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How Long Does Sextortion Last?

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    When you are a victim of sextortion attacks and threats, it may feel like it will continue forever. But how long does sextortion typically last?

    In most cases, sextortionists are playing a numbers game. They target multiple victims simultaneously, waiting for just a few to fall into their trap. Without intervention from an attorney, sextortionists may typically harass their victims for several days to several weeks. Cutting off all communication with the perpetrator may help speed up the process, since, oftentimes, the more you engage with a sextortionist, the more they will continue to threaten you.

    At Minc Law, we have helped hundreds of sextortion victims like you fight back against harassment and intimidation. We know how to resolve these overwhelming situations as quickly as possible—without drawing unnecessary attention. Our highly skilled legal team can take over communication with the perpetrator, work to prevent the release of harmful images, and help avoid drawing unwanted attention to the matter.

    It is not imperative to hire an attorney or third party to assist with sextortion; however, having an experienced professional on your side can provide strategic and invaluable support to help you navigate this scary situation.

    In this article, we provide an in-depth guide to the typical sextortion process and how long it generally lasts for victims. We then provide actionable tips for responding to and preventing sextortion in the future.

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    Understanding What Sextortion Is

    The crime of sextortion is a growing trend in today’s digital age.

    In 2022 alone, the FBI had over 7,000 reports of sextortion, including over 3,000 minors targeted, according to the Department of Justice. The UK revenge porn helpline reports that sextortion cases increased by 40% from 2020 to 2021, the year that sextortion became the most reported issue.

    What is Sextortion?

    Sextortion is the act of coercing a victim into paying money (or meeting some other demand) to keep their private, explicit material secret.

    The perpetrator may have stolen or scammed the explicit images from the victim, or the victim may have provided that material willingly. Either way, once the perpetrator obtains those sensitive images or videos, they threaten to share that material with the victim’s friends and family if the victim does not pay a ransom.

    Other common terms for sextortion include:

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

    What Are a Sextortionist’s Goals?

    The primary goal of a sextortionist is to isolate you. They plan to coerce payment by instilling fear that your sensitive content and information will be posted to the web or shared with your friends and family.

    A sextortionist’s game plan is to separate you from your money quickly, which means they are hoping you will panic and respond to their demands right away.

    If you are an underage sextortion victim, the criminal hopes to isolate you from family, friends, and others who care about you. Their goal is to make you feel like you have no options.

    For parents of underage victims, it is important to remember that what your child is going through is not their fault. These scammers are professionals who are looking for a quick payday. They know how to hunt for their next prey, and they do not care if your child is a minor. Adults, executives of large companies, attorneys, and even judges have fallen prey to these scammers—so it is easy to see how your child can fall victim.

    These people are professional scammers. They do not care who you are, how old you are, or if that person is looking to harm themselves. Some extortioners even encourage their victims to commit self-harm or suicide.

    If a sextortionist tries to convince you that your only option is self-harm, please do not believe them. Your mental health matters and help is available. If you need someone to talk to, please call the Suicide Prevention Helpline at 988 at any time of day or night. We also recommend reading our comprehensive article explaining what to do if your child is the target of sextortion.

    Who Are the Most Common Targets of Sextortion?

    Unfortunately, anyone and everyone can be a potential sextortion victim. The most common victims of sextortion are minors and men between 40-70 years old—but sextortionists target all ages, genders, and sexual orientations.

    The Department of Justice has reported that more minors fall victim to sextortion attempts. The DOJ received 3,000 reports of underage sextortion victims in 2022.

    Since sextortion is a numbers game, most sextortion scammers are not selective when choosing their targets. They simply reach out to as many profiles and individuals as possible, hoping a small number will engage with them.

    What Are the Most Common Forms of Sextortion?

    Sextortion typically takes one of three forms: social media sextortion, dating app scams, and email phishing.

    It is easy to see why social media sextortion runs so rampant. These platforms allow users to chat privately, send images, and hold webcam conversations. Sextortionists frequently pose as attractive strangers to connect with their victims and lure them into sending compromising content.

    Dating app sextortion looks similar to scams on social media platforms. Because individuals who use online dating are more likely to be emotionally vulnerable, sextortionists occasionally find victims on these platforms. Perpetrators create fake dating profiles and build connections with their victims, eventually coercing them into sending nude images or videos.

