By:  Nadeen Hayden, Attorney

Unfortunately, online extortion and sextortion (sexual extortion) are on the rise and affecting an increasing number of Americans on a daily basis. Unsuspecting victims are being threatened by who they thought was a romantic interest they met online. The extortionist may be someone the victim met on Facebook, Tinder, SeekingArrangement.com, SugarDaddy.com, or other social media or dating applications. After some initial courting, the “romantic interest” will threaten to reveal lewd and reputation-damaging images, videos, or information unless the victim pays them.

If you are the victim of online extortion, do not give in to the extortionist’s demands. Seek legal advice as soon as possible! Paying an extortionist will only lead to more demands for money – demands that often increase in frequency and scope.

An experienced online extortion or sextortion lawyer can provide help in the following types of situations:

  • If a SugarDaddy.com or SeekingArrangement.com relationship goes wrong;
  • If someone you met on a dating website or social media platform coerces you to go off-platform and then records your private interactions;
  • If an individual threatens to release private photographs or videos if demands for payment are not met.

Every online extortion and sextortion matter is unique. But there is a way to better understand an online extortion matter’s potential costs and what type of budget is required to put an end to online extortion and sextortion. Several major factors which may impact the costs of an online extortion matter or extortion lawyer include:

  • How you met your online extortionist or sextortionist;
  • Whether your extortionist is easily identifiable;
  • Whether your extortionist is located in the United States;
  • Whether a court order is necessary to stop the online extortion;
  • Whether your extortionist has follow through on their threat;
  • Utilization of ongoing online reputation monitoring services; and
  • Type of attorney fee structure.

In this article, you will learn about the factors that determine how much an online extortion lawyer costs, how different attorney fee structures can impact costs, and how much online extortion and sextortion matters cost at Minc Law.

What Factors Determine the Cost of an Online Sextortion or Extortion Lawyer?

In our article, How Much Does a Defamation Lawsuit Cost?, we explain that there are no one-size-fits-all answers for determining the total cost of a lawsuit. Online extortion and sextortion cases are no exception to this rule.

There are, however, some common factors that contribute to the cost of any matter. Some factors are unique to extortion cases and others revolve around the form of fee structure as well as the attorney with whom you are working.

Below, we will break down each of those factors further.

Sextortion Prevention Tip: When chatting with a new friend, pay attention to how they speak. Many sextortion scammers are based in places like Morocco and the Philippines. Watch out for poor grammar which could indicate the individual is a non-native speaker and not based in the U.S. If someone claims to be from your geographic area, but their grammar is incorrect and it appears they are not speaking in what they claim to be their native language, pay attention to the disconnect – it is a huge red flag that you are being catfished.

How You Met Your Online Extortionist or Sextortionist Matters

Is your extortionist someone that you have known for a long time or someone you only briefly encountered? Your answer may impact the legal costs you will incur to resolve the matter. For example, the more involved your relationship with the individual who is now extorting you – the more work your attorney may need to perform to resolve things.

On the other hand, if the individual is someone you just met on an online forum like SeekingArrangement.com or SugarDaddy.com, and you have only had limited interaction with the extortionist, a resolution may be less complicated. When a situation can be resolved more quickly, you can expect to spend less on legal fees.

Is the Extortionist Easily Identifiable?

The more identifying information about the person who is trying to extort you, the better. If you know exactly who you are dealing with, your attorney’s ability to confront the online extortionist and come to a meaningful resolution is greater. It makes it easier for your attorney to be able to communicate with the perpetrator and often can lead to a faster resolution, again resulting in less expense to you.

Unfortunately, most online extortionists hide behind fake identities – making it difficult to determine exactly with whom you are dealing. Online catfishing is becoming increasingly popular, and just because someone has texted you directly does not mean the phone number they are utilizing is real or linked to an actual individual.

Online extortionists almost always utilize technology that allows them to mask their telephone numbers. If your extortionist has remained anonymous, the more work your legal team will need to conduct to attempt to unmask who they truly are.

Unmasking an anonymous attacker’s identity is not always possible, but it is always important to evaluate whether you can ultimately identify them.

Sextortion Fact: The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children reported a 150% increase in sextortion complaints and reports to their tipline from 2014 to 2016, while the Federal Bureau of Investigation received 13,000 more sextortion reports than its previous month in July 2018 alone. Sextortion is a growing trend that needs to be monitored and dealt with carefully.

Is the Extortionist in the United States?

One potential issue in identifying an anonymous online extortionist arises when the individual is not located in the United States. Most extortionists avoid revealing their actual locations. Some may even claim to be in the United States, yet you could be dealing with someone on the other side of the world. We are seeing an increasing number of extortionists located in the Philippines and Cote d’Ivoire.

The online investigation into an extortionist’s location may increase your legal fees but is important. Identifying your attacker’s location helps your attorney determine the type of culpability involved for that individual. Every state in the United States, and every nation has different extortion and sextortion laws, and there are different consequences for extortionists in different places.

Whether a Court Order is Necessary to Stop the Extortion

Another key factor that may impact the costs of an online extortion matter is whether a court order is required to stop the extortion. For most standard online extortion and sextortion matters, which generally involve short interactions between an extortionist and victim, a court order is generally not necessary. Oftentimes, online extortionists are located overseas and will cease their unlawful behavior once they see that legal counsel is involved.

