If you are the victim of sextortion, it can feel as if the attacks and threats will never end. This traumatizing experience is compounded by the worry that the perpetrator will actually follow through and post your intimate content online or send it to your friends and family. A common question we receive from clients is, “How often do sextortionists follow through?”.
Determining the exact frequency with which sextortionists follow through on their threats is challenging, as many cases remain unreported. Based on our experience, more often than not, sextortionists do not follow through with their threats. For them, the primary leverage lies in the threatened release of such material rather than its actual release. Once the content is released, they lose this leverage. The aim is more often to maintain control and continue extorting the victim rather than to follow through with their threats.
With extensive experience navigating the murky waters of internet sextortion, our firm has successfully guided countless clients to safe harbor. Our team of experienced sextortion attorneys is skilled at preventing the release of sensitive content, and we have the resources and knowledge to help remove it from the internet in the unfortunate event of its publication.
In this guide, we will delve into the realities of sextortion, and hopefully offer insights and strategies to navigate and counteract these digital threats.
Sextortion, a rapidly growing criminal threat, involves the act of threatening to release explicit or sensitive material unless the victim complies with certain demands, usually monetary. It is a form of manipulation that preys on the vulnerability of both adults and minors, leveraging the fear of public exposure or embarrassment.
While these threats are alarmingly frequent, it is crucial to understand that sextortionists do not always follow through, often using the mere threat as their primary tool of coercion.
Who Do Sextortionists Target?
Sextortionists target individuals of all ages, ethnicities, sexual orientations, and beliefs, casting a wide net in their pursuit of victims. This form of digital crime does not discriminate and can affect anyone with an online presence.
Sextortion scams often begin on social media, dating, or gaming sites, where sextortionists, using fake identities and often posing as attractive individuals, initiate communication or entice potential victims. These scammers, sometimes operating in teams, initiate friendly conversations that cause the victim to let their guard down, and escalate to flirtatious or sexually explicit exchanges.
Victims are persuaded to share explicit images or engage in video calls on platforms like Skype or WhatsApp, during which the scammer might use pre-recorded videos sourced from adult websites to elicit compromising material from the victim. If a victim is using an anonymous platform, the sextortioners will often attempt to use deception to convince the victim to reveal identifying information.
Once they have acquired incriminating content, these perpetrators abruptly shift from amicable to threatening, using the explicit images or videos as leverage. They then demand payment or other forms of compliance, threatening to expose the content to the victim’s friends, family, or the public if their demands are not met.
What is Their Ultimate Goal?
A sextortionist’s ultimate goal is to exploit the fear and panic of their victims to extort money. These scammers skillfully prey on feelings of shame, anticipating a panicked response that leads to immediate compliance with their demands.
Whether it is a monetary ransom or additional sexual images and favors, they capitalize on the urgency and distress of the situation. However, it is critical to understand that meeting their demands will not cause the harassment to cease. In fact, complying with their demands is a surefire way to become a more attractive target for their schemes and ensure that they come back with additional threats and demands.
This is why it is imperative to remain calm and resist the urge to give in.
A few hundred dollars may seem like a small price to pay to make the problem go away, but the first payment is never the last, and in reality, paying a sextortioner is almost always going to make the situation worse.
How Often Do Sextortionists Follow Through?
While there is a notable increase in sextortion cases, it does not necessarily equate to these cybercriminals always following through. There are certainly patterns in many of these cases, but there are a number of variables that could affect whether the perpetrator follows through.
Factors That May Increase the Chances of Follow-Through
The decision to follow through is often influenced by several key factors:
- The Vulnerability of the Target: A target who appears more vulnerable or afraid may inadvertently encourage the perpetrator to follow through.
- The Threats and Demands: The nature of the demands themselves can influence the likelihood of follow-through. If the demands are specific and targeted, the risk may increase.
- The Criminal’s Motives: The personal motivations and goals of the sextortionist play a crucial role. If the crime is driven by revenge or a personal vendetta, especially if the perpetrator knows the victim, it becomes more about personal retaliation than leverage.
- Continued Communication: Engaging further with a sextortionist can escalate the situation. A criminal cannot threaten you if they cannot get a hold of you, and continued communication may lead to increased threats or demands, complicating the victim’s ability to disengage.
- Previous Compliance: If a victim has previously complied with demands or made payments, this may set an expectation of continued return, influencing the sextortionist to escalate their efforts.
- Investment: The amount of time and effort a sextortionist has invested in their scheme can impact their decision. Increased harassment might signal a final effort to coerce compliance or an impending decision to give up.
