Is a sextortionist threatening to share private, explicit images or information about you unless you pay them? It can be difficult to know how to respond to this frightening situation—and you may be wondering whether you should ignore the sextortion completely.
Before deciding to ignore sextortion, it is important to understand the risks involved in disregarding the threatening message. In some cases, ignoring sextortion may encourage the perpetrator to leave you alone and move on to another victim. But in other scenarios, the sextortionist may escalate their harassment—and in some extreme cases, release or publish the sensitive materials.
Simply put: you should never ignore sextortion. Sexual exploitation through coercion or blackmail is a serious crime with severe consequences. Instead of ignoring the problem, sextortion victims should:
- Stay calm,
- Avoid engaging with the perpetrator further,
- Save all evidence of the sextortion and perpetrator’s profiles,
- Lock down all social media accounts and online profiles,
- Report the crime to law enforcement agencies such as the IC3,
- Report the sextortion to the platform where it took place,
- Hire an experienced internet sextortion or online attorney, and
- Seek emotional support and mental health resources during this difficult time.
While ignoring or responding to the sextortion may both feel like appropriate courses of action, it is important to consult an experienced sextortion attorney to help you navigate which is most appropriate for your situation.
Being targeted by a sextortionist can be extremely isolating and stressful, which is why an experienced attorney is an invaluable asset. At Minc Law, we are well-versed in helping sextortion victims fight back against harassment. We can communicate with the perpetrator on your behalf, help prevent the release of intimate content and media, and remove harmful content from the internet (should it be posted).
In this article, we discuss the risks of ignoring sextortion. We then provide proven and actionable tips for responding to sextortion effectively, both immediately and in the long term.
What is Sextortion & Why is It a Concern?
Before understanding if you should ignore sextortion, it is critical to understand what sextortion is and is not. The term “sextortion” comes from a blend of “sex” and “extortion.” It is a form of online blackmail in which the perpetrator threatens to share explicit images or information about you unless you meet their demands. These demands usually involve money or more sexual favors.
What a Typical Sextortion Scenario Looks Like
Sextortion typically involves a perpetrator who poses as an attractive stranger (often using stolen or photoshopped pictures) and makes contact with a victim via social media, dating, or other popular online platforms. Oftentimes, the sextortionist will attempt to move the conversation to another online platform, usually one that allows for video calls.
These sextortionists then build connections or relationships with their victims and subsequently escalate the conversation into a more explicit nature – requesting the victim send intimate images, record compromising videos of themselves, or engage in sexual acts on a video call.
Once the sextortionist has received or recorded the intimate or compromising content, their tone turns more sinister. They then threaten to release or publish the sensitive content online, or to friends or family members of the victim, unless a monetary ransom is paid.
Sextortion does not include fake, scam mass emails sent out to thousands of addresses claiming to have a recorded video of you performing intimate acts on camera.
Sextortion is a deeply invasive and personal crime that can cause extreme fear, anxiety, and shame in its victims. Perpetrators prey on their victims’ fear of the repercussions on their personal life and professional reputations if they do not comply with the sextortionist’s demands.
How Prevalent is Sextortion Today?
Unfortunately, sextortion is an increasingly prevalent crime in the U.S. and around the globe. Perhaps even more disturbingly, many sextortion victims are young. Nearly 1 in 4 victims of sextortion attempts are aged 13 or younger.
In 2021, the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) received more than 16,000 sextortion complaints, with losses of over $8 million. These are just the reported cases—many others likely go unreported due to fear or embarrassment.
A study by the Brookings Institution suggests that the actual number of sextortion victims could run into the hundreds of thousands, or even millions, worldwide. The crime is not confined to any specific age group or demographic, either; anyone can fall prey to sextortion.
Should I Ignore Sextortion?
When a sextortionist threatens you, it is natural to feel isolated, frightened, and overwhelmed. It can be difficult to know where to turn for sextortion help—or whether you should even respond to the sextortion attempt.
In this section, we provide information on the specific risks you should familiarize yourself with if you decide to ignore a sextortionist.
No matter what you decide, however, remember that you are not alone when facing this threat. An experienced legal team like the one at Minc Law can provide invaluable advice and support along the way.
