Sextortion is extremely distressing and isolating, and it can feel like the threats will never end. If you are the victim of a sextortion scam, it is natural to wonder: “Do sextortionists give up?”
Several factors can influence when (and if) a sextortionist gives up, including:
- If you send the sextortionist money or give in to their demands,
- Whether or not you reply to their messages,
- How long you have had a relationship with this person,
- If you have blocked them on all possible online platforms,
- Whether you report the incident to law enforcement, and
- If you seek legal or professional cybersecurity assistance.
Unfortunately, there is no way to guarantee how a sextortionist will act, which is why consulting an experienced attorney can be an invaluable asset. At Minc Law, we know how to communicate with sextortionists on your behalf, prevent the situation from escalating, and end the harassment once and for all.
In this article, we explain how sextortion typically occurs and when (and why) sextortionists give up their illegal activities. We then provide actionable strategies for responding to sextortion—and how to protect yourself against future attacks.
What is Sextortion?
Sextortion is the crime of threatening to share explicit, sexual material about a victim unless they pay a ransom. Sextortionists usually demand money, more sexual images, or sexual favors.
Sextortion is also commonly referred to as:
- Internet blackmail,
- Online sextortion,
- Webcam sextortion,
- Cyber harassment,
- Extortion, and
- Web sextortion.
Sextortion is a burgeoning crime that has been rapidly increasing in recent years. The FBI received over 7,000 reports of sextortion in 2022, and the UK revenge porn helpline reported cases of sextortion increasing by 40% from 2020 to 2021.
How Does Sextortion Work?
Many sextortion schemes start when a stranger reaches out to you on social media, dating, or gaming sites. These professional scammers usually use a fake identity—often posing as an attractive young man or woman—to catfish their victims. Some even act in teams, targeting dozens of potential victims at once.
Once you accept their friend request, they strike up a friendly conversation that quickly turns flirtatious. They may persuade you to send them nude or explicit images of yourself, or they may ask to start a video call on another platform like Skype or WhatsApp. These scammers often use videos of “themselves,” stolen from pornographic websites, hoping you will return the favor by performing sexual acts on video.
Either way, the scammer preserves evidence of your explicit behavior without your permission or knowledge.
Once they have enough material, the scammer drops the friendly act. They threaten to share the compromising images with your friends and family (or simply publish them online), unless you pay them.
These scammers prey on your isolation and shame. They expect you to panic and either pay their ransom or provide additional sexual images or favors immediately. But, even if you meet their demands, the sextortionist often continues their harassment. That is why it is imperative to refrain from paying them or giving them what they want.
Who is Typically Targeted in Sextortion Attacks?
Sextortion is abuse—and it might come from a person you know or a stranger you met online. It can happen regardless of your age, gender, or sexual orientation.
More often than not, this is a game to these sextortionists. They cast a wide net and hope to catch as many victims as possible. Chances are, these scammers are typically extorting several people at the same time.
However, research shows that minors are the most common victims. Approximately 25% of sextortion victims are 13 years old or younger, and two-thirds of victims are girls under 16. The U.S. Department of Justice reported receiving 3,000 underage sextortion reports in 2022 alone.
Do Sextortionists Give Up? How to Know
Some sextortion scammers look for easy targets, reaching out to multiple victims at once and bluffing about having compromising material at all. These scammers may give up easily if you ignore them, moving on to more easily manipulated targets.
However, there is no guarantee that a sextortionist will give up that quickly. Especially if they have invested time into the scam attempt—and they believe you are vulnerable—they may continue to harass you until you reply.
A sextortionist will often try to escalate the situation in a last-ditch effort to force you to comply. Sometimes, this increased harassment can indicate that they plan to give up soon. Every situation is different, of course, but most sextortionists do not persist long if their targets are not compliant. They simply do not want to waste time on victims that are not going to pay them.
If you have not heard from the scammer in some time, that is a positive sign and can indicate that they gave up on you and moved on to another target.
For further reading, please see our comprehensive guide answering ‘Do Sextortionists Follow Through?’
Understanding a Sextortionist’s End Goal
Several motivations can drive a sextortionist, often mirroring the factors that influence other forms of cybercrime or exploitation. Financial gain is one of the most common motivations. Sextortionists demand money or other forms of payment from their victims under the threat of exposing intimate images or information. They exploit fear and humiliation to force victims into paying or providing more material.
