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How to Deal With Facebook Sextortion

Facebook can be a great way to stay connected to friends and family—but it is also a popular breeding ground for scammers of all forms. If a scammer is threatening to share explicit images of you if you do not pay a ransom, you are a target of sextortion. To respond to sextortion on Facebook, we recommend taking the following steps:

  1. Document and preserve evidence of the sextortion (including the scammer’s Facebook account),
  2. Lock down your Facebook profile,
  3. Avoid engaging with the perpetrator,
  4. Cease contact and do not pay,
  5. Report the sextortion to online agencies and law enforcement,
  6. Reach out to a sextortion attorney,
  7. Monitor the internet for future attacks, and
  8. Seek out emotional and professional support.

At Minc Law, we have proven experience helping clients fight back against all forms of online extortion. We know how to navigate social media reporting procedures, remove harmful content, report sextortion to law enforcement, and identify anonymous scammers to hold them accountable.

In this article, we define Facebook sextortion and explain how to protect yourself from scammers on the platform. We then provide actionable tips on responding to a sextortion attempt and when to reach out for legal assistance.

What is Sextortion on Facebook?

The scenario is all too common: an attractive stranger sends you a friend request. They begin chatting with you, innocently at first—but the conversation quickly turns sexual. Eventually, they claim to have recorded your explicit interaction, and they threaten to share it with your friends and family if you do not pay.

This common Facebook scam is known as sextortion. In this section, we explain how Facebook sextortion happens and why sextortionists often rely on Facebook to find their victims.

Facebook Sextortion Explained

The crime of sextortion involves a perpetrator using intimate information or content about you as leverage for you to do what they want. A facebook sextortionist usually threatens to share explicit media with your friends and family (or publish it online) if you do not pay a ransom or perform sexual favors.

Sextortion can also be referred to as:

  • Internet blackmail,
  • Web sextortion,
  • Webcam blackmail,
  • Online sextortion,
  • Cyber harassment,
  • Extortion,
  • Online harassment, and
  • Online extortion.

Sextortion often takes place over social media, especially platforms such as Facebook. In Facebook sextortion, the perpetrator finds their victims on the platform and uses their public profiles to gather information about them (such as their interests, location, and friends list). Facebook is also an ideal platform for making initial contact with the victim; it is easy to send friend requests and initiate private conversations with strangers on the platform.

Typical Sextortion Scams on Facebook

Many perpetrators find and reach out to their victims on Facebook before attempting to move the conversation to another (more private) platform, such as WhatsApp, Skype, or Facebook Messenger. These scammers also use Facebook to gather as much information about their victims as possible, whether by asking questions directly or digging through their profiles. The more information a sextortionist has about you, the more leverage they gain.

In the typical Facebook sextortion scenario, the scammer poses as an attractive stranger (usually of the opposite sex from the victim). They send a friend request and then strike up a friendly conversation.

If you are unfamiliar with manipulative flatterers, you may be surprised at how easily the stranger can lure you into a false sense of security. In a relatively short time, the conversation can turn from friendly and flirtatious to overtly sexual. Most scammers will ask you to share sexually explicit pictures, videos, or messages.

The scammer might invite you to a video call on Facebook Messenger or another app like Snapchat or Skype. They may play a video of “themselves,” which is stolen from a pornography website, to entice you to return the favor. Once they have recorded explicit content of you, they drop the friendly act.

The sextortionist will then threaten to publish the sensitive content online or share it with your friends and family. They promise you will avoid humiliation and embarrassment by paying them a ransom.

Why Sextortionists Commonly Use Facebook to Find Victims

Facebook is the most popular social platform in the world, with over 3 billion monthly active users. While the site is a great way to stay connected with friends and family, its popularity and ubiquity also make it a fertile breeding ground for sextortion and other scams.

Facebook also makes it easy to conduct a sextortion scam in its entirety. Facebook allows strangers to send friend requests, send private messages, join a webcam chat, and exchange photos.

