Reporting Fraud Is Critical
The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre estimates that less than 5% of the total number of fraud victims report their experiences to law enforcement agencies. By reporting a scam, you provide law enforcement with the information they need to stop fraudsters and help prevent others from becoming victims. The information you provide is important!
Online Extortion Scams Increasing During The Covid
The Internet Crime Complaint Center has seen an increase in reports of online extortion scams during the current “stay-at-home” orders due to the COVID-19 crisis. Because large swaths of the population are staying at home and likely using the computer more than usual, scammers may use this opportunity to find new victims and pressure them into sending money. The scammers are sending e-mails threatening to release sexually explicit photos or personally compromising videos to the individual’s contacts if they do not pay. While there are many variations of these online extortion attempts, they often share certain commonalities.
Online extortion schemes vary, but there are a few common indicators of the scam. The following characteristics are not all-inclusive but should serve as red flags. It is important to remember that scammers adapt their schemes to capitalize on current events such as the COVID-19 pandemic, high-profile breaches, or new trends involving the Internet, all in an attempt to make their scams seem more authentic.
Tips to Protect Yourself:
The FBI does not condone the payment of online extortion demands as the funds will facilitate continued criminal activity, including potential organized crime activity and associated violent crimes.
How Does Kansas Define Blackmail
Instead of being grouped under theft offenses in Kansas, blackmail is considered a crime against the person. Unlike California and New York, Kansas specifically prescribes for the offense of blackmail, noting:
Blackmail is intentionally gaining or attempting to gain anything of value or compelling or attempting to compel another to act against such persons will
Kansas then further breaks down the offense of blackmail, distinguishing between threats to communicate false accusations about a person versus threats to disseminate videotapes, photographs, film, and other images of a person . For example, a level 7 felony can result in a prison sentence ranging from 11 to 13 months , and a fine not exceeding $100,000, while a level 4 person felony will generally result in 36+ months in prison.
Curious about state sextortion laws and protections in the U.S.? Check out our past article titled, How to Deal With Sextortion on the Internet.
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What Is The Difference Between Extortion & Blackmail
Extortion and blackmail are similar in concept, but there are differences between the two. Extortion is a form of theft that occurs when an offender obtains money, property, or services from another person through coercion. Coercion is the use of threats of violence or intimidating behavior if the victim does not give the extortionist what they want.
Example of extortion: I will break your legs unless you pay me $1,000.
In contrast, blackmail occurs when the offender threatens to reveal information about a victim or that is potentially socially damaging or incriminating unless a demand for money, property, or services is met.
Example of blackmail: I will tell your spouse about our affair unless you pay me $1,000.
Depending on the circumstances, sextortion can fall under the category of extortion or blackmail. When sextortion refers to a form of blackmail, the offender uses personal information and sexual images to threaten an innocent person into performing sexual favors.
Possible Defenses To An Extortion Charge
Defendants facing extortion charges under state or federal law have several potential defenses available to them.
Actual innocence. Defendants charged with extortion or a similar crime have the usual defenses available to all criminal defendants, such as “Someone else committed this crime,” or “The alleged conduct did not occur.”
Lack of intent. Extortion requires that the defendant had the specific intention of forcing another person to provide money, property, or something of value by threatening them. Without that corrupt intent, the crime does not exist.
Absence of threat. To constitute extortion, the actor must make a threat to commit an injury or harmful action against the victim. If the defendant is able to prove no actual threat existed, this element of the offense isn’t satisfied.
Victim was not fearful. This defense only works in jurisdictions that require the victim actually felt fear based on the defendant’s threats. It might not be as useful in states where the prosecutor need only prove the threats would cause a reasonable person to feel fear.
How To Deal With Extortion
How to deal with extortion and to stop it, you need to be one step ahead of your blackmailer and make them believe that you can find out who they are. The key to being able to reveal the identity of the blackmailer, is to communicate with them via email or through mainstream social media. Email communication will often allow you to trace back information about the blackmailer. You will need to install or plant cookies which will feed back information about the IP address and often the physical location of the blackmailer. Once you have located the blackmailer, you will be able to obtain court orders that will help you stop the extortion. Generally speaking, blackmailers will stop extortion of you when they feel that they are going to be exposed. Once a blackmailer is exposed, she will not be able to carry out the extortion any longer and is likely to face a prison sentence. So even the perceived risk by the blackmailer that she could be exposed, is likely to result in the blackmailer leaving you alone and moving on to their next victim.