    Social media and dating app sextortion scams typically follow a similar pattern:

    • The sextortionist creates a fake profile posing as an attractive stranger.
    • They send friend or match requests with multiple potential victims and attempt to start conversations.
    • After a victim engages in a chat, the conversation turns flirtatious and sexual.
    • The sextortionist may attempt to move the interaction to another platform, usually one that supports video chat.
    • The scammer attempts to manipulate the victim into engaging in sexual behavior (like sending nude photos or engaging in webcam sex). The sextortionist may use recordings and videos from pornographic websites to make it seem like the victim is chatting with a real person.
    • Once the scammer has recorded sensitive images—and researched the victim’s public online accounts to find their friends list and other personal information—they drop the friendly act. They threaten to release or post the explicit content unless the victim meets their demands.

    Another common scam involves email phishing, in which the sextortionist accesses victims’ email addresses and passwords through a data breach. They send bulk emails to thousands of victims at a time, claiming to have access to sensitive content. They may not have any explicit materials at all, but they are counting on the victims to panic and send payment.

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    What to Do if You Are Being Sextorted

    If a sextortionist has targeted you, it is natural to feel panicked and unsure how to react. While your first instinct may be to pay the ransom and hope the scammer disappears, that method may make the harassment worse.

    In this section, we provide six actionable tips for dealing with a sextortionist effectively.

    Cease Communication With the Scammer

    First, stop responding to the sextortionist. Do not reply to their messages, and do not pay them.

    It may seem like your only option is to pay the ransom, but meeting the extortionist’s demands does not guarantee they will leave you alone. Engaging with a sextortionist only shows that you can be manipulated—so they are just as likely to come back asking for more money.

    Preserve All Evidence of Communications With the Sextortionist

    Your first instinct may be to delete all messages and material the scammer sent you. But deleting this documentation just makes it harder to bring them to justice. Reporting the harassment to the authorities—and bringing a successful legal claim—requires tangible evidence.

    Lock Down Social Media Accounts

    Most sextortionists research their victims’ social media accounts to find leverage. They look for a list of your friends and family, contact information, and place of employment.

    Protect your online footprint by maximizing the privacy settings on all of your online accounts. If a sextortionist has already targeted you, block them (after saving screenshots of your messages with them). Blocking them prevents them from harassing you further or seeing important information about you.

    Some sextortionists create multiple accounts to harass their victims, so blocking them may not be good enough. In this case, you may consider deleting your profile(s) completely until the matter is resolved.

    Report the Sextortionist to the Relevant Platforms

    If a sextortionist has targeted you on social media or a dating app, you can report their criminal activity to the platform. All major social platforms prohibit unlawful activity and online harassment—meaning sextortion is against the website’s Terms of Service.

    You can usually find reporting procedures and removal request forms under the platform in question’s Privacy Policy or Community Guidelines page. If you cannot find a reporting process, it may be best to email the website directly.

    Reporting a sextortionist does more than stop them from harassing you; if the platform suspends their account, they cannot harass other victims, either. Account suspension is one of the biggest inconveniences to a sextortionist since they spend a great deal of time building a follower count and curating a profile.

    Report the Sextortionist to Law Enforcement Agencies

    Next, you may want to report the sextortion to the proper legal authorities. Aside from your local law enforcement, the following federal and international agencies handle cybercrime and related complaints:

    • Your local FBI field office,
    • The Internet Crimes Complaint Center (IC3),
    • National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), and

    To learn more about proper reporting methods, see our comprehensive piece: How to Report Sextortion (Webcam Blackmail).

    Reach Out to an Experienced Sextortion Attorney

    Online blackmail and sextortion are very complicated and nuanced areas of law. Since each state’s laws define and regulate sextortion differently, it can be difficult to know how to hold perpetrators accountable.

    If you are a victim of online sextortion, an experienced internet attorney can advise you on the best legal strategy for your specific matter. They can save you valuable time and effort by combating online harassment quickly and discreetly.

    Experienced sextortion attorneys can communicate with harassers on your behalf, remove harmful content from the internet, identify anonymous scammers, and advocate for your best interests.

