What to Do If You Are the Target of a Tutor Extortion Scam Featured Image

What to Do If You Are the Target of a Tutor Extortion Scam

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In today’s college and university landscape, where most learning now occurs online, an unsettling new scam has emerged: the online tutor extortion scam. These scams involve “tutors” who help students with their school work, sometimes completing all their work for them, only to later threaten to reveal the student as a cheater unless they are paid a significant amount of money.

If you or your child are the targets of an online tutor extortion scam, it is important to take the following steps:

  • Preserve all evidence or communications with the tutor,
  • Lock down all of your online accounts,
  • Do not take any extreme action,
  • Seek out emotional support from a trusted friend or family member, and
  • Reach out to an experienced extortion attorney.

At Minc Law, we have extensive experience dealing with many types of extortion cases and are fully prepared to help you navigate this tough situation. We understand that these scams are unique in nature, so our team of lawyers offers customized, non-judgmental advice to help you take control of the situation.

In this article, we will cover the steps to take if you fall victim to an online tutor or homework helper extortion scam. We will delve into the scam’s mechanics, the measures to take immediately following extortion threats, and how our team can assist you.

The Online Tutor Cheating Extortion Scam Explained

Recent news reports have highlighted the rise of online tutor extortion scams. According to articles from Consumer Affairs and WINK News, this growing scam is different from typical extortion scams. It targets a new group – students who are struggling or those who are striving to do well in their studies.

What is the Homework Helper Scam?

The homework helper scam is a harmful and malicious scheme that takes advantage of students who need help with their schoolwork or looking to “take the easy route” by paying someone to do their work for them.

At first, the student (or their parent) hires a tutor to assist with their homework. But as time passes, the situation changes – instead of just tutoring, the tutor starts completing tests and assignments for the student, turning the situation into cheating. Victims often pay a few hundred dollars for this assistance.

The real scam unfolds when the student prepares to graduate or discontinues their use of the tutoring service. The tutor, or sometimes a third party, resorts to extortion, demanding considerable payments for keeping the cheating under wraps. If the student refuses to pay, the tutor responds with threats. They send threatening emails or text messages, warning the student that they will contact the school and expose the academic dishonesty.

This scam often poses a greater threat to international students or those with limited English proficiency as they might require additional academic support and could be more susceptible to fraudulent practices due to language barriers or unfamiliarity with local education systems.

What Are the Warning Signs of a Tutor Extortion Scam?

Detecting the warning signs of a tutor extortion scam can prevent you from incessant threats or messages in the future. Here are some key red flags to be aware of:

  • Foreign tutors using anonymous email addresses: if a tutor uses a generic email address, such as a Gmail account, and does not provide a phone number, this anonymity could signify a hidden agenda. The difficulty in tracing their true identities provides a cover for their illicit activities.
  • Suspicious payment methods: if a tutor accepts payments through PayPal under a different name or suggests unconventional payment methods, these could serve as red flags. Legitimate tutoring services typically provide standard, traceable payment options.
  • Tutors offering to complete academic work: a legitimate tutor’s primary aim is to enhance your understanding of the material, not to do the work on your behalf. If a tutor offers to take tests or complete assignments for you, this is a clear warning sign.
  • Tutor seeking access to your education portal: tutors should not need to access your Blackboard or education portal, where assignments are submitted, and tests are taken.

How is this Different From Traditional Extortion or Sextortion?

While it does possess some similarities to typical extortion and sextortion scams, the online tutor scam is different in the way that it is carried out and its potential consequences.

Unlike most extortion scams, which usually rely on coercion or intimidation, the tutor extortion scam involves a documented trail of academic dishonesty. This evidence, often in the form of emails or academic portal records, makes it difficult for victims to deny their involvement. This provides the extortionists with powerful leverage.

The repercussions of this scam extend beyond immediate financial loss. Being accused of cheating and potentially losing a diploma can cause long-term harm to a person’s reputation. It may disrupt their academic pursuits and damage future career prospects – making this scam particularly egregious.

What is the Timeline of This Online Tutor Extortion Scam?

The timeline of an online tutor extortion scam can vary drastically, depending on the scammer’s strategy and the depth of the student-tutor relationship. It can range from a swift operation that happens within a span of days or weeks, such as for finals or midterms, to a long-haul plan spanning the entire duration of a student’s college or university education.

Sometimes, the scam unfolds within a week or so, primarily when the tutor has gathered sufficient information from the student or when the scam is centered around a critical academic event, such as final exams or graduation. This quick turnaround leaves little room for the student or their parents to comprehend the situation before the damage is done.