In some cases, power and control also play significant roles. The ability to manipulate, control, and instill fear in another person can provide a perverse sense of satisfaction and dominance for these individuals.
Sexual gratification can be another driver. Some sextortionists may use the intimate images or interactions they procure for their personal satisfaction. In other instances, these images may be shared or sold to others for a similar purpose.
Lastly, some extortionists are driven by revenge or spite, often following a personal relationship or interaction that has gone awry. This form of extortion is often categorized as revenge porn, where perpetrators use intimate images initially shared within the context of a private relationship as a weapon to cause harm or embarrassment. The primary difference between sextortion and revenge porn is the relationship that exists between perpetrator and victim; revenge porn is, oftentimes, much more personal and targeted, whereas sextortion is generalized and widespread in terms of how the scam unfolds.
No matter the motivation, it is important to remember that sextortion is a serious crime with severe legal and social consequences.
Factors That May Influence if a Sextortionist Gives Up
Several factors can lead to a sextortionist giving up their illicit activities. First, if you do not respond to the sextortionist or pay their demands, they may decide the effort is not worth the potential gain.
Reporting the incident to the authorities is another crucial step. If the sextortionist realizes they have been reported, the increased risk of legal repercussions can deter them. Authorities may also be able to take steps to identify and apprehend the perpetrator, ending their activities.
Seeking legal or professional assistance can also increase the likelihood of the sextortionist giving up. The involvement of lawyers or cybersecurity professionals raises the stakes for the perpetrator, who may decide that continuing their actions is too risky.
Lastly, blocking the sextortionist on social media can also make it harder for them to continue their threats. Without a reliable way to harass you, the sextortionist may give up and move on.
For further reading, please see our comprehensive resources, ‘Should I Ignore Sextortion?’ and ‘How Long Does Sextortion Last?’
Steps to Take if You Are Sextorted Online
Just because it seems like a sextortionist “gave up,” it does not mean you should overlook the scam attempt. After all, there is a big difference between ignoring a sextortion attempt and not engaging with the perpetrator.
Even if you do not respond to the sextortionist at all, it is crucial to shore up your online assets and protect yourself against further attacks.
Capture Proof of All Correspondence With the Sextortionist
It is normal to want to delete all evidence of your interactions with the scammer. You probably do not want any copies of the compromising material about you, and your first instinct may be to try eradicating that material from the internet.
Do not follow this instinct; deleting evidence of the scam makes it harder to bring the perpetrator to justice. You need tangible evidence if you want to report the crime to law enforcement or bring a successful legal claim.
Block the Sextortionist & Cease All Communication
Do not engage with the sextortionist, even if they do not give up immediately. Block them on all platforms, so they cannot view your profile information or contact you further.
Do not pay them or meet any other demands, and do not attempt to negotiate with them or find out what kind of material they have of you.
Engaging with a sextortionist usually does more harm than good. It shows you can be manipulated, meaning they will likely turn more attention toward you and escalate their threats.
Paying them does not guarantee they will leave you alone. That is how they attempt to provide relief from their harassment: if you pay a ransom to make this go away once and for all, it will finally be over. However, this is rarely true. In fact, providing payment may make your situation much worse. If the perpetrator sees that you have the financial means to meet their demands, and – by paying them – they realize that you will go to any lengths to protect yourself, that may make you a prolonged target.
Report All Activity to the FBI’s IC3 & Local Authorities
It is important to report sextortion to the proper legal authorities. Even if the scammer is in another country and difficult to prosecute, a report can help document their activity online and potentially protect future victims.
If you live in the U.S., you can report a sextortion attempt and related cybercrimes to the following authorities:
- The FBI’s Internet Crimes Complaint Center (IC3),
- INTERPOL (for international perpetrators),
- National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC),
- Your local FBI field office, and
- Your local police.
Contact an Experienced Sextortion Attorney to Take Action
Sextortion and online blackmail are nuanced and constantly evolving areas of law. Every state regulates and defines sextortion differently, and it can be difficult to hold a sextortionist accountable on your own.
Experienced internet attorneys can help you determine the best strategy to fight back against online harassment.