Legal action may be required in cases involving sugar daddy and long-lasting relationships between the extortionist and victim. In these types of cases, the perpetrator typically will not “go away” as easily and a restraining order may be necessary to resolve the situation. Litigation may also be required to obtain a court order to remove content from internet search engines and websites.

If legal action is necessary to stop your online extortionist, this will greatly impact the total costs of your online extortion matter.

Whether Your Extortionist Has Already Followed Through on Their Threat

Has your extortionist already followed through on their threat and published your intimate and damaging photographs or information online for everyone to see? While it is not always the case, once damaging content and information is published to the internet, more costs may be incurred to remove it.

Content removal costs will largely depend on:

  • What forum or platform the content is published on;
  • The amount of content published;
  • Where the content is hosted;
  • What type of content is posted; and
  • How many websites the content is published on.

Certain types of content may be easier to remove from the internet than others. For example, images and videos are typically easier to remove than plain writing and text. However, image and video removal may be affected by the website(s) they are published on and the number of images or videos that are posted.

Sextortion Fact: The first use of the term sextortion arose in the early 1950s in the state of California. Since then, it has become an extremely popular crime and means of online harassment due to advances in technology and social media platforms. Sextortion has been prosecuted under countless criminal statutes in the U.S., including: extortion, sexual coercion, child pornography, sexual exploitation, computer hacking, bribery, and more.

Differences in Attorney Fee Structures Impact Online Extortion Costs

Attorney fee structures will affect the total costs of your representation. Lawyers generally use one of three pricing structures: retainer fee, flat fee, or contingency fee. Each structure has its pros and cons. Most extortion attorneys use a retainer fee or flat fee structure. Contingency fees are rare (if used at all) in cyber extortion or defamation cases.

Since retainers and flat fees are the most common payment structures for this type of case, I will provide a little more detail on each method of pricing. With a retainer, advance payment is made as a down payment on future services. Then the attorney will bill an hourly rate against this retainer as they render services.

The good news about this form of pricing is that clients are entitled to a refund of any deposit amount that is unbilled after their representation is over. This means you could save money if your online extortion or sextortion lawyer is able to resolve the case quickly and for less money than the quoted retainer. You can also use the balance towards monitoring.

Some extortion services, like the drafting of a cease and desist letter, may be performed on a flat fee basis. As you might expect, flat fees are fixed fees determined in advance based on the expected amount of work to be performed. The benefit of flat fees is that they are predictable.

However, flat fees tend to be higher than initial retainers and if your extortion attorney is able to resolve your case in less time than anticipated, you would not receive a refund for any funds not expended.

Minc Law Blackmail Tip: If you are the target of online extortion or internet blackmail, it is important to do the following: (1) Cease all communications with the perpetrator, (2) Preserve all blackmail, evidence, and communications, (3) Report the extortion or internet blackmail to the police, and (4) Contact and work with an experienced online extortion or blackmail lawyer.

Online Reputation Monitoring Services

The fight against online extortion does not always end after shutting down an extortionist and removing damaging online content. After an online attack, it is important to remain vigilant and employ ongoing online reputation monitoring services to identify future digital threats against your reputation.

Self-help online reputation monitoring tools, such as Google Alerts, are available to keep an eye on your digital footprint and make sure an online extortionist does not continue to torment you online. However, keeping a professional on standby to monitor the internet for online threats is important to effectively:

  • Identify subsequent internet attacks, and
  • Identify perpetrators that never actually went away.

At Minc Law, we have developed a cost effective, state of the art online reputation monitoring solution for clients to monitor major online data sources, social media, and the dark web for targeted attacks. Start protecting your online reputation today with a free 45 day trial.

internet-defamation-lawyer-checklist

How Much Do Online Extortion & Sextortion Matters Cost at Minc Law?

The minimum retainer to engage an attorney at Minc Law for online extortion or sextortion services is $3,500.

Often when it comes to online extortion, you will be engaging an attorney to send a cease and desist letter. If the extortionist posts sensitive material online, you may be utilizing our content removal services.

★★★★★
“Ali was sensitive to my situation while also being proactive, professional, and extremely timely. It was clear how invested she was in her work and in helping me and she was able to give me results that I didn’t believe were possible. Ali made me feel comfortable and supported through a really uncomfortable and demoralizing time. She responded to emails after hours on Friday nights, and acted just as excited as I did when she had good news to share. Ali, along with the rest of her team at Minc Law have the tools, knowledge, and strategies to track down and reason with the most stubborn and slimy of site hosts. I would absolutely recommend her to anyone in need of online content removal, and I could not be more grateful for her and her work!”

 

MP,Nov 22, 2019

If your situation requires multiple types of services, we may be able to add value to your extortion case by only charging one retainer, thereby decreasing your initial costs. Moreover, when we combine multiple services we can reduce administrative time and miscellaneous fees to mitigate the costs for you.

If you would like a free evaluation of your online extortion matter and a tailored price quote, contact one of the professionals at the Minc Law law office by calling us at (216) 373-7706, speaking with a Chat representative, or filling out our contact form.

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

About the author