    You do not always need to hire legal representation or a third party to help you combat sextortion. However, working with an experienced sextortion attorney can help alleviate some of the stress and confusion about how to handle this delicate situation. Please see our resource explaining where to turn for sextortion help for further reading.

    How Long Does Sextortion Last?

    Sextortion is typically a fast-moving matter. The first few days are the hardest—since that is when the scammer is trying to scare their victim into paying.

    In this section, we provide information on what to expect from the sextortion process and how long it typically lasts.

    Will a Sextortionist Actually Follow Through on Their Threats?

    It is easy to feel powerless as a sextortion victim. Sextortionists are experts at intimidation tactics, making you feel as if your only option is to do what they say.

    Video: What Are the Chances a Sextortionist Releases My Intimate Images & Videos?

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    But your options may not be as limited as it appears. Some determined scammers will make good on their threat to publish the explicit content—but the overwhelming majority of sextortionists never follow through.

    If you give the sextortionist what they are asking for, you show them that their threats work on you. This reaction will only embolden their behavior.

    A sextortionist will never stop threatening or demanding money from you if you pay them. We recommend reading our comprehensive article answering ‘Do sextortionists follow through?’ for further information.

    How Long Do Sextortion Attacks Last?

    Typically, sextortion attacks begin moments after capturing the image or video; they do not waste time. Sextortionists are aggressive and usually work in teams, so while you are talking to one person, another scammer is searching your social media profiles and gaining intel on you to use against you. They search for information like a list of your family and friends, if you are married, and where you work.

    The first few hours are often the scariest. Sextortionists use fear to control you; they want you scared, and they want you to pay them.

    But that is the worst thing to do—because once you pay them, they will just keep coming back. Others on their team may begin harassing you to pay them. Some sextortionists even set their victims up on payment plans—but the catch is that there is no end to these arrangements. They will take you for everything you have and then some.

    Typically, without intervention from an attorney, the sextortionist will harass you for a few days to a few weeks. The length of time depends on how many victims they are targeting at the same time. Stopping all communication with the perpetrator will help speed up the process since the more you negotiate or lead them on, the more time they will be willing to spend on you.

    Reaching out for help is key to getting your life back to normal quickly. Once our attorneys at Minc Law get involved, for instance, we can take over the communication and guide you in locking down your social media accounts. We force the extortioner to communicate with us instead of their victim—and we make it clear that it is in their best interests to disappear.

    It may take you months to feel safe and secure online. Online monitoring services such as Google Alerts or digital risk protection can help you feel at ease while cultivating and managing your digital presence.

    Sextortion is not something you should go through alone. If you choose to handle sextortion without an attorney, we recommend confiding in someone you trust. Some counselors specialize in supporting victims of sextortion or other sexual trauma. You can also consult online resources the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (if you are a minor), Thorn, and the Sextortion subreddit.

    Do Sextortionists Move On?

    Many sextortion schemes—such as email phishing scams—are purely numbers games. Perpetrators send hundreds or thousands of sextortion emails, hoping that just one person will be gullible enough to believe them. It is likely an empty threat, so the best thing to do is simply ignore it. Delete the sextortion email, change your password, and do not respond or pay the ransom.

    For more traditional sextortion—such as social media or dating app sextortion—perpetrators cast a very wide net and target several victims at once. If you ignore their threats, they will likely move on to another, better prospect.

    It may seem counterintuitive to ignore threats from an online extortionist or harasser. But engaging further will likely worsen your situation by showing you can be manipulated. Cutting off contact, on the other hand, helps remove the power dynamic.

    At the end of the day, this is a game to them—and when they realize you will not play, they will likely move on and find another victim.

    How to Protect Yourself Against Future Sextortion Attempts

    Whether you are recovering from a previous sextortion scam or are worried about a future attack, it is crucial to know how to protect your digital privacy. This section provides actionable tips for making yourself less vulnerable to sextortion and other online scams.

    Keep Your Social Media Private

    Even if an online scammer has not targeted you, it is a good idea to limit how much of your online information is available to strangers. Most social media platforms allow users to choose who can see and interact with their profiles.

