What is the Definition of Sextortion?

Maybe you came across an appealing new acquaintance on a dating site or social media app. Things went smoothly, and you even exchanged a few risqué photos. However, out of the blue, they are now blackmailing you by threatening to expose those images to your loved ones unless you pay up. If this scenario sounds familiar, then you have fallen victim to sextortion, and you may be wondering what steps to take next.

If you find yourself being targeted by a sextortion scammer, here are some recommendations to effectively handle the situation:

  1. Remain calm and avoid panicking.
  2. Cease all communication with the sextortionist.
  3. Preserve any evidence of the sextortion as soon as possible.
  4. Review and adjust the privacy settings on all your online accounts.
  5. Refrain from jumping ahead of the situation by sharing details prematurely.
  6. Offer support to your child if they are the victim of sextortion.
  7. Report the sextortion to law enforcement and cybercrime agencies.
  8. Inform the platform where the incident occurred about the sextortion.
  9. Seek guidance from a sextortion attorney.

What is the Definition of Sextortion?

The term “sextortion” is a blend of “sex” and “extortion.” As the name implies, sextortion involves extorting victims by threatening to expose sexual material unless they comply with the blackmailer’s demands. This material can include images, videos, or personal information, while the demands may range from monetary payment to explicit content or sexual favors. Although young males are commonly targeted, sextortion can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender, race, or sexual orientation.

What Does a Typical Sextortion Scenario Look Like?

Sextortion can occur on almost any online platform, including:

  • Video communication applications like Skype or Zoom.
  • Social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat.
  • Socially interactive video games like Minecraft or Fortnite.
  • Dating sites like Plenty of Fish or Grindr.

In essence, sextortionists can be found wherever an alluring stranger can make contact with you. These scammers often create fake profiles using stolen or doctored photos. They frequently target multiple potential victims, hoping to receive responses from at least one. They gradually build trust with their victims, eventually steering the conversation towards a flirtatious and sexual nature. They may coerce victims into sharing nude photos or engaging in explicit conversations. In some cases, they may attempt to move the interaction to a video chat platform, where they pressure the victim into performing sexual acts on camera. Many scammers use explicit videos purportedly of themselves (obtained from adult websites) to establish a false sense of security. Once the sextortionist obtains compromising content, their friendly facade vanishes. They then threaten to distribute the sensitive material online or send it to the victim’s contacts unless their demands are met. Sextortion is an invasive and distressing scam that leaves victims feeling anxious, ashamed, and panicked. Exploiting their victims’ fears, sextortionists put immense pressure on them to comply with their demands promptly.

How does Sextortion Differ from Other Types of Blackmail?

All extortion schemes involve leveraging the threat of revealing embarrassing or compromising information about a victim to extract concessions from them. Sextortion falls under the umbrella of extortion, but what sets it apart is the sexual nature of the information or content involved. Not all instances of sextortion require explicit content; someone in a monogamous relationship could be compromised by a simple text message insinuating their involvement with someone else.

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