Most Effective Places To Report Sextortion
There are several law enforcement and investigative agencies where you can make a report of online harassment, including sextortion. The top agencies where sextortion victims in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia can file reports include:
- FBI Internet Crimes Complaint Center
- National Center for Missing and Exploited Children
- Canadian Centre for Cyber Security
- National Crime Agency
- Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre
- eSafety Commissioner
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Online Marketplace Purchase Scams
Online transactions, whether you are the buyer or the seller, require caution to make sure you avoid scams. This is particularly true if you are engaging in a person-to-person transaction, perhaps through Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist or eBay rather than purchasing through an online store.
When you are buying items advertised online, make sure that the seller actually has possession of the goods being sold, and hasnt just copied photos someone else has posted online. If possible, view the product in-person before purchasing, but take appropriate safety precautions including meeting in a safe, well populated place and bringing a friend.
If you must purchase an item without viewing the item in person, take additional precautions:
Report Crime Anonymously: Contact Crimestoppers
Crimestoppers is an independent charity working to solve and prevent crime. Its a way for people, who for whatever reason may be reluctant to tell Police what they know, to anonymously report information about crime and criminals via an independent third party. You can contact Crimestoppers anonymously when you know about a crime that has been, or is being committed, you suspect a crime is being planned, or any other activity you think is illegal. To report a crime anonymously:
- Fill in the secure online Giving information form.
Find out more on the Crimestoppers website.
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Threatening Criminal Charges Is Extortion
In most circumstances criminal charges for extortion arise from a situation where one person is knowingly trying to blackmail another person. The goal is usually to receive money that he or she would not otherwise be entitled to. However, this does not mean that you cannot be charged with extortion if you demand for money, property or anything else that you are legally entitled to and that another person is required to provide you.
It is the nature of the threat that will often determine whether charges of extortion are laid by the police. For example, section 346 excludes threats to begin civil proceedings, and therefore you are perfectly entitled to threaten to sue someone if they do not repay a debt they owe you.
Reporting Sextortion To Email Service Providers
If you are receiving blackmail threats in the form of emails, it is a good idea to report the offending emails to the service provider where they originated, such as:
- Yahoo! Mail
- AOL Mail
If the email is not from a generic domain like the ones listed above, you can try reporting it to the domain host where the emails domain is registered. For instance, if the email comes from firstname.lastname@example.org, you can go to ICANN Lookup and type in the domain to find out where johndoe.com originated.
Scroll down to Registrar Information, which will usually list the domain host. From there, you can contact the domain host and report the suspicious activity coming from that domain.
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Contact Your Local Authorities
If you feel that your situation does not warrant a complaint to the FBI, your local authorities may have a cyber crimes unit available to help you.
The easiest method of contacting your local police department is by using a search engine to find the location of the nearest precinct office. Call or visit the precinct in person to deliver your complaint.
For example, if you live in Cleveland, Ohio, you can call 621-1234 to file an online crime report with the local police department.
What Constitutes Sextortion in a Court of Law?
The crime of sextortion involves threatening to disclose sexual information or images of a victim in order to coerce some form of payment from the victimusually in the form of money, additional material, or sexual favors.
While there are currently no specific federal criminal statutes targeting sextortion, these 31 states have made sextortion, online extortion, or internet blackmail, a criminal or civil offense:
Rcmp Warn Of Email Blackmail Scam
A new email scam in which fraudsters ask for Bitcoin in exchange for keeping quiet about the victims alleged viewing of pornography online, is making the rounds, say Sidney-North Saanich RCMP.
Police departments across the province have been receiving reports from people receiving an email from a scammer stating they have proof the victim has been viewing pornography online.
In many cases, the fraudster includes the persons correct email password, which, police say, is an alarming detail of the scam.
The fraudster threatens to email the proof to all of the contacts in the victims email account unless the victim pays a sum in Bitcoin.
Police recommend that anyone who receives the email ignore it, change your password immediately and not pay any ransom in Bitcoin or any other form of payment.
Sidney-North Saanich RCMP are suggesting people use unique and secure passwords for all of their accounts and change their passwords on a regular basis. If there is an attachment included with the email scam, do not open it, as this is a method used by hackers to install malware on computers.
If you have been contacted, you are urged to get in touch with the Sidney/North Saanich RCMP detachment at 250-656-3931.
