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How to Stop Blackmail Online

When a blackmailer threatens to share harmful information about you unless you pay them an exorbitant ransom, it is natural to feel scared and unsure of how to stop them. Even if you think you may know how to stop blackmail online, you should not attempt to navigate this difficult experience alone.

There are several key steps you can take to stop blackmail on the internet and protect against blackmail attacks in the future:

  • Take a deep breath and know you will be alright,
  • Confide in someone you trust,
  • Stop communicating with the blackmailer,
  • Avoid paying a ransom,
  • Preserve all evidence of the blackmail,
  • Set your online accounts to private,
  • Block and report the blackmailer to the relevant online platform(s),
  • Seek out support services and blackmail helplines,
  • Report the blackmail to local law enforcement and dedicated government agencies, and
  • Seek help from an experienced blackmail and sextortion attorney.

It is extremely stressful and isolating to be targeted by a blackmailer, which is why an experienced legal team is invaluable. At Minc Law, we have proven experience helping blackmail and sextortion victims fight back against online harassment. We can take over communication with the blackmailer, prevent and remove harmful online content about you, and work with law enforcement to explore legal remedies.

Are you being defamed online? We will get it removed. Contact Minc Law today!

In this article, we explore the definition and common forms of blackmail. We then provide actionable tips for handling blackmail in the short and long term.

What is the Definition of Blackmail?

Unfortunately, online blackmail and other forms of cyber extortion are a growing threat in the United States and around the world. The FBI reported 39,416 victims of sextortion in 2022 alone. In this digital environment, it is crucial to know how blackmail occurs and how to protect yourself.

In this section, we define blackmail and its legal ramifications, along with common examples of the crime.

What is Blackmailing?

In most jurisdictions, blackmailing is defined as a type of coercion or extortion. This crime involves threatening to harm or humiliate the victim unless they meet the blackmailer’s demands—usually money or favors.

Is It Illegal to Blackmail Someone?

Yes, blackmail is a crime. State and federal law generally classifies this act as a felony, which could result in multi-year prison sentences and large fines.

Types of Blackmail

Blackmail can typically be broken down into three categories: Extortion, coercion, and commercial pressure.

Extortion is the act of holding secret, potentially harmful information as leverage to force the victim to do what you want. Most extortionists ask for money, making a clear, direct threat indicating what information they have—and how they will use it if the victim does not cooperate.

For example, an extortionist may threaten to tell your spouse about an affair unless you pay them money. Or they may claim to have copies of your nude selfies, which they will post online if you do not pay a ransom (this act is also known as sextortion).

Blackmail by coercion, on the other hand, is usually less direct. Instead of demanding money in exchange for silence, perpetrators convince their victims to behave in a certain way. For instance, they might coerce their victim to commit a crime or perform unsavory work.

Finally, commercial pressure is the use of potentially damaging information about a company to extort money from executives.

Common Blackmail Examples We See at Minc Law

At Minc Law, we see the following types of blackmail the most frequently:

  • Sextortion (including revenge porn, online dating scams, and deep fakes)
  • Double extortion (stealing the victim’s data before demanding money in exchange for not releasing it),
  • Tutor extortion scams (helping a student cheat on homework, then threatening to expose them), and
  • Doxxing (sharing a victim’s personal information online for the purposes of harassment and shaming).

Do Blackmailers Give Up If You Ignore Them?

Aside from scams where the perpetrator clearly does not possess harmful information about you, it is generally not a good idea to ignore blackmail. However, it is important to remember that “not ignoring” does not always mean “responding.”

In other words, it is never a good idea to bury your head in the sand and ignore a blackmail threat. But your response to blackmail may not include communicating with the perpetrator. Other actionable steps—which we discuss further in the next section—might include preserving evidence and reporting the blackmailer to the police.

How to Stop Blackmail — Immediate Steps to Take

If you are receiving threats from a blackmailer, it is crucial to remain calm and act quickly to stop them.

To stop blackmail, follow these steps: take a deep breath, confide in someone you trust, halt communications, do not pay, save evidence, adjust privacy settings, report the blackmailer, and seek legal assistance.