- Impulsivity: The impulsiveness of the sextortionist can be a factor. When they feel cornered or strung along, they might act rashly and release the content.
Each sextortion case is unique, and there is no universal way to predict the likelihood of a sextortionist following through. Regardless, it is crucial to take proactive steps for protection, such as blocking the individual, reporting the incident, and securing online accounts and personal information.
Factors That May Decrease the Chances of Follow-Through
There are several key factors that can decrease the likelihood of a sextortionist following through with their threats:
- Non-Response: If you do not engage with the sextortionist or comply with their demands, it can influence their perception of you as a viable target. Without engagement or payment, they may think that the effort required is not worth the potential gain.
- Reporting the Incident: Notifying the authorities about a sextortion attempt can significantly deter the perpetrator. The increased risk of legal consequences and the possibility of being identified and apprehended can dissuade them from persisting.
- Seeking Professional Assistance: Involving lawyers or cybersecurity experts can heighten the risks for the sextortionist. Professional intervention signals a serious intent to pursue legal action, potentially intimidating the perpetrator.
- Loss of Leverage: Sextortionists rely on the threat of releasing compromising material as their primary leverage. Once the material is released, many victims will no longer feel compelled to submit to their demands.
- Blocking the Sextortionist: Blocking the perpetrator on social media and other platforms can impede their ability to continue their threats. Removing their direct line of contact makes it more challenging for them to harass you.
What Percentage of Sextortionists Publish the Compromising Content?
Determining the exact percentage of sextortionists who publish compromising content is not possible, as many incidents go unreported. However, based on our experience, the vast majority of perpetrators do not follow through with their threats. Once the compromising material is released, they lose their main tool of control, reducing their ability to keep the victim engaged and continuing to pay.
Of course, there is never a complete guarantee of a sextortionist’s behavior. Some may act out of spite or as a reaction to non-compliance, and in cases where they have multiple victims, they might follow through with one to intimidate another. However, this does not seem to happen very often. Based on our experience, the actual incidence of publishing compromising content is significantly lower than the number of threats made.
Why Sextortionists Do Not Typically Follow Through
The reasons why sextortionists typically do not publish or follow through with their threats are multifaceted and often dependent on the specific case at hand. Key factors include:
- Loss of Power: The main leverage a sextortionist holds is the threat of releasing explicit content. Once the content is made public, they lose their primary bargaining tool. The threat is more powerful as it keeps the victim in a state of fear and compliance.
- Increased Legal Risks: Publishing explicit content, particularly without consent, significantly elevates the legal risks for the perpetrator, as distribution can lead to criminal charges.
- Platform Policies: Online platforms typically have strict policies against distributing non-consensual explicit content. Perpetrators risk potential bans from these platforms, which can hinder their operations and reduce their anonymity.
- Futility: Some may recognize that the release of the content does not advance their goals, especially if their motive is financial.
It is important to note that each case can vary, and these factors might influence different perpetrators in different ways. Even if the content is published, it is crucial to remember that there are still options available to address the situation immediately.
For further reading, please see our comprehensive guides ‘Do Sextortionists Follow Through?’ and ‘Can Sextortion Ruin Your Life?’.
Immediate Steps to Take If You Are Sextorted
If you are being sextorted, it is important to act promptly and decisively. Understanding and implementing the right steps can not only safeguard your privacy but also pave the way for legal recourse and resolution.
Stay Calm & Understand That You Are the Victim of a Crime
If you are facing sextortion, remember that you are the victim of a crime. Sextortionists often employ tactics designed to shame and humiliate their targets, attempting to shift the blame and make victims feel guilty or deserving of the situation.
Understanding your role as a victim helps in mentally preparing yourself to seek the necessary help and take action against the sextortionist.
Avoid Paying the Sextortionist
Resisting the urge to pay the extortionist is one of the most critical steps you can take. While it might feel like the only option in a moment of panic, it is important to remember that complying rarely resolves the issue. Paying the ransom can signal that you are susceptible to manipulation, potentially marking you as an easy target for further exploitation.
Once you make a payment, it creates a precedent, leading the scammer to believe they can continue to demand more from you. If you have already paid the scammer, stop all further payments and cease any communication with them. Continuing to engage will only prolong the situation. Remember, cutting off their leverage and not playing into their threats is a key strategy in combating sextortion.
Document & Preserve All Evidence and Communications
It is important to document and preserve all evidence related to your interactions with the perpetrator. While you may want to delete everything associated with the ordeal, this information can be valuable when reporting the incident.
Take screenshots of all explicit material, private messages, and any other forms of communication you have had with the sextortionist. Make sure to note the times and dates of these interactions.