Malicious actors can also gain leverage over their victims by perusing public Facebook profiles. Many Facebook users are unaware of how much sensitive information is available to the world—including their interests, location, place of work, and contacts list. Once a sextortionist has obtained compromising content, they can easily access your list of Facebook friends. From there, it is simple to threaten to send the material to all your closest friends and relatives.

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How to Identify & Protect Against Potential Facebook Sextortion Scams

In this section, we list a few common red flags to look for when interacting with strangers on Facebook. Then, we give actionable strategies for protecting yourself from sextortion on Facebook Messenger.

How to Identify a Facebook Sextortion Scam

The easiest way to protect yourself from scams on Facebook is to learn to identify the typical red flags of a scammer. When interacting with a new Facebook friend, keep the following questions in mind:

Is Their Profile Suspicious?

Whenever you receive a friend request on Facebook (whether it is from a stranger or an account claiming to be someone you know), review their profile before accepting. Look for red flags of a scammer, like minimal previous activity or no Facebook friends in common with you. If their profile picture seems like a stock photo or their name feels a little too generic, these details could also be red flags.

How Quickly Is the Conversation Escalating?

Many sextortionists try to inject flirtation and sexual topics into the conversation as soon as possible to keep victims engaged. If the conversation quickly turns from introductions to sexting, be wary.

Did They Ask You to Switch Platforms?

It is also a red flag if your new acquaintance asks to start a video call—on Facebook Messenger or another app like WhatsApp or Skype. They may be hoping to record you performing intimate acts on camera.

Have They Asked For Your Personal Information?

Sextortionists often use Facebook to research their victims. Avoid sharing sensitive and personal information about yourself too quickly with strangers online, like your workplace, location, or the names of your closest friends and family. It is always a red flag if a new acquaintance asks for pictures of your driver’s license or any other document that could be used to learn more about your identity.

Have They Asked You For Pictures or Video Content?

It can be flattering or exciting to be asked for intimate photos or videos—but proceed with caution. If your new acquaintance asks for explicit content that includes your face, they could be planning to save or record it for future sextortion leverage.

To learn more about how to protect yourself from such sextortion attempts, we recommend reading our article on the dangers of sexting.

What is the Difference Between Facebook Sextortion & a Phishing Email?

Not every scammer threatening to share your intimate content actually has possession of compromising images. Some scammers try casting a wide net by emailing many potential victims at once, claiming to have nude photos or videos of the recipients.

These emails are phishing emails—not true sextortion. The scammer hopes a small percentage of email recipients will believe their lie and pay a ransom out of panic.

Phishing emails usually claim the victim’s webcam, computer, browsing history, and personal files have been hacked. They demand payment via relatively hard-to-trace payment methods like cryptocurrency or gift cards. If you have received an email matching this description, do not panic. The best response is to ignore and delete the email, then change your password.

Steps to Protect Yourself From Sextortion on Facebook Messenger

Many Facebook sextortionists try to conduct their scams via private messages on Facebook Messenger. The best way to protect yourself from falling prey to a sextortionist on the platform is to remember the following tips:

  • Avoid interacting with strangers when in a vulnerable state,
  • Be wary of new Facebook friends who send intimate images unprompted,
  • Maximize your social media privacy,
  • Avoid moving conversations to a new platform or app,
  • Never open attachments from strangers,
  • Block webcams and turn off electronic devices when not in use, and
  • Never send private images of yourself to anyone.

Avoid Interacting With Strangers When in a Vulnerable State

Having your wits about you when engaging with strangers online is essential. It is best to stay off social media if you are not in a good frame of mind (such as after a breakup) or have had a few drinks.

Be Wary of New Facebook Friends Who Send Intimate Images Unprompted

One common tactic sextortionists use is to send unsolicited explicit images, hoping their victims will feel comfortable “returning the favor.” If you receive a sexual image or video from a new Facebook friend, be cautious.

Maximize Your Social Media Privacy

Beyond sextortion concerns, it is a good idea to protect your privacy on social media as much as possible. Most social media platforms—including Facebook—allow users to limit who can find, see, and contact you. By maximizing your privacy settings, you help insulate yourself from malicious scammers.