In other cases, the tutor may work with the student for several years, even up to 3-4 years, seemingly providing legitimate tutoring services. Over this period, a strong student-tutor relationship forms, with the tutor playing a significant role in the student’s academic journey. As the time for graduation approaches, the tutor flips the script and demands a large sum of money, threatening to expose years of cheating.

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What to Do If You Are the Target of an Online Tutor Extortion Scam

Finding yourself at the center of an online tutor extortion scam can be distressing. Yet, it is important to remain calm and not let panic dictate your actions. Much like in sextortion scams, the likelihood of extortionists following through with their threats is often lower than you might think. In most cases, the primary motivation of the scammer is to incite fear and panic, driving you to give in to their demands.

That said, it is still crucial to act swiftly and appropriately to mitigate potential damage.

Preserve All Evidence

When faced with an online tutor extortion scam, the first step is to gather and preserve all related evidence. This includes all forms of communication, such as emails or text messages, and any information that can help identify the tutor or the tutoring agency.

Payment records are another key part of the evidence. This could include receipts, transaction details, or bank statements that reflect any payments made to the tutor.

If the tutor has a website or social media profiles, be sure to capture the URLs. Taking screenshots of these pages, with visible timestamps if possible, can help document their online presence at the time of the incident. Professional preservation tools like VisualPing or PageVault can be used for this documentation.

Lock Down All of Your Online Accounts

Secure your online accounts to minimize the risk of potential breaches and restrict the scammer’s access to your personal and academic information.

Start with the online learning platforms you use, such as Blackboard, Canvas, or any other educational platforms or portals where you submit assignments. If you previously granted access to the tutor, revoke those permissions immediately. Change your passwords, ensuring they are strong and unique. Consider enabling two-factor authentication (2FA), if available, for added security, and monitor your accounts closely for any unusual activity.

In addition to your academic accounts, make sure you secure your social media accounts. Change your privacy settings to limit who can view your profile or send you friend requests. This can help prevent the scammer from gaining further information about you or contacting your friends or family.

Do Not Take Any Extreme Action

When facing extortion, it is natural to feel compelled to report the scam. However, it is important to proceed cautiously and avoid actions that could worsen the situation. Despite the urge to do so, we generally advise against reporting the matter directly to your school or agencies like the Internet Crimes Center (IC3).

Reporting the scam to your school or the authorities could potentially implicate you in the cheating. If the extortionist were to forward your emails to your school, the school would investigate, and that could lead to an unfavorable outcome.

Similarly, reporting the matter to internet crime agencies could attract unwanted attention and escalate the situation. Instead, it is generally preferable to seek professional guidance to handle the situation appropriately and discreetly.

Seek Out Emotional Support

Experiencing an online extortion scam can be a stressful event. The fear and anxiety surrounding potential exposure, coupled with feelings of guilt, can be overwhelming. It is important to remember that you do not have to face these emotions alone.

Reaching out to trusted friends or family members can provide a valuable source of comfort and perspective. They can lend an empathetic ear, offer advice, or provide companionship to help you navigate this challenging period.

Consider speaking with a mental health professional if the emotional burden becomes too heavy. Therapists can offer constructive strategies to manage stress, anxiety, and any feelings of guilt or shame you may be experiencing.

Reach Out to an Experienced Extortion Attorney

Because online tutor extortion scams are complex and can have serious outcomes, it is important to get advice from a lawyer who is experienced in dealing with extortion cases. Extortion attorneys have a deep understanding of online extortion scams and can provide practical, non-judgmental advice to help you navigate the situation and regain control.

An attorney can act on your behalf, taking over communications with the extortionist and potentially negotiating a resolution. Their expertise can also provide you with peace of mind during a highly stressful time, ensuring that your case is handled effectively and discreetly.

To locate an attorney who deals with online extortion and internet crimes, we recommend the following sources:

  • Your local bar association,
  • Legal databases like Avvo, Martindale-Hubbel, and Lawyers.com,
  • Online searches on Google, with targeted keywords (ex. “Online extortion lawyer + Ohio”), and
  • Personal referrals from friends, family members, or co-workers.

How to Prevent Becoming the Victim of an Online Tutor Cheating Scam

As we use more and more digital tools for learning, we need to stay alert to possible dangers, like homework helper scams. By educating yourself and taking responsibility for how you use these tools, you can greatly lower the chance of getting extorted by these malicious schemes.

