yourself and others about these tactics is a powerful defense.

To stay informed, you can read all of our articles at Cryptoscam Defense Network

What to do if You’ve Been Blackmailed or Suffered Extortion

Discovering that you’ve been targeted by blackmail or extortion can be incredibly scary. However, taking quick and strategic action is necessary to reduce the damage and can help bring the attackers to justice. 

Here are the steps you should take immediately after discovering you are a victim:

  • Do Not Comply: Refrain from responding to the blackmail attempts, making payments, or accepting the scammer’s demands. Compliance can further damage your security and escalate the situation.
  • Document Evidence: Preserve every piece of communication, including emails or messages from the scammer, noting the date and time and details of the interaction. This documentation will be required for legal purposes.
  • Secure Accounts: Change passwords for all your emails and financial platforms to strong, unique passwords and enable two-factor authentication where possible.
  • Contact Law Enforcement: Report the incident to your local law enforcement agencies immediately, providing them with all the evidence and details of the scam. Filing a formal complaint and cooperating fully during the investigation will aid in tracking down the perpetrators.
  • Seek Support: Share the experience with a trusted friend, family member, or mental health professional to help manage with the emotional impact of the situation.
  • Consult Legal Professionals: Seek legal advice and guidance from a lawyer experienced in cybercrime cases to understand your rights and options moving forward.
  • Engage with Cybersecurity Experts: Consider consulting cybersecurity professionals to review and improve your online security, identifying potential vulnerabilities and providing recommendations for protection.

If you are a victim of Snapchat blackmail, here’s how to protect yourself. Learn the necessary steps to report: What to Do If You Need to Report Snapchat Blackmail.

Man in a dark hoodie holding a laptop, evoking themes of secrecy in cyber blackmail and extortion

Staying Safe from Blackmail and Extortion

Effectively dealing with blackmail and extortion involves prompt action and the right security measures. Ensure your digital footprint is minimal and secure, seek immediate legal and law enforcement help if threatened, and regularly update your knowledge on how to counter these threats. 

Handling such situations with urgency and care not only protects your personal and financial information but also contributes to broader efforts against these illegal activities. Empower yourself with the tools and support necessary to stand firm against coercion.

Be sure to check out all our free resources at Crytposcam Defense Network to stay informed against scams and frauds, specially, blackmail and extortion.

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FAQs About Blackmail and Extortion 

What Should I Do First if I’m Blackmailed? 

Immediately cease all communication with the blackmailer and do not comply with any demands.

Is It Important to Keep Evidence of Blackmail? 

Yes, save all messages, emails, and any other communications. This evidence is crucial for any legal action.

Should I Report Blackmail or Extortion to the Police? 

Absolutely. Reporting the incident helps protect you and can aid in catching the perpetrator.

Can Changing My Passwords Help? 

Yes, update all passwords and enable two-factor authentication to secure your accounts from further access.

Where Can I Get Help If I’m Being Blackmailed? 

Contact law enforcement, consult a lawyer specializing in cybercrime, and consider speaking to a mental health professional for support.

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