    Setting your accounts to private also reduces your exposure to unwanted attention. The fewer people who can see your posts and content, the more difficult it is for cyberstalkers or harassers to learn about you.

    Turn Off All Webcams When Not in Use

    Unfortunately, webcam hacking is a real threat. To prevent hackers from gaining an unwanted look into your home, close your laptop and place a webcam cover (or tape) over your webcams when not in use.

    Not only do webcam covers prevent hackers from invading your privacy, but they can protect you against software bugs and accidental activation. They ensure your webcam is only in use when you intend it to be.

    It is also important for parents to speak to their children about the dangers of webcams. You can purchase fun and removable webcam stickers to help keep your family safe.

    Be Careful of New Online Connections

    It is always a good idea to keep your wits about you when interacting with new friends online. Remember that it is easy for scammers to create fake and innocuous-seeming profiles.

    Before interacting with a new connection, research their profile to look for any red flags. If you have mutual friends, contact them and ask if they know the new connection. Research their profile to verify if they have any matching online profiles on other platforms.

    You can also use Google’s reverse image search to see if their profile photo came from a suspect source—like another person’s account or a stock photo site.

    If you do decide to begin interacting with them, take things slow and be on the lookout for red flags. Do not rush into sharing personal information, and be wary of anyone who asks for money or presses you for personal or intimate information quickly. Many sextortionists prefer to move to another platform (like WhatsApp) since they are more difficult to trace. If they ask to move your conversation to a different app, this should be an immediate red flag.

    Most importantly, trust your gut. If anything feels off, slow down and put up your guard. Your top priority should be protecting your privacy and personal information.

    Avoid Sending Intimate Content to Strangers on the Internet

    The best way to protect yourself from sextortion is to avoid sending intimate photos or videos of yourself to anyone online—even people you trust. Your cloud could be hacked, or your current romantic partner could develop a grudge against you and decide to post intimate photos of you online.

    But it is not practical for everyone to avoid sending intimate images online. If you choose to engage in sexting, protect yourself as much as possible by:

    • Never sending intimate images to someone you do not trust,
    • Using encrypted email services and messaging apps,
    • Keeping your face out of intimate photos and videos, and
    • Using a pseudonym when interacting with new connections on dating apps.

    Refrain From Opening Suspicious Attachments

    Another way scammers find victims is by sending malware and viruses through email attachments. Do not open attachments or click on links sent from unknown sources—these could be used to hack your webcam and steal your private information.

    Parents: Talk To Your Children About Sextortion & What to Watch For

    Parenting in a digital era is hard—but talking to your children about online predators and sextortion scams is necessary to keep them safe. Sextortion resource sites like Thorn can educate you and your child on social media trends and dangers.

    Let your child know that if they need help, it is okay to ask for it. As a parent, please remember that while this is a serious issue, your child is not alone—and thousands of adults fall for this scam. These sextortionists are professionals who know what to say and do to make victims fall prey to their tactics.

    The FBI reports that sextortion among minors is on the rise. If your child is a victim of sextortion, please report it to the FBI immediately by calling your local field office, calling 1-800-CALL-FBI, or submitting an online report.

    Compassionate Advocates Who Can Help You Tackle Sextortion Head-On

    At Minc Law, we understand just how devastating and stressful being targeted by a sextortionist can be. We have extensive experience helping take control of sextortion situations and communications with perpetrators, providing actionable and objective advice on how to best handle them, and monitoring the internet for further attacks.

    Video: Common Questions About Sextortion & Online Extortion Legal Services Explained

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    In cases where intimate content or media is published on the internet, we can help remove them – all without drawing unwanted attention to the situation.

    “I highly recommend the Minc Law firm. Not only were they knowledgeable, professional and timely in resolving my matter, but they were a pleasure to work with. Dan, Darcy and Melanie thank you for everything! My only regret was not engaging the firm earlier.”


    Oct 4, 2021

    We offer paid sextortion consults with one of Minc Law’s experienced internet attorneys for $500. If you are the target of sextortion and would like to explore your options to put an end to it, schedule your consultation today by calling us at (216) 373-7706, speaking with a Chat representative, or filling out our online contact form.

    Contact Minc Law

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