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How To Prove Someone Is Blackmailing You
To prove that someone is blackmailing you, you will need to have evidence that shows that you did not volunteer yourself to pay the blackmailer and that you paid money because you felt fearful that private information will be revealed by the blackmailer. There have been cases involving blackmail on dating websites or between sugar daddy-sugar baby situations where the sugar baby claimed that the payment by the victim was done voluntarily, as part of an arrangement. A sugar baby blackmailer will often make threats that are indirect or implied.
For example, she will refer to the victim’s family, his professional position or his good reputation when asking for payment. In some cases, victims of blackmail had deleted crucial evidence from the early days of the extortion, which could otherwise have proven that they had been blackmailed. If you are a victim of blackmail on the internet, do not delete evidence. Instead, store the evidence securely. Perhaps protected by a password or on an external key drive but do not delete the evidence or close accounts that cannot be retrieved because this could make it difficult for you to prove that someone is blackmailing you.
Blackmail As A Type Of Extortion
Quite often, extortion and blackmail are used interchangeably. Blackmail occurs when an offender extorts money from a victim by threats of accusation or exposure. When we think of blackmail, we usually think of hush money or a bribe to keep someone silent. Extortion itself usually encompasses a broader range of conduct than blackmail.
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Complaints About Police Officers
If you have experienced police misconduct:
- Contact the law enforcement agency involved.
- Submit your complaint in writing to the chief of police or the head of the law enforcement agency involved.
- Send a copy of your complaint to the Internal Affairs Division of the law enforcement agency. Be sure to keep a copy for yourself.
If the problem remains unresolved, learn how to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division.
Finally, as with any potential legal dispute, you may want to contact a licensed attorney.
If Youve Been Scammed
If you think you may be a victim of a fraud or scam, there are some key steps you should take immediately to reduce your risk of losing more money, protect your personal information and avoid being scammed again.
- stop all communication with the fraudster or scammer
- report the scam or fraud to your local police, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre and any regulatory bodies
- notify financial institutions and other companies where you have an account that may have been affected
- avoid making any major financial decisions until you feel youve taken action to secure your accounts
- put an alert on your credit report by contacting a consumer reporting agency, such as Equifax Canada or TransUnion Canada
- gather all records you have of the fraud or scam, such as:
- correspondence with the scammer
- financial statements
- contact information the scammer used to contact you
- websites and social media accounts used for the scam
- any papers, marketing material or ads used for the scam
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When To Seek Legal Aid Assistance With Sextortion
In most sextortion matters, you should reach out to an internet attorney immediately following a threat of exposure or request for money. Do not wait until it is too late, or after you have spent hundreds of dollars on meeting the criminals demands.
Many law enforcement agencies are open at all hours of the day or nightand Minc Law also offers after-hours consultations for emergencies just like yours.
State Penalties For Extortion
Penalties for extortion vary by state. The severity of the penalty is determined by whether the prosecutor charges the defendant with a felony or a misdemeanor. In West Virginia, for example, extortion constitutes a felony, punishable by one to five years in prison. However, if the offender failed to obtain anything of value, they receive a misdemeanor charge, which carries two to 12 months in jail and a fine of $50 to $500.
In Arizona, a defendant who commits extortion by threatening to cause physical injury or death faces a Class 2 felony conviction, which subjects them to up to 12.5 years in prison for first-time offenders. Other types of threats can result in a Class 4 felony conviction, resulting in up to 15 years in prison, depending on the defendant’s prior convictions.
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Report The Sextortion Scam To The Better Business Bureau Scam Tracker
The Better Business Bureau Scam Tracker is an online tool that enables consumers and businesses to report scams in an effort to prevent others from falling prey to similar cons.
The tool collects and presents scam data in a searchable heat map showing users the number and types of scams and hoaxes reported in their communities. Though the Scam Tracker cannot alert authorities about your specific situation, it can help maximize efforts to educate consumers and stop scammers across the United States and Canada.
How to File a Report With the BBB Scam Tracker
Step 1: Go to the BBB Scam Tracker homepage
Step 2: Click Report a Scam.
Step 3: Enter information about the sextortionist or scammer in question. Be sure to use as much detail as possible including any phone numbers, email addresses, and known countries.
Step 4: Enter details regarding the scam that transpired. You will be able to include the method of contact, a summary of the incident and any screenshots of communications.
Step 5: Enter information about the person who was scammed. If you are the person the report is about, please enter as much information as you are comfortable sharing.
Step 6: Certify that the report is a truthful account of your experience, complete the CAPTCHA form, and submit your report to the BBB.