Take a Deep Breath & Know You Will Be Alright

Being the victim of online blackmail can be an extremely devastating experience. While it can be very scary in the moment and it is easy to feel isolated, please remember that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

Take a deep breath and attempt to approach the situation with optimism.

Everything will be alright; you have more control over the situation than you think.

Tell Someone You Trust

No matter if you are underage or an adult, it can be helpful to confide in a trusted friend or family member about your situation. Online extortionists prey on their victims’ isolation and fear, so reminding yourself that you are not alone helps take power back from the blackmailer.

Also, while confiding in your wider circle of friends is not for everyone, you may feel comfortable taking a proactive approach. Telling your friends and family that you have been hacked or are being threatened by a scammer can help set your mind at ease and remove some of the blackmailer’s leverage over you.

Cease Communications With the Blackmailer ASAP

While it is a risk to ignore online blackmail completely, it is equally risky to communicate with the scammer further. Do not try to negotiate or engage with them on your own.

Engaging with a blackmailer may inadvertently give them more information they can leverage to manipulate and threaten you. Also, continuing to speak to the blackmailer can increase your stress and anxiety. Not only is it more stressful to engage with a scammer, but giving them your attention may encourage them to escalate their demands and threats.

Avoid Paying the Blackmailer a Ransom

You may feel like you have no choice but to pay the blackmailer. However, there is no guarantee that they will leave you alone after you give them what they want. They may simply come back asking for more money.

Meeting the blackmailer’s demands only gives them more power over you. The more money or favors you give them, the more difficult it can be to extricate yourself from the situation.

Preserve All Evidence of the Blackmail

While it may be your last instinct to document embarrassing content, you should save as much evidence of the online blackmail as possible. Your attorney and law enforcement will need tangible evidence to bring the perpetrator to justice.

Save screenshots of all relevant evidence such as:

  • The perpetrator’s social media profile picture(s),
  • Sextortion emails or private messages from the perpetrator, and
  • Offensive material the perpetrator may have sent you.

You can use your computer’s snipping tool (Shift+Cmd+3 on Mac or Windows+Shift+5 on PC) or your phone’s screenshot feature to save relevant evidence. You can also use more advanced preservation tools like Page Vault or Visualping.

Set Your Online Accounts to Private

When navigating today’s digital landscape, it is always a good idea to maximize your online privacy, but even more so when you are being targeted by a blackmailer. Prevent the scammer from finding more information about you—like a list of your friends and family—that they can use as leverage over you.

Most social platforms allow you to set your profile to “private” and block strangers from seeing your posts or messaging you. You can also block the blackmailer directly (though you should preserve relevant communication before blocking them).

Block & Report the Blackmailer to the Platform For ToS Violations

Blackmailing and similar activity violate the terms of service for most legitimate online platforms. If the perpetrator used a social media or dating site to threaten you, you can report them to the platform. The site’s moderators may restrict their account and remove any harmful content about you that the perpetrator posted.

For instance, you can report online blackmail to popular platforms using the following links:

  • Facebook,
  • Twitter,
  • Instagram,
  • Snapchat,
  • Grindr,
  • Plenty of Fish.

Seek Out Support Services & Helplines

Blackmail can be an extremely distressing and isolating experience that requires immediate and long-term support. Reaching out to your trusted friends and family is a good idea, but you can also call professional support services that can help you navigate this difficult time. Please do not try to suffer through the experience alone.

There are many helplines and professional support services that offer judgment-free support and confidential advice for scam victims. The trained professionals at these helplines can help victims report crimes to law enforcement, preserve evidence, and find legal counsel. We recommend the following resources:

  • Thorn’s sextortion resource center,
  • Revenge porn helpline (UK),
  • Cyber Civil Rights helpline, and
  • Childline (UK hotline for children).

Some online blackmail victims feel so stressed, isolated, and anxious that they experience thoughts of self-harm. Please remember that your mental health matters and nothing is ever worth hurting yourself over. You can call the Suicide Prevention Helpline at 988 at any time of the day or night for judgment-free support.