Also, consider enlisting the help of a trusted friend or family member. Having a second party involved can provide an extra layer of verification and safeguard against any claims from the perpetrator that you might have tampered with the evidence.
Lock Down & Secure All Online Accounts
Sextortionists often conduct research to identify the friends and family of their victims, using this information to strengthen their threats.
To safeguard your privacy and limit potential damage, set all your online accounts and social media profiles to private. This restricts access to your personal information and reduces the risk of the sextortionist reaching your close contacts. If you have already interacted with the perpetrator on any social media platform, be sure to block them.
Be aware that some sextortionists may create multiple social media accounts to continue their harassment. If you find yourself being targeted by multiple accounts, it may be prudent to delete or deactivate your profiles temporarily until the situation is resolved.
Report the Sextortionist to the Relevant Online Platform
Major social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter have specific processes in place for reporting users or content that violates their Terms of Service.
Each platform has its own method for reporting, and it is important to follow these procedures to ensure your report is effectively processed. Review our platform-specific resources to learn more about reporting explicit contact on each platform:
However, it is important to manage expectations regarding the response time from these platforms. Due to the high volume of reports and content removal requests they receive, it might take several days or even weeks to receive a response.
Despite this, reporting the incident remains a crucial step, as it can lead to the removal of the offending content and the suspension of the perpetrator’s account, limiting their ability to continue the harassment.
Report the Sextortionist to Cybercrime Authorities & Law Enforcement
Reporting sextortion to legal authorities and cybercrime units is a critical component of the response process. While it might seem daunting, filing a report can be instrumental in documenting their activities and potentially protecting future victims.
For residents in the U.S., there are several critical avenues for reporting sextortion and related cybercrimes:
- The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3),
- National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC),
- Local FBI Field Office, and
- A Local Police Department.
Even if it seems unlikely that a single report will lead to immediate action, it contributes valuable data that law enforcement agencies may use to track and eventually apprehend perpetrators. Each report acts as a data point that can connect to a larger pattern of criminal behavior.
Seek Guidance From a Sextortion Attorney
Sextortion, particularly in the digital realm, is a complicated area of law with nuances that vary depending on state statutes and the specific circumstances of each case.
An attorney experienced in handling sextortion cases can offer a range of helpful services:
- Managing Communications: They can take over communications with the sextortionist, relieving you of the stress and potential risk of engaging directly with the perpetrator.
- Collaboration with Law Enforcement: Attorneys can work closely with authorities to ensure that your case is handled effectively and all legal avenues are pursued.
- Reporting to Online Platforms: They have the expertise to report perpetrators to online platforms in a manner that will most likely result in prompt action.
- Content Removal: Legal professionals can facilitate the removal of harmful content from websites and search engines to mitigate the impact of any released material.
- Support and Guidance: Beyond legal advice, a sextortion attorney provides empathetic, judgment-free support and a listening ear during what is undoubtedly a challenging time.
It is crucial to choose a reputable and ethical attorney. Not all services offering assistance in sextortion cases operate with the necessary ethical standards or expertise. For valuable insights into selecting the right legal assistance, please see our article, “Red Flags in Sextortion Assistance Services.”
What You Can Do If the Sextortionist Follows Through
If a sextortionist does follow through with their threats, it is important to remember that this is not the end of the road, and there are still many options available to you. The release of compromising material, while distressing, is a hurdle that can be overcome, and it does not define your future.
With the right support, you can move past this incident and continue to lead a life with minimal long-term impact from this unfortunate experience.
A Quick Message to Friends, Family, or Followers Who Received the Content
If the sextortionist has followed through, a swift and clear message helps with damage control. A brief explanation stating that you have been hacked and are currently being blackmailed is typically sufficient. This straightforward approach acknowledges the situation without delving into unnecessary details and helps mitigate any rumors or misconceptions.
Reach Out to a Trusted Person in Your Life
It can be helpful to have a support system of individuals who can offer understanding, emotional support, and practical assistance. Having someone to talk to can significantly alleviate the stress and isolation that often accompany such incidents.
If your work is being affected, consider reaching out to someone in your organization who can help, such as a member of the IT department. They can assist with electronic safeguards, like blocking emails or filtering out specific keywords to prevent distressing messages from reaching you at your workplace.
Having a trusted network to lean on, both for emotional backing and practical solutions, can make a significant difference in managing the situation and reducing its impact on your life.
Report the Content (if Published) to the Platform
If the sextortionist publishes the compromising content, report it immediately to the platform where it was posted. Most platforms and online services have strict policies against non-consensual explicit content and are usually responsive to such reports.