It is also a good rule of thumb to be cautious when sharing information online. The more you post about your life, interests, friends, and family, the more information scammers can use to trick or threaten you.

Avoid Moving Conversations to a New Platform or App

If your new Facebook friend asks you to move to another platform like FaceTime or WhatsApp, they may be planning to record your video chat for sextortion purposes. Always be cautious if a new connection tries to move your conversation to a new app or device.

Never Open Attachments From Strangers

Sextortionists and other scammers commonly use attachments to send viruses and malware to their intended victims. If you open such an attachment, a scammer may be able to gather private information about you or hack your webcam.

Block Webcams & Turn off Electronic Devices When Not in Use

To prevent sextortionists and other scammers from hacking into your devices and recording you without your notice, turn off your devices when you are not using them. You may also want to invest in a webcam privacy cover (or simply cover webcams with tape when not in use).

Never Send Explicit Images of Yourself to Anyone

The easiest way to avoid falling prey to a sextortionist is to never engage in sexting or intimate video chats with anyone, even people you know. Clouds and devices can be hacked, and relationships can go sour—so there is no way to control what happens to an intimate image once you release it into the digital world.

But this rule of thumb may not be practical for everyone, so if you do decide to send an explicit image or video, do what you can to ensure you can trust the recipient is who they say they are. Finally, do not include your face in the frames of any nude photo or video, if possible.

For further reading, please see our comprehensive guides, ‘Do Sextortionists Follow Through?’ and ‘Can Sextortion Ruin Your Life?’.

How to Report Facebook Messenger Sextortion

Unfortunately, because sextortion is such an isolating and embarrassing experience, many victims are afraid to seek help from others. It is natural to be afraid of being judged—but remember, you are the victim here, and the sextortionist is the one who should suffer consequences.

Beyond ending the harassment for yourself and potentially bringing the perpetrator to justice, reporting sextortion to Facebook can help prevent the scammer from using their account to victimize others.

Where Can You Report Facebook Sextortion?

Facebook’s Safety Center provides various ways to report sextortion to the platform. You can report general abuse from a Facebook profile, comments, or photo. If you hope to have the account suspended quickly, you may want to report the account in as many ways as possible. It can also help to ask trusted friends and family to report the account.

If the sextortionist has posted explicit images of you on Facebook, you can also submit them anonymously to Take it Down, a free service that helps prevent these images from spreading.

Report a Fake Facebook Account

If you have discovered the sextortionist is using a fake account (for instance, they are a man posing as a woman), you can report the account as fraudulent. Fake accounts are not allowed under Facebook’s Community Standards. Reporting a sextortionist’s account as fake is one of the safest ways to have their account suspended without them realizing you made the report.

You can report a fake Facebook account by navigating to their profile. Under their cover photo, click Find Support or Report.

find support or reportprofile on Facebook

You can also use this menu to block the profile, which we recommend doing after you report them.

Follow the on-screen instructions to file a report against the fake profile. Ask your trusted friends and family to report the account as fake as well, which can encourage Facebook’s moderators to act more quickly.

Report the Facebook Account for General Abuse

If you do not know whether the sextortionist is using a fake account, you can still report them for abusive behavior. To report a Facebook profile for sextortion, start by clicking the three dots on the top right corner of one of their posts. Click Report post.

report post on Facebook

Facebook takes sextortion seriously and encourages users to report anyone who participates in this type of activity. Facebook also suggests contacting local law enforcement to report such crimes.

However, it is important to know that reporting an account may only agitate the perpetrator—making matters worse. While your report should remain anonymous, the sextortionist may guess that you were the one who reported them.

Making a report may be worth the risk in some cases, but in others, it is not. The sextortionist may have many Facebook accounts, so they may continue or even escalate the unwanted behavior even if one account is suspended. We recommend consulting with your attorney before deciding how to fight back against the sextortionist.

What Happens When You Report Sextortion on Facebook?

Once you have reported the perpetrator, Facebook’s moderation team reviews the profile or posts for Community Standards violations. If they detect any rule violations, they will either remove the reported content or the account itself. You can check the status of your report in your Support Inbox.