Do Your Own Work

We do not condone cheating and recommend the best way to avoid an online tutor extortion scam is to always be honest in your schoolwork and do all your own assignments. By putting in the time and effort to really understand and learn your school subjects, you can protect yourself from potential extortion threats.

Also, by earning your degree through diligent study and hard work, you equip yourself with the skills and knowledge required for future success.

Choose Verified & Reputable Tutors

Choose tutors recommended by your school or solicit recommendations from family and friends who have had positive experiences with tutors. Confirm the legitimacy of a tutor by checking their qualifications and seeking reviews of their services.

Reputable tutors typically have a proven track record of success and a professional online presence, such as an official website or social media profiles. Exercise caution when dealing with tutors who hesitate to provide verifiable references or appear to lack a significant online presence.

If you want to hire a tutor to help you understand your course material, consider the following advice:

  • Solicit referrals: ask friends, family, and teachers for their recommended tutors. Some schools offer Honor Society students as free or reduced-cost tutors, making school an excellent place to begin your search.
  • Check references: request references from individual tutors or tutoring services and follow up by contacting them. Aim to speak with at least three references. Ask about their experience with the tutor and their results.
  • Determine availability and rates: while some tutors might charge extra for additional sessions before a test, such details should be discussed and agreed upon upfront. Last-minute surprises and demands can be signs of a less-than-reputable business.

Do Not Share Access to Your Online Learning Portal

Maintaining the security of your online learning platform is paramount. Sharing your login credential for platforms like Blackboard or Canvas with tutors or others can lead to unauthorized access, cheating, and the possibility of extortion.

Take proactive steps to ensure the security of your accounts. Employ robust, unique passwords and enable two-factor authentication, which offers an additional layer of security.

Set Clear Expectations with Tutors

Establishing clear expectations with tutors from the beginning helps to reduce the risk of potential misunderstandings. Before hiring a tutor, be sure to agree upon charges, availability, and the scope of their services.

Make sure you emphasize the tutor’s role in your learning process – they are there to support you and help you understand the coursework, not to complete assignments or tests on your behalf. Ensuring a mutual understanding of this role can decrease the chances of tutors engaging in unethical practices.

Setting these expectations at the outset allows you to maintain your academic integrity and safeguard against the risk of tutor extortion scams.

Keep Guard of Your Personal Information

It is imperative to keep your personal information secure online. One way to do this is to adjust your privacy settings on social media platforms to limit what information is visible to the public.

When interacting with tutors, refrain from using your school email address or divulging an abundance of personal information. Be careful when sharing details about yourself, as potential extortionists could manipulate this information for their benefit and use it to threaten you.

How Minc Law Can Help You With a Tutor Extortion Scam

In the face of a tutor extortion scam, feelings of fear, confusion, and vulnerability are common. Whether you are a student caught in a scam or a parent looking to protect your child, Minc Law is here to help.

We can help take control of the situation: our experienced team can help you take control of the situation and manage communications effectively. We will guide you on securing your accounts, offer actionable advice on bolstering your online profiles, and provide much-needed assistance to navigate the crisis.

Non-judgmental and practical guidance: this is a stressful situation, and our empathetic team is committed to providing non-judgmental and practical advice to help you. We strive to understand your circumstances and equip you with the necessary tools to put you in the best position possible to get through this.

Digital monitoring and online security: Minc Law also offers monitoring services and online security measures. With our Digital Risk Protection services, we provide real-time identification and monitoring of digital threats, coupled with effective remediation strategies.


“My experience with Minc Law was exceptional. I’ve never had to work with an attorney before, but an unfortunate family situation forced me to look for someone to partner with. After many google searches leading to many unanswered emails and calls by other law firms, I was delighted when Minc reached out. Admittedly, having never worked with an attorney in this capacity, my expectations were low. I assumed my story and my unique needs would not be of interest, or maybe I would not be taken seriously. Instead, I was blown away by how wonderfully I was treated and how closely and carefully my story was listened to. Micheal Pellagalli and the team exceeded expectations I did not know I had. Mike listened to me, and he cared about my situation. I could not have been happier with my journey with Minc Law and would implore others seeking representation to invest the time and expense to partner with Minc. In the end, I believe you will be as pleased as I am with the outcome.”

Lance E.

June 17, 2022

Do not hesitate to reach out to us for assistance. You can give us a call at (216) 373-7706, fill out our online contact form, or chat with a representative directly on our website. Remember, you do not have to face this alone. We are here to help you regain control and navigate through this challenging situation.

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