In our experience, clients who acted quickly to report the content have often been successful in getting it removed promptly. The key is to act swiftly and provide as much detail as possible to assist the platforms in identifying the content.
Engage Mental Health Support Services
Sextortion is an emotionally traumatic experience that can have a profound impact on your mental health. It is wise to seek immediate and long-term support to navigate this difficult period.
The Suicide Prevention Helpline, available at 988, offers judgment-free support 24/7. Trained counselors can provide guidance and emotional support to help you through this challenging time. Resources like Thorn, CyberTipline.org, and Crisis-Helpline offer more specific support and information.
If you are experiencing symptoms like anxiety, depression, or any other mental health issues following the incident, it is important to consult with a mental health professional sooner rather than later. Therapy can offer a safe space to process your feelings, understand your experience, and develop coping strategies.
If the victim is a teenager, there are specialized resources tailored to the unique challenges faced by young people in these situations. Our guide, “What to Do If Your Child is the Target of Sextortion,” provides practical advice for dealing with such incidents.
Remember, reaching out for support is a sign of strength, not weakness. It is an important step in taking care of yourself and ensuring your well-being in the aftermath of a sextortion attack.
Work With a Sextortion Attorney to Remove the Content
If explicit content has been shared without your consent, an experienced content removal attorney can help regain control of your online presence. These professionals have the expertise and resources to ensure the swift removal of such content.
- Reporting Content for Terms of Service Violations: Most online platforms have strict policies against explicit content and revenge porn. Reporting content that breaches these Terms of Service (ToS) can lead to its removal. An experienced attorney can effectively navigate these reporting processes.
- Submitting DMCA Takedown Notices: If you created the explicit content, you likely hold the copyright. A DMCA takedown notice can be filed against platforms where the content has been posted without your permission, asserting your copyright and requesting the removal of the content.
- Utilizing Content Removal Strategies: Firms like Minc Law can help remove sensitive content from the internet quickly and discreetly.
If the content is released, the attorneys at Minc Law can assist in taking it down and provide access to Digital Risk Protection (DRP) services, which are useful for monitoring the internet for additional harmful content.
Additionally, if the perpetrator is located in a jurisdiction where legal action is viable, an experienced attorney can help explore this option. Many jurisdictions have laws forbidding revenge porn and the nonconsensual publication of explicit materials, and a knowledgeable legal team can guide you through the process of asserting your rights under these laws.
Monitor the Internet For Further Attacks
In the aftermath of a sextortion attack, it is critical to monitor your online presence to identify and respond to any further attacks. Sextortionists may not limit their activities to a single platform, so keeping an eye on your online footprint across different devices and platforms is important.
Digital risk monitoring tools are designed to help detect and respond to threats in real time. By monitoring your digital presence, you can quickly identify new posts related to the incident, allowing you to take prompt action to mitigate any damage.
Also, consider using free tools like Google Alerts, which can notify you when new content featuring your name or other specified keywords appears online. For more comprehensive monitoring, paid services such as Minc Law’s Digital Risk Protection (DRP) service can be highly effective.
Utilize Online Reputation Management Services to Mitigate Damage
Online reputation management services use a blend of digital marketing, public relations, and search engine optimization (SEO) techniques to manage and protect your online image.
In cases where it is not possible to completely remove damaging content from the internet, ORM services can help suppress such content in search engine results. This is achieved by promoting positive content that ranks higher in search results, thereby reducing the visibility of negative content.
We Help Victims of Sextortion Navigate This Distressing Situation
If you are the target of sextortion and want to explore your options to prevent the content from being released or remove the content (if it was posted), we can help. We have extensive experience assisting individuals targeted by this distressing crime and have helped hundreds of victims navigate their way to safe harbor.
At Minc Law, we provide objective advice on actionable steps you can take to shore up your online presence and mitigate the effects of sextortion attacks. We take over communications with perpetrators and provide compassionate counsel during this time. You are not alone and have more power than you think in this situation.
“I was recently a victim of a predator trying to extort me. I was lost and had not idea what to do till I found Minc Law. Dorrian and Anna were amazing, patient and completely understanding of my situation. I followed their expert advice and the problem went away and I fell like a weight has been lifted off my shoulder. I cannot thank Minc Law enough for protecting my reputation. I would recommend Minc Law to anyone in a similar situation. They are simply the best. Thanks you for everything.”
March 10, 2023
Reach out to schedule your initial consultation by calling us at (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 offer paid emergency sextortion consultations with an attorney starting at $500.