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What Is Online Extortion?
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What Is Online Extortion?

Online extortion is a serious problem that is becoming more and more common. If you have been a victim of online extortion, you are not alone. In this blog post, we will define online extortion, discuss some common scenarios, and offer some tips on what to do if you find yourself in this situation. 

What Is Online Extortion?

In short, Internet extortion is when someone threatens to release information or take action that will cause you harm unless you pay them money or meet some other demand. The information or action that the extortionist threatens to take can be anything that would damage your reputation or cause you financial harm. For example, an online extortionist may threaten to release embarrassing photos or videos unless you pay them $500. 

Common Scenarios of Online Extortion Scams   

There are many different ways that online extortion can play out. Some common scenarios include: 

  • Theft of sensitive data such as customer information or company secrets: In this scenario, the extortionist may threaten to release the stolen data to the public unless you pay them a ransom.  
  • DDoS attacks: In a DDoS (distributed denial of service) attack, the attacker inundates your website with so much traffic that it crashes. The attacker may then demand payment to stop the attack and allow your website to come back online.  
  • Malware attacks: In this type of attack, the attacker infects your computer with malware that either locks you out of your system or encrypts your files. The attacker will then demand payment for you to regain access to your system or files. 
  • Social Media Attacks: In this scenario, extortionists, or sextortionists, create dozens of catfish profiles and flirt their way into getting their victims to exchange explicit content, then threaten to expose them online if they do not receive compensation. 

Although we have named a few common scenarios of extortion, it’s helpful and informative to know about real lives that have been affected by this awful crime. Here is an example of a real-life case of sextortion we have dealt with here at Digital Forensics. (Real names will not be used to protect the victim’s privacy) 

Jane Smith was a divorced mother of three feeling like it was time to put herself out there and join a dating app called Hinge. Not being on the app long, she received a message from an attractive man called Christ Morgan, “Chris” for short. He immediately started being flirtatious once he reached out, feeding Jane with compliments. The two got to talking on the app for a little until Chris suggested they exchange numbers which led to the two hitting it off and forming a relationship over months.  

Christ claimed that he worked overseas for an oil rig (which was a lie and he was a scammer based in Nigeria) and formed numerous excuses as to why they couldn’t video chat or see each other. He would fill Jane with hope when he promised he would fly to her and visit. This is when things took a turn, causing Jane to be alarmed. Chris would come up with numerous amounts of excuses as to why he needed to borrow money from her such as, “My bank card froze,” “I’m hungry, but I’m short on cash,” and “They aren’t paying me enough over here, can you help.” Jane being the helpful and loving person she is continued to send him money but noticed how he constantly would ask nonstop and he became more of a burden. She explained that she has kids to feed and take care of and isn’t able to help him out anymore, and wants out of the relationship. This is when Chris showed his true colors. He got extremely hostile and threatened that he would expose all of her nude images and videos online including her place of work if she didn’t keep sending him money.  

Unfortunately, Chris went through with his threats and harassed Jane for months which led her to file for bankruptcy. This type of crime can be labeled a romance scam, online extortion, and sextortion. The way sextortionists string along their victims varies, the attack can happen within a few hours, days, or even months, it’s ultimately based on what type of criminal you are dealing with.  

If you find yourself the victim of online extortion, the best thing to do is contact law enforcement and online blackmail experts right away and report internet extortion. Document the harassment and do not agree to any demands. Law enforcement officials and experts have experience dealing with these types of situations and will be able to help you resolve the issue safely.  

Online extortion is a serious crime, and it is important to get law enforcement involved as soon as possible so that they can catch the person responsible and prevent anyone else from becoming a victim.   The Best option is to Report Sextortion to sextortion helpline

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