Ignoring Sextortion vs. Not Responding to Sextortion
Except for scam email sextortion scams and other obvious, meritless threats of possessing your intimate media, ignoring sextortion is generally never recommended. It is important to understand that “not responding to sextortion” and “ignoring sextortion” are two separate things.
For example, ignoring a sextortionist implies just burying your head in the ground and paying no attention to the threats is the appropriate action to take. This is never recommended.
Not responding to sextortion is when you do not add fuel to the fire by engaging with the sextortionist but you still take actionable steps to preserve evidence, report them to the relevant authorities, secure your digital presence and online accounts, and keep a high alert and monitor the internet for threats and activity if they do follow through.
What Are the Risks of Ignoring Sextortion?
Further, ignoring sextortion may seem like the easiest solution, but it comes with risks. One potential danger, for example, is that if the perpetrator feels ignored or dismissed, they may intensify their tactics in an attempt to manipulate you further. This escalation adds even more stress to an already frightening situation.
Another risk is the possible release of sensitive materials. While some perpetrators may be bluffing about having compromising information, others may not. In that case, ignoring their threat can make them believe they have nothing to lose, emboldening them to share the materials. If the explicit content is published, it could cause significant harm to your reputation and relationships.
Lastly, do not underestimate the psychological effects of ignoring sextortion instead of taking proactive steps to end it. The ongoing uncertainty and fear can take a toll on your mental health, ultimately affecting your daily life and well-being.
Do Blackmailers Give Up If You Ignore Them?
There is no guarantee that a blackmailer will give up if you ignore them. Some may abandon their efforts, particularly if they were bluffing or looking for an easy target. However, others may be more persistent—especially if they feel they have invested time and energy into the extortion attempt.
The typical sextortionist’s behavior is usually influenced by factors such as:
- The perceived vulnerability of the target,
- The specific demands of the extortion, and
- The criminal’s own motivations and goals.
It is important to remember that each case is unique, and there is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question.
As emphasized above, even if you choose to ignore the blackmailer, it is important to take proactive steps to protect yourself, such as blocking the individual, reporting the incident to the authorities, and ensuring the security of your online accounts and personal information.
Please see our resource answering ‘Do sextortionists follow through?’ for further information.
Why You Should Not Communicate Further With the Sextortionist
While ignoring sextortion carries risks, so does communicating further with the scammer. By engaging with them, you may inadvertently give the perpetrator more ammunition or information to further manipulate and threaten you. Additionally, any communication with the extortionist can lead to increased stress and anxiety.
The primary risk of responding to sextortion is the potential for escalating the situation. Once the perpetrator knows they have your attention, they may increase their threats or demands, making it even more difficult for you to extricate yourself from the situation.
While ignoring sextortion may seem like an appealing option, never do so. Take actionable steps to secure your digital presence and ensure that you are prepared for the worst. Consulting an experienced legal professional, such as a sextortion attorney, can help put you on the best course of action for your unique situation.
For further reading, please see our comprehensive guide answering a common question we receive, ‘How Long Does Sextortion Last?’.
How You Can Deal With Sextortion Effectively
Sextortion is a frightening and overwhelming situation—but it is important to remember that you do not have to face the threat alone. There are many options and resources available that can help you deal with sextortion effectively.
In this section, we discuss immediate responses to a sextortion threat, long-term reputation management strategies, and legal actions available to support and protect sextortion victims.
Immediate Steps to Take if You Receive a Sextortion Threat
First off, if you receive a threat of sextortion, it is important to stay calm. Keep your wits about you, and react quickly to mitigate the potential harm. We recommend following these tips immediately after receiving a threat from a sextortionist:
- Do not panic,
- Preserve evidence of the sextortion,
- Do not engage with the sextortionist,
- Lock down your social media and online accounts, and
- Report the sextortion to authorities,
- Hire an attorney that specializes in online sextortion or extortion.
Do Not Panic!
It can be extremely distressing to be the victim of sextortion—but try to remain composed and focused. The perpetrator is hoping you will react to their threat with fear and panic, paying their ransom before you can think better of it.
While you may feel that your only option is to do what the sextortionist says, that is not true. Take a step back and a deep breath, and approach the situation with as clear a head as possible.
You are in the driver’s seat more than you think.