Do Blackmailers Follow Through on Their Threats?

While the blackmailer’s threats can be very believable and scary, remember that the vast majority of these scammers never follow through on their threats. Their plan is usually to hold sensitive information or content over your head in the hopes that you will pay for their silence. But if you do not pay a ransom, they gain nothing from following through on their threat—and doing so may draw the attention of law enforcement.

However, some scammers are determined enough to follow through. If they do or if they escalate the situation in another way, please turn to legal professionals for help protecting your reputation and bringing the perpetrator to justice.

Legal Help to Stop Online Blackmail

Sometimes it is possible to end online blackmail threats on your own using the actionable steps listed above. However, it may be wise to involve law enforcement and legal representation as well. Especially if you fear for your life or believe that your personal safety is in danger, it is imperative to contact law enforcement as soon as possible.

Local Law Enforcement & Dedicated Government Agencies

Blackmail is a criminal act, and reporting a blackmailer to law enforcement can help bring them to justice. Depending on your location and the nature of the crime, you can file a report with the following local, national, and international agencies:

  • Your local police,
  • Internet Crimes Complaint Center (IC3),
  • Your nearest FBI Field Office,
  • National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), and

What Can the Police Do About Blackmail?

After filing a report with local law enforcement, police may open an investigation into blackmail and begin gathering evidence of the threats and any information about the perpetrator and their location.

Some law enforcement agencies even have specialized cybercrime units or personnel that may work to analyze digital evidence, trace IP addresses, and collaborate with online platforms or service providers to obtain additional information to identify the blackmailer. This information can then be turned over to the prosecutor’s office, who then determines if there is enough evidence to proceed with criminal charges against the perpetrator.

Additionally, police can refer victims to support services for counseling and legal assistance, depending on the blackmail case’s specifics and applicable laws.

At a minimum, filing a police report can help establish a record and help law enforcement construct a database to track blackmailers and learn about their behavior. This may allow them to better assist future victims.

Experienced Blackmail & Sextortion Attorneys

Along with law enforcement, you may want to consult with an attorney experienced in handling online blackmail. You may even want to reach out to an attorney for legal advice before taking your case to the police—especially if money has already changed hands or if you know the blackmailer personally. Your attorney can advise you on your legal options and how best to move forward.

An experienced cyber blackmail and sextortion attorney can help you report the crime to law enforcement, gather and preserve evidence, take over communication with the blackmailer, and initiate a civil lawsuit if necessary. They can also work with internet service providers and digital platforms to remove any harmful content the blackmailer has already posted.

Given the prevalence of internet blackmail and sextortion, many “sextortion investigation agencies” advertise their services in ending online threats.

However, our service at Minc Law differs from these agencies in that we take a personalized approach. You are never just a number with us; you will be assigned one licensed, experienced attorney to handle your case from start to finish. We prioritize your matter and aggressively pursue your interests to end the harassment and protect your privacy.

Long-Term Strategies to Protect Against Blackmail in the Future

While it is crucial to address blackmail threats immediately, it is also important to implement a long-term plan to minimize future threats. Keep the following strategies in mind:

  • Be wary of red flags when engaging with strangers online,
  • Use online privacy best practices,
  • Avoid disclosing personal information or images too quickly,
  • Do not share explicit content online,
  • Use digital risk protection (DRP) strategies to monitor the internet,
  • Consider using online reputation management (ORM) services, and
  • Seek out mental health support.

Be Wary of Red Flags When Engaging With Strangers Online

Given the anonymity of many social media platforms and websites, it is impossible to know for sure that someone is who they say they are. Always err on the side of caution when interacting with new online acquaintances, and be on the lookout for red flags of catfishing, such as:

  • Few posts, friends, or interactions on their profile,
  • Unwillingness to show their face or join a video call,
  • Extraordinary stories that sound too good to be true,
  • Highly sexualized and flirtatious language right away, and
  • Requests for money.