Sextortion attorneys are well-versed in reporting sextortion to the appropriate authorities, removing harmful content from the internet, and identifying anonymous sextortionists. They can not only provide a supportive, judgment-free ear, but they can also help you combat sextortion both quickly and discreetly.
To ensure that you do not fall victim to another scam, make sure to read our comprehensive resources explaining the key red flags of sextortion assistance services and where to turn for sextortion help.
How to Protect Yourself Against Future Sextortion Attacks
It is fairly easy to know when you have been sextorted—but spotting the red flags of a sextortion attempt can take a bit more effort. Thankfully, there are a few practical steps you can take to protect yourself from sextortionists and other scammers.
Maintain Strong Digital Security
The best way to protect yourself from online attacks is to follow best practices for online privacy, such as:
- Maximizing the privacy settings on all your accounts,
- Using a virtual private network (VPN) to hide your location and encrypt your online activity,
- Updating your passwords every few months, and
- Removing your personal information from data broker sites.
Make it a habit never to open attachments or click on links from strangers, and be wary of unexpected links and attachments that come from friends. These links and files could contain malware, which is a common way for scammers to hack into victims’ devices.
Also, close your laptop and cover your webcams when they are not in use. Some sextortionists hack into their victims’ devices and record them without their consent.
Limit Sharing of Personal Information & Media
The more personal information you share online, the easier it is for scammers and malicious individuals to gain leverage over you.
Ensure your social media privacy settings only allow your close friends to see your posts and profile information. Even then, it is best to be cautious of the personal information and images you share.
Be Cautious of New Online Connections
Sextortion scammers often send unsolicited sexual content to get you to let down your guard. You may be tempted to “return the favor,” but keep your wits about you. Remember that those unsolicited photos and videos could easily have been falsified or stolen from elsewhere online.
Be Cautious About Sharing Intimate Content
The best way to avoid becoming a victim of sextortion is to never send intimate images of yourself via text or the internet. Once you send intimate content to someone else, you lose control over where it goes next.
But, if it is not practical to avoid these intimate conversations completely, at least be cautious. Do not send images containing your face, and consider using a pseudonym on dating sites. Most importantly, never send explicit material to a new connection you have not met in real life. You never know who is on the other side of that camera.
Adjust Your Privacy Settings
Even if you are not experiencing threats of sextortion, it is a good idea to keep your social media accounts as private as possible. Most social media platforms allow you to adjust your social media privacy settings and choose who can see your profile, interact with your posts, and message you privately.
Keep Up to Date With Cyber Threats & Sextortion Attacks
Check recent scam alerts regularly from the FBI, AARP, and the Federal Trade Commission. Many scammers use the same tactics from victim to victim, so it is helpful to familiarize yourself with common sextortion scams that are circulating. If a message or email sounds suspicious, you can Google it to find out if anyone else has reported a similar scam.
We Can Help You Handle Sextortion
At Minc Law, we help give peace of mind to those in the digital world. We understand just how devastating and stressful it can be to have someone threaten to publish your intimate images on the internet. Know that you do not have to go through this alone.
Sextortion victims who contact our firm are matched with an experienced sextortion attorney who can help take over direct communications with the perpetrator, provide objective, non-judgmental advice, and navigate this private and sensitive situation. Should your intimate content be published on the internet, we can help remove it and monitor the internet for subsequent digital threats.
“Michele Simonelli recently helped me with an sextortion case. Due to the escalating nature of the situation, she promptly moved a previously scheduled meeting forward, and took immediate action to help mitigate the threat. As anyone facing these type situations knows, it’s extraordinarily agonizing, and one cannot even think logically. Michele was reassuring, and extremely responsive to my texts and phone calls, and also appeared non-judgemental. There’s no way to know the outcome had I not used her services, however, the backing of her and the firm gave me enough confidence/hope to get through the situation, with what appears to be a successful outcome. Thank you, Michele, for your professionalism, responsiveness and kindness! I highly recommend this firm and particularly Michele.”
August 19, 2022
Reach out to schedule your initial, no-obligation exploratory call with one of our intake specialists by calling (216) 373-7706, speaking with a Chat representative, or filling out our online contact form. If you are a fit for our sextortion services, we provide paid emergency consultations with a dedicated sextortion attorney for $500.