Preserve Evidence of the Sextortion
In the throes of being sextorted, your first instinct may be to delete any evidence of the interaction. But remember: you are not the one at fault in this situation. Sextortion is a crime—and the more evidence you have of the perpetrator’s actions, the easier it will be for law enforcement, your attorney, or other professional to hold them accountable.
Take screenshots of any messages and communication from the scammer. Make sure to save specific dates and times of every message, as well as any URLs of relevant posts and the sextortionist’s online profile(s).
Do Not Engage With the Sextortionist
While it may feel as if you have no other choice, avoid responding to the sextortionist’s messages. Stop communicating with them as soon as they begin threatening you.
Ceasing all contact with the perpetrator helps eliminate the power dynamic at play. The sextortionist is hoping you will panic and meet their demands out of fear. Engaging with a sextortionist simply shows that you can be manipulated, and open lines of communication give them more opportunities to harass and threaten you.
Lock Down Your Social Media & Online Accounts
It is always wise to maximize your online privacy settings—but if you are being harassed and sextorted online, it is even more important to protect your digital footprint.
Secure your social media accounts by setting all of your profiles to private. Do not accept friend requests from strangers, and beware of profiles with minimal photos and posts.
Also, review and enhance the security of your online accounts and personal information. Update passwords with strong, unique combinations and enable two-factor authentication whenever possible.
Report the Sextortion
If you are being sextorted on a social media or dating website, you can report the perpetrator to the platform. Reporting a sextortionist and having their profile suspended makes it more difficult for them to harass others.
For more details on how to report sextortion to various social media sites, see our articles:
Sextortion is a crime—and you can help bring the perpetrator to justice by reporting them to the authorities. Beyond reporting the criminal behavior to your local police, you can file a report with the following national and international agencies:
- Internet Crimes Complaint Center (IC3),
- Your local Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Field Office,
- INTERPOL, and
- National Center For Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC).
Hire an Attorney Who Specializes in Sextortion
If you are a victim of sextortion, it is essential to have knowledgeable legal representation to help you navigate the complexities of the legal system. Online sextortion is a complex and extremely nuanced legal area, and the remedies available to you often depend on specific statutes in your jurisdiction.
An experienced internet defamation and sextortion attorney can help you preserve evidence, send a cease and desist letter to the perpetrator, report harassment, and remove intimate content from the internet if the sextortionist follows through on their threats. An attorney can also provide a supportive ear, non-judgmental support, and practical guidance during this difficult time.
Long-Term Strategies for Dealing With Sextortion
While immediately addressing sextortion threats is important, it is also vital to implement long-term strategies to protect yourself and minimize the risk of future incidents. Consider the following tips:
- Implement best practices for privacy, safety, and monitoring,
- Utilize online reputation management strategies or professional reputation management services, and
- Pursue mental health support.
Implement Best Practices For Online Privacy & Safety
The first long-term strategy for protecting yourself from sextortionists is to follow “best online privacy practices.” Start by setting all of your online accounts to the maximum practical privacy settings. To protect your online accounts, update your passwords every three to six months.
We also recommend removing your name and personal information from data broker sites and other online databases. Additionally, to protect yourself from malicious individuals and data brokers, you can also use a virtual private network (VPN) to encrypt your internet activity history and obscure your location. A few of the most popular VPN services include Norton Secure VPN, ExpressVPN, and Surfshark.
Further, understand that responsible online behavior is vital in preventing sextortion. Your actions and choices on the internet can have a lasting impact on your digital privacy and vulnerability to sextortion.
Consider the following guidelines for safer online behavior:
- Be cautious when sharing personal information and sensitive content,
- Be wary of strangers online,
- Avoid attempts to move a conversation to a different platform,
- Trust your instincts, and
- Educate yourself about new and emerging sextortion scams, threats, and techniques by cybercriminals.
Utilize Digital Risk Protection Monitoring Services
Online reputation monitoring tools and services enable you to identify online threats as they appear and take action in real-time. This can ultimately help mitigate any damage caused should a sextortionist follow through on their threats.
To monitor your digital footprint and the internet for subsequent attacks, consider using free and paid tools such as Google Alerts and Minc Law’s Digital Risk Protection (DRP) service. You can set up a free Google Alert to notify you anytime your chosen keyword (like your name or business) appears online.
