The Internet has made us closer than ever, but that also has made it more possible to find and reveal our most personal secrets. If you're the target of online extortion, what should you do?
What Is Internet Extortion?
Generally, digital extortion, also known as "Internet blackmail," is aimed at revealing some aspect of the victim's personal life, found with information the target has stored on their computer.
If you're the victim, this "information" could be intimate pictures you shared with someone, an aspect of your personal life that you'd prefer not be discussed or known by others, and so on. Often, the extortionist will request money, or perhaps intimate pictures or other information, in exchange for not ruining your online reputation.
Is Online Extortion a Crime?
Yes, no matter what the situation. Many online extortionists will claim that what they're doing is not illegal because it's not "blackmail" under the law, especially if there's no money involved, or because they live in a different country. Both statements are false and designed to intimidate their target. In reality, what is happening is a crime, and you do not have to tolerate it. In addition, they may be violating other laws, such as computer crime laws. In any situation, online blackmail is best resolved by contacting the police.
What Should I Do If I'm Contacted By an Extortionist?
First, disconnect your computer from the Internet, physically. While it's unlikely the extortionist has the skills to monitor your computer, it's better to be safe than sorry. Then, install anti-virus software and run a complete virus scan. Also install a firewall, if you haven't already.
Next, change your passwords to access your computer, email, social media accounts, and other access. Take screenshots of the contact you've received from the extortionist, including the email address or chat handle. Also write it down in person. Then, contact the police and inform them of the situation.
Is There Any Way to Avoid Being Embarrassed?
It really depends on how the situation unfolds, but realistically, you should be prepared for the extortionist to follow through on their threat. It might be advisable to discuss the situation with your family or friends. It may be emotionally painful, but it's likely not something you want them to discover on the Internet, either.
How Do I Prevent This Going Forward?
Consider everything you do online to be public information. Even if you send a communication or image in confidence, there's no guarantee it will stay in that confidence. If you're not sure whether to trust someone with something personal or intimate, err on the side of caution and keep it to yourself. Similarly, do not store anything on your computer you wouldn't want anybody else to see; if your computer is hacked, keeping that information off of it will help protect you against digital extortion and other situations.
If An Extortionist Has Revealed Something Embarrassing, Is There Anything I Can Do to Remove It From the Internet?
Yes. Working with a reputation management company such as ReputationDefender will help you restore your online reputation. What people often forget is that embarrassment, online or not, is temporary and can be rebuilt with careful work and search engine optimization. So, don't give in to extortionists, and don't let them win: Contact ReputationDefender today.
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