Utilize Best Practices For Online Privacy

Protect your digital safety by maximizing the privacy settings on all your social media and dating profiles. It is also a good idea to update your passwords every 3-6 months, enable two-factor authentication, and practice basic online safety to protect your digital assets.

We also recommend opting out of data broker sites and similar online databases. These sites collect and sell users’ information, so by removing your name and personal data, you reduce the risk of being targeted for online scams. You can also use a virtual private network (VPN) to hide your location and internet activity.

Avoid Disclosing Personal Information or Images Too Quickly

Many blackmail scammers try to befriend their victims and find personal “dirt” as fast as possible. Once they learn compromising information about you, they use it as leverage to threaten and coerce you. So one simple way to make it harder for blackmailers to target you is to avoid sharing private information with new online acquaintances.

Do Not Share Explicit Content Online

Another good rule of thumb is to assume that any intimate image, video, or “sext” you send can eventually become public. Even if the recipient is someone you trust, there is always a chance they could be hacked or develop a grudge against you later.

While it may not be practical to avoid sexting or sending nude selfies altogether, keep the dangers of sexting in mind. Be careful of whom you send intimate content to—and avoid including your face in any explicit photos.

Utilize Digital Risk Protection Services to Monitor the Internet

Once you have been a victim of blackmail, it is crucial to monitor your online presence for future threats. You can use free tools like Google Alerts to notify you whenever your chosen keyword (like your name or business) is mentioned online.

Or you can invest in digital risk protection solutions like Minc Law’s DRP service. This service uses a mix of tools and strategies to monitor, identify, and put an end to digital threats as they appear.

To learn more, please see our comprehensive guide: “How to Monitor Your Reputation After a Cyberattack.”

Consider Using Online Reputation Management Services

Professional online reputation management (ORM) services use public relations, search engine optimization (SEO), and digital marketing strategies to curate and protect your online footprint.

For example, they often suppress harmful online content that cannot be removed. They also work to ensure Google search results for your name or business show an image you wish to convey.

Seek Out Mental Health Support & Services

While it is important to have immediate emotional support in the wake of a blackmail attack, you should also pursue long-term support for your mental health. Do not try to recover from this difficult experience alone.

Again, if you are experiencing thoughts of self-harm, please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 988 at any time of the day or night.

It is also a good idea to speak with a professional psychologist or psychiatrist if you are experiencing longer-term symptoms like depression or anxiety. If finances or access are a concern, you can also engage online therapy platforms like Talkspace or BetterHelp for virtual counseling.

The following nonprofit organizations also offer resources for victims of blackmail and similar crimes:

  • The Cyber Civil Rights Initiative: A nonprofit organization dedicated to helping victims of online abuse, particularly revenge porn, providing resources, advocacy, and legal support;
  • Victims for Justice: An Alaskan nonprofit organization offering emotional abuse support, resources, and advocacy to victims and survivors of violent crimes, assisting them through the aftermath of the crime and the justice process;
  • RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network): Helps connect victims to local counseling services in the U.S.

Resources For Minors

If you are an underage blackmail victim, please do not try to stop your harasser alone. You are the victim here, and this is not your fault. Please confide in a trusted adult like a parent, teacher, or guidance counselor who can help you get the support you need to fight back.

You and your adult allies can turn to these nonprofit organizations and resources for underage victims:

  • Childline: An online helpline for UK minors;
  • Trevor Project: A 24/7 hotline and resource for LGBTQ+ youth;
  • Netsmartzkids: Games and interactive activities to educate children about internet safety;
  • Resource page to educate adults and children on how to identify and prevent bullying;
  • The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children: A nonprofit organization that serves as a comprehensive resource center providing assistance to law enforcement, families, and the professionals who serve them in cases involving missing and exploited children.

Minc Law Can Help You Stop Online Blackmail

If you are being blackmailed online and want to stop it, we can help. We have extensive experience working with victims of internet blackmail to guide them to safe harbor and monitor the internet for subsequent 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

If you would like to explore your options to stop blackmail for good and reclaim your peace of mind, 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.


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

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