Minc Law’s DRP service utilizes a combination of strategies and tools to identify, evaluate, monitor, and eliminate digital risks as they appear online, enabling individuals to sleep peacefully at night knowing their reputation is being protected at all hours.
For further reading, please see our comprehensive resource explaining ‘How to Monitor Your Reputation After a Cyberattack’.
Seek Help From Professional Reputation Management Services
Online reputation management (ORM) strategies and professional reputation management services use a combination of digital marketing, public relations, and search engine optimization (SEO) tools to curate your brand image and protect your online footprint.
ORM can ultimately help lessen the impact of future online attacks against your reputation and ensure internet search results show the reputation that you want to convey. It is also a viable strategy for suppressing negative content and search results in cases where you are unable to remove damaging content from the internet.
When choosing an online reputation management company, look for one that:
- Is willing to meet with you face-to-face,
- Has a reputable and active online presence,
- Uses legitimate methods instead of “black hat” methods,
- Is realistic about the scope of work associated with bolstering your reputation,
- Has a customer satisfaction guarantee,
- Holds a professional license or is subject to ethical and regulatory oversight, and
- Does not use obscure communication or payment methods.
Make sure to explain our comprehensive guide explaining the key benefits of online reputation management.
Pursue Mental Health Support
Sextortion can be an emotionally distressing experience that requires both immediate and long-term mental health support. As soon as the sextortion attack happens, seek support from friends, family, or a mental health helpline to help you navigate through the experience. Do not try to go through this difficult time alone.
Some sextortion and online blackmail victims feel such extreme isolation, stress, and anxiety that they experience thoughts of self-harm. Please know that nothing is worth harming yourself over; you matter, and so does your mental health. You can call the Suicide Prevention Helpline at 988 for judgment-free support at any time of day or night.
We also recommend visiting Thorn’s comprehensive sextortion resource center for more information and to speak to an anonymous, trained counselor.
For long-term mental health support, ensure that you have someone you can speak with about this invasive attack. If needed, engage a professional like a psychologist or even psychiatrist, especially if you experience longer-term symptoms like anxiety or depression.
If you are a teen or parent of a teen that is being extorted, please see our comprehensive resource explaining ‘What to Do If Your Child is the Target of Sextortion‘.
How Minc Law Can Help With Sextortion
Sextortion is a serious and prevalent issue that can have severe consequences for its victims. It may be tempting to ignore a sextortion threat and avoid taking action to shore up your online profiles and prepare for the worst, but doing so can often result in further harm and distress.
Further, it is crucial to understand the risks associated with ignoring sextortion threats and the importance of seeking professional legal help to navigate through such a challenging time.
Minc Law is dedicated to assisting victims of sextortion in finding relief and support. Our team of legal experts has extensive experience in dealing with online blackmail threats and is ready to help put an end to your sextortion nightmare.
Our legal team offers a range of services to help you secure your online presence, including:
- Legal advice and representation. If you are a victim of sextortion or other cybercrimes, our knowledgeable attorneys can provide the guidance and support you need to navigate the complexities of the legal system.
- Digital security consultations. We offer expert advice on best practices to secure your digital life, helping you implement effective strategies to protect your privacy and reduce the risk of sextortion.
- Content removal services. If explicit content has been shared without your consent, our team can work to remove it from the internet and fight for your right to regain control of your online presence.
- Online defamation and harassment removal. We have extensive experience in removing defamatory content, harassment, and other harmful materials from the internet.
What Should Your Next Steps Be?
If you or someone you know is dealing with sextortion, do not hesitate to reach out to Minc Law for guidance and support. Our team of experienced attorneys is here to help you navigate this difficult time and work toward a resolution.
Remember, ignoring sextortion is not a viable strategy. By taking the necessary steps to address and confront the issue, you can regain control of your life and effectively combat the harmful effects of online blackmail. Minc Law is here to help you every step of the way.
“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. Dorian 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
If you are being threatened by a sextortionist, you do not have to face them alone. Contact the experienced legal team at Minc Law today by calling (216) 373-7706 or filling out our contact form online. If you are a fit for our sextortion services, we offer emergency paid consultations with one of our sextortion attorneys for $500.