However, there is no guarantee that Facebook will remove the content. Account suspension and account removal are entirely up to the platform’s discretion.

Why Is It Important to Report Sextortion to Facebook?

It is important to report sextortion to Facebook because it can lead to their account being suspended. By reporting perpetrators, you make it more difficult for them to use that account to target and harass others.

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.

How to Deal With Facebook Sextortion – Follow These Steps

It can be an extremely scary and isolating experience to fall prey to a sextortion scam. Your gut instinct may be to pay a ransom—but this course of action is rarely a long-term solution.

Sextortionists prey on your fear and panic, hoping you will meet their demands right away. Instead, take a deep breath and try to remain calm. You have more control over the circumstances than it appears.

Below, we list eight effective steps to take if you have been sextorted.

Document & Preserve Evidence (Including the Perpetrator’s Facebook Account)

While you may be inclined to delete all proof of your messages with the sextortionist, do not follow this instinct. Erasing evidence of the scam only makes it harder to hold the perpetrator to account—and it does not stop them from publishing their copies of the sexual content later.

If you want to report the harassment to law enforcement or bring a successful legal claim against the perpetrator, you will need evidence such as:

  • All communication between yourself and the sextortionist,
  • Screenshots and URLs of the sextortionist’s profile(s), and
  • Screenshots and URLs of any harmful posts or comments they made about you.

Also, try to piece together a timeline of the scam attempt, from their first message to the current threats. The more proof you have of the sextortion, the easier it is for law enforcement and your attorney to bring them to justice.

Lock Down Your Facebook Profile

Facebook is an extremely popular platform, and most users have had a profile for several years. A scammer may be able to glean quite a bit of information from scrolling through your profile—including your friends and family, workplace, location, and interests. They can easily use that information to threaten or even contact you in real life. It is important to lock down your Facebook profile and maximize your other social media privacy settings to protect yourself from further harassment.

To adjust your privacy settings on Facebook in your browser, click your profile picture in the top right of the screen. Choose Settings & privacy.

adjust settings and privacy on Facebook

Click Settings.

Click on Facebook Settings: adjust audience and visibility on Facebook

Then, adjust your privacy settings under Audience and visibility.

adjust audience and visibility on Facebook

Avoid Engaging With the Perpetrator

Once you receive a threatening message from the sextortionist, stop all communication with them. Do not reply to their messages, even if they do not give up right away. Block them on Facebook and any other platform where they contacted you (but capture screenshots of their profile and messages first).

It can feel counterintuitive not to respond to a scammer’s threats. However, engaging with a sextortionist rarely improves the situation. It shows them you are susceptible to manipulation, and they will likely escalate their threats.

Cease Contact & Do Not Pay

In your first moments of panic, you may feel you have no choice but to pay the sextortionist. But resist this urge—and remember that paying them does not guarantee they will leave you alone.

In fact, complying with an extortionist rarely makes the problem go away. Giving in to a sextortionist’s demands can signal that you are an easy target, and they are more likely to come back and ask for more money.

Report to Online Agencies & Law Enforcement

Even if the sextortionist is across international borders and difficult to prosecute, reporting sextortion to the proper authorities is important. A report can help chronicle their online activity and protect potential victims.

U.S. sextortion victims can make a report to the following agencies:

  • Your local FBI field office,
  • Your local police,
  • The FBI’s Internet Crimes Complaint Center (IC3),
  • INTERPOL (for international perpetrators), and
  • National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC).

Reach Out to an Attorney That Handles Sextortion

Online blackmail and sextortion are nuanced areas of law that are constantly evolving. Each jurisdiction defines sextortion differently, and it can be hard to fight back against online sextortion on your own.

Experienced sextortion attorneys like those at Minc Law know how to report sextortion to the proper authorities when warranted, remove unwanted online sexual content, and take over communications with the perpetrators. We can also advise you on the best strategy to end the harassment quickly and discreetly.

Please see our comprehensive resource explaining ‘How We Charge For Sextortion Matters’ for further information.

Monitor the Internet For Further Attacks

Once a sextortionist has targeted you on Facebook, they may branch out into other apps and platforms. It is crucial to monitor your overall online footprint to identify and respond to new harassment or explicit content.

