Credited as the most decisive technology of the Information Age, the Internet has shaped (and reinvented) nearly every aspect of modern-day society and culture in a (mostly) positive way. Today, the Internet dictates how we perform many aspects of life, including how we consume information and exchange ideas, how we make a living and purchase goods or services, and how we socially connect with one another. But what happens when online interactions turn sour or information is exploited for an unlawful purpose, and the Internet is used as a weapon to extort, sextort, threaten or attack you?
What can you do to stop it?
If you are the victim of online extortion or sextortion, consider these four useful tips:
- Document all evidence of the attack
- Do not panic
- Do not take preemptive measures to “control the narrative” of the situation
- Do not give into an extortionist or sextortionist’s demands
Below we will walk you through all four steps in more detail and why working with an experienced internet attorney is essential to effectively stop online extortion.
Step 1: Document All Evidence of the Attack
If you are the victim of online extortion or sextortion, you should document all relevant information and evidence related to the extortion. Document and preserve all available information about the extortion and extortionist including but not limited to:
- Usernames, email addresses, or other unique account information;
- Telephone numbers or addresses provided or used;
- All communications including text messages, direct messages, and emails with the date and time of the communication;
- All relevant online posts or comments related to the extortion;
- Any information related to the website or platform on which you are being extorted.
While more advanced evidence preservation software is available (such as Visualping and Page Vault), taking a screenshot or using your computer’s “snipping tool” (including CTRL+PrtScr) are free and effective tools to document crucial evidence of online extortion or sextortion.
Knowing your extortionist’s real name and contact information is ideal to be able to effectively confront and stop him or her.
However, online extortionists often will not use their real names and instead hide behind fictitious usernames, email addresses, or misleading account handles. Therefore it is important to try to collect as much information during your communication with an online extortionist as possible to try to ultimately identify them.
No Piece of Information is Too Small
It is essential to establish as many data points as possible for your extortionist – no matter how insignificant the information may seem. The more information you have about your on your online extortionist, the more likely an experienced internet attorney will be able to identify him or her.
Step 2: Do NOT Panic
We understand that being attacked and extorted online can be extremely stressful. It may seem as though you have no way out, and you are doomed to have to comply with your extortionist’s demands, but we encourage you to take a step back and look at the bigger picture.
More often than not, when an online extortionist first realizes you may not comply with his or her demands, he or she will respond with aggression and unreasonable threats. This aggression may be a sign of desperation. Remember, an extortionist’s ultimate goal is to leverage fear and elicit panic to gain an advantage over you.
While an extortionist may threaten to “expose” or embarrass you by releasing sensitive information, they are also aware that if they do follow through with their threats that they will probably lose the opportunity to continue extorting you. Utilizing this awareness when reacting to their threats is essential to effectively putting an end to their extortion.
Step 3: Do NOT Take Preemptive Measures to Mitigate Damage
Your first instinct might be to take preventative measures before your online extortionist potentially releases embarrassing photographs, videos, or other sensitive information about you. This is almost always a mistake.
You may be trying to “control the narrative” of an embarrassing or humiliating situation and mitigate future damages, but if you act too hastily, you may make matters worse by drawing attention to a matter that will most likely be resolved in a discreet manner. Do not assume that your online extortionist will follow through with his or her threats.
If you are the victim of online extortion or sextortion, it is natural to not want your significant other, friends, or employer to discover embarrassing or incriminating information about you. But if the information has not yet been released, it is not usually wise to alert anyone to something they may never actually discover.
An experienced internet attorney can help you stop an extortionist before any sensitive information or media is released to the public.
Step 4: Do Not Give Into an Extortionist or Sextortionist’s Demands
If you are being extorted online, it is important to remember that your extortionist is requesting something from you, and you control whether or not you comply with his or her demands. Whether they are demanding money, intimate photographs, videos or other services, your extortionist is bargaining with you to get what he or she wants, and you can take control of the conversation.
If you are under attack by an online extortionist, do not assume that giving in to his or her demands will stop the extortion. Even if your extortionist “promises” that they will stop if you comply with their requests, they often will come back for more sooner than you think, and his or her demands may even increase in frequency and scope.
Unless you plan to cooperate with someone who is extorting you for the foreseeable future, a confrontation with them is inevitable. The earlier you seek legal help for this confrontation, the better.
Hiring an experienced attorney shows your extortionist that you take his or her actions seriously, you will not give in to his or her demands, and that there are consequences to his or her actions. Experienced internet attorneys possess an arsenal of investigatory tools and legal tactics to:
- Identify and unmask unknown extortionists and sextortionists,
- Hold extortionists accountable for their actions, and
- Remove unwanted online content (ex. Intimate photographs or videos, malicious and false blog posts, fake business reviews).
At Minc Law, we understand the urgency of dealing with an online extortionist and will treat your issue like the emergency it often is. Acting quickly and effectively is important, and we are here to help you with your sensitive issue.