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What is Blackmail?

What is Blackmail?

Blackmail is a crime – that much should go without saying. What are the origins of blackmail, and what is blackmail itself? Interestingly, Merriam-Webster points towards ancient Anglo-Saxon era Scotland as the point of origin of the phrase.

Tributes would be exacted on the Scottish border. Where chiefs were plundered, in exchange for immunity from further pillaging. The modern definition of the word is properly defined as ‘extortion.  

The term extortion and blackmail go hand-in-hand. In the digital age, blackmail, extortion, and its many forms are on the rise – so let’s look and see what blackmail is through a modern lens.

Online Blackmail is a form of threats to electronically extort money from someone. The first thing you should know about this type blackmail: there’s no proof necessary for its successful conclusion!

Sextortion, a portmanteau of ‘sex’ and ‘extortion’, refers to the act of a blackmailer (or sextortionist, colloquially, when speaking on this topic of criminality) luring in unsuspecting victims with promises of sexual intimacy by sending explicit media to the potential victim, with the end-goal being to receive compromising intimate images and media back from the victim to use against them.

Many online platforms are prone to sextortion. Including social media, message boards, and even on some of the largest online games.

Sextortion – The #1 Type of Online Blackmail

Online sextortion is easy to fall for, and difficult to escape. Sextortion as a sub-class of blackmail also comes in many varieties as well: online romance scams, for one.

These are situations that are a little more drawn-out than your average sextortion scams – a perpetrator will build up trust over a longer timeframe, posing as someone geographically distant from their victims’ locations, while asking for money or small ‘favors’ that ‘any willing boyfriend/girlfriend would be willing to do.’

These situations don’t always become direct blackmail, but often can when a victim realizes what is happening and confronts their ‘partner’, especially if the victim has already shared private photos with the scammer. Finally, there’s also e-mail sextortion.

These scams are less threatening, on the whole, but can be concerning no less. An email sextortion scam is one by way of, as the classification suggest, e-mail messaging. Some targets may not even realize that someone is attempting to make them a sextortion victim due to many of these types of e-mails now being automatically classified as junk or spam, or being prevented from delivery even into those inbox folders entirely by ISPs and e-mail service providers.

Types of online sextortion

The typical set-up for email sextortion usually starts with an unsolicited e-mail message.  Usually containing some kind of attachment and a body of text describing how the sender ‘will know when the e-mail is opened’ and ‘has hacked the target’s webcam, and taken video of them while they were watching sexual content online.’

We have found in our work that these are typically idle threats in many cases, however we do caution that anyone who suspects their computer system may be compromised by third parties to not take such e-mails lightly as while many times the initial message can be a bluff, there’s a chance (albeit a minor one) that the scammers have done exactly what they claim.

These are just a few types of sextortion, when it comes to describing what blackmail is or can be online. However, blackmail can still come in many other forms as well.

Other Varieties of Online Blackmail         

While sextortion may be the most prolific type of online blackmail today, there do exist other forms of it as well. Here are three more examples of what online blackmail could be:

  • Ransomware

One of the oldest forms of online blackmail, born when the internet was still young. This type of blackmail typically takes the form of a virtual hostage situation. Your computer’s system is infiltrated by malicious code and rendered inoperable unless you call a particular number and pay to have it unlocked again.

  • Proprietary Information Release

Also commonly termed as a ‘threat of action’ blackmail. The goal of these attacks isn’t usually to target an individual, but businesses.

These are situations where a business, by way of phishing e-mails or other types of infiltration, have information stolen with the threat of making that knowledge public in exchange for payment. 


  • Defamation

This particular sub-class of blackmail can and often does go together with other forms. In these situations, online blackmailers will issue threats of libelous statements to besmirch an individual or company’s reputation with lies.



We offer immediate, 24/7 assistance from our team of investigators.

Return to Sender

So, now that we know what blackmail can look like in the modern world, how do we help ourselves?  It really all depends on the type of situation. Knowing that the burden of proof is on you to provide.

Document everything you do and say. Especially if there are hints that someone may be targeting or setting up your accounts for trouble!

Report your situation to the authorities. Minimizing your online presence and availability, and changing your passwords are also good common practices.

However, sometimes this is not enough – there are, much like our own.  Many companies out there in the world today that specialize in dealing with online blackmail discreetly and with minimal damages.


Here at Digital Forensics Corporation,  we have a high rate of success when it comes to dealing with sextortionists. Over 90% of the cases we take on – successful.

Our main goal is to prevent release of content.  As well as obtaining proof of deletion, and ending harassment from the blackmailers.

However, we always encourage you to do your research first – if you want more information about how we may be able to assist you if you or someone you know is an online blackmail victim or are being sextorted, give us a call at 1-888-210-0574 or chat with one of our team members right here through our online support channel.

We can help you if yo faced with:

Facebook Sextortion (Report Sextortion On Facebook)

Instagram Sextortion (Report Sextortion On Instagram)

Snapchat Sextortion 

Skype Sextortion as well as other messenger sextortion

And any other type of online sextortion. Contact Us ASAP

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