You can use free tools like Google Alerts and paid services like Minc Law’s Digital Risk Protection service to protect your online footprint. Minc Law’s DRP service uses a mix of techniques and tools to identify, evaluate, and eradicate online threats as they appear. That way, you can be confident your reputation is constantly being protected.

Check out our guide to monitoring your reputation after a cyberattack to learn more.

Seek Out Emotional & Professional Support

Being targeted by sextortionists can lead to both immediate and long-term mental health effects. Please do not try to weather this difficult situation alone. You should confide in trusted family and friends right away, and you can also call a mental health or sextortion-specific hotline (such as Thorn).

Long-term mental health support can also help you recover from the trauma of your experience. We recommend reaching out to a psychologist or psychiatrist to help you deal with long-term symptoms like anxiety and depression.

If you are a minor or young person (or your underage child is a victim of sextortion), please see our in-depth guide: “What to Do If Your Child is the Target of Sextortion.”

Some sextortion victims experience extreme anxiety, stress, and thoughts of self-harm. Please remember that your well-being matters and nothing is worth hurting yourself. If you are in the U.S., please call the Suicide Prevention Helpline at 988 any time of the day or night for judgment-free support.

For further reading, please see our comprehensive guide explaining ‘What to Do If You’ve Been Sextorted’.

When to Get Legal Help With Facebook Sextortion

Sextortion is a terrifying and lonely experience. It can be extremely difficult to deal with these scammers on your own, and if they are escalating their threats with no end in sight, it is best to have an experienced sextortion attorney by your side when working to end the active harassment.

In this section, we discuss how to know when it is time to reach out to legal help, as well as the benefits of having an experienced legal representative when fighting back against online sextortion.

How Do You Know When It Is Time to Get Legal Help?

We recommend seeking legal help if you are unsure of what to do next or want an ally to communicate with the sextortionist on your behalf. You may also want to have a legal representative ready in case the scammer does follow through on their threats.

Also, keep in mind that if the extortionist has sent a message to a third party, it does not necessarily mean they sent the explicit content. Many scammers send direct messages to their victim’s Facebook friends with messages like “Hey, want to see something about John?”

If the sextortionist has employed this tactic, it is a good idea to get legal help now. That is because if the sextortionist is willing to contact your friends and family, it is more likely they will eventually send an embarrassing image or video of you. We recommend taking proactive steps to prepare for the off chance that the sextortionist does publish the sensitive content about you.

To avoid becoming the victim of another sextortion scam, we recommend reading ‘The Key Red Flags of Sextortion Assistance Services’.

How Minc Law Can Help Victims of Facebook Sextortion

At Minc Law, our attorneys are available to assist you if a sextortionist is threatening to share an intimate photo or video of you on Facebook. Our team can act quickly to remove harmful content and have scammers’ social media accounts suspended. Eventually, the scammer will move on when they realize you are too well-protected to be a profitable target.

We represent dozens of sextortion victims every year, and we have seen every variety of Facebook extortion. The crime of sextortion is serious enough to necessitate a well-crafted, stern response that shows the scammer they have chosen the wrong victim.

Our firm charges a minimum fee of $3,500 for online sextortion and extortion services. In these types of cases, you are often engaging an attorney to craft a cease and desist letter, send preservation requests, and take other measures to mitigate the impact of the active situation. But if the scammer does publish explicit content online, we also provide content removal services.

Further, because our firm prioritizes sextortion matters with urgent consultations, we charge $500 as a consultation fee to speak to an attorney the same day. That $500 consultation fee is then applied to the $3,500 minimum fee IF a client signs a retainer agreement within two business days of the consultation. In those situations, the fee owed at signing is $3,000.

For clients who sign an agreement after more than two business days, the fee owed is the full $3,500.


“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

If you would like to explore your options to stop sextortion, contact our office by calling us at (216) 373-7706 or filling out our contact form.

Contact Minc Law

This page has been peer-reviewed, fact-checked, and edited by qualified attorneys to ensure substantive accuracy and coverage.

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