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In our current digital world, cybercrimes come in many shapes and forms. One of the most common cyber crimes that take place every day is online blackmail.
In this article, we'll be discussing everything you need to know about online blackmail, including how you can become a victim of it, how you can deal with it, and how you can protect yourself from falling victim to online blackmail incidents.
What is Online Blackmail?
Online blackmail occurs when someone threatens to expose an individual's private information, images, or videos unless specific demands are met. These demands range from money transfers to other benefits. This threat is a distressing form of cyberbullying that affects people of all ages, but it is especially concerning when young individuals are involved.
Online blackmail is similar to regular blackmail, which is already a criminal offense punishable by law. The only difference here is that the entire act of blackmailing takes place in a virtual space, i.e.: different social media platforms.
Common Online Blackmail Methods
There are various ways an individual can be blackmailed online, which involves receiving threats over different aspects. The most common forms of threats include:
- Threats of violent acts against the target or their loved ones (friends, family, love interest, etc.)
- Threats of damage to personal property/any kind of physical/virtual assets
- Threats of releasing personal information that can ruin a person’s reputation
- Threats of releasing private financial information that anyone can exploit for personal gains
What Makes Online Blackmail Different from Traditional Extortion?
Traditional blackmailing takes place in person, and the threat is always directed at an individual. It’s not a public event, it’s more of a privatized threat.
On the other hand, online blackmail can take a lot of different forms, but they are not private in any way. Information on the internet can spread very quickly, and it can leak from anywhere. So when an event of online blackmail takes place, it becomes a public event within a short amount of time, because of how fast the leaked information can spread.
Online blackmailers are professional scammers who know their way around any personal security infrastructure to exploit them.
There can also be instances where a perpetrator makes a fake claim of having personal information when in reality, they are just trying to scare you into fulfilling their demands.
How to Deal with Online Blackmail
In the event of online blackmail, it can be very difficult to keep yourself calm and make calculated decisions. But that is exactly what the perpetrators count on.
Here are the actions you should take immediately after finding out you are being blackmailed online:
Stop Engaging With The Blackmailer
When faced with online blackmail, the first step you should take is eliminating all forms of communication with the blackmailer. This may seem like a simple step, but it's a crucial step nonetheless.
Because, every interaction you have with the blackmailer, whether it's through messages, emails, or any other means, gives them a sense of power and control, allowing them to believe they can manipulate and exploit you further. Eventually, their threats escalate in aggression, putting your well-being at risk.
However, eliminating all contact with the blackmailer disarms them, reducing the likelihood of further threats and manipulation from them. This action will empower you to regain control over your life and protect your privacy.
Start Saving All Communication As Evidence
When you're getting blackmailed online, every bit of evidence counts. Document every conversation, and capture screenshots of every interaction with the blackmailer. This includes all text messages, emails, or any other form of communication. These documents will act as a digital paper trail that can be invaluable in holding the perpetrator accountable.
You should also pay attention to any information that the blackmailer might have disclosed during your exchanges. This may include different usernames, email addresses, phone numbers, or any identifying details. This information can be a critical assets in tracing and identifying the blackmailer.
Report The Incident To The Proper Authorities
After gathering enough evidence, you should contact law enforcement with all the evidence right away.
Typically, law enforcement agencies have a structured process to kickstart a case. You'll be asked to fill out a form with your personal details and submit all the necessary information that can be considered as evidence.
After you've submitted the report, law enforcement will inform you about your rights as a victim and guide the recommended course of action. They will work to ensure that your well-being and safety are prioritized throughout the investigation.
Start Taking Steps To Prevent Further Blackmail
After you've informed all the authorities and taken the necessary steps to recover your stolen information, you should take adequate measures to prevent future instances of online blackmail, such as enhancing your online security, reviewing and adjusting privacy settings, learning more about common online blackmail tactics, such as sextortion, phishing emails, webcam blackmail, etc.