Cyber CrimesInsights

Blackmail and Online Sextortion: What to do?

The growth of internet and our dependency on it during this pandemic has brought about some unexpected changes. There is also a sharp increase in online blackmail and SEXTORTION. In most cases, the victims are unsuspecting men and women, who have never even met the blackmailer. So, how to deal with blackmail and online sextortion? Here’s how.

What is sextortion and how it begins?

Sextortion is a serious crime that occurs when someone threatens to distribute your private and sensitive photographs/ videos/ information online, unless you satisfy them with sexual favors or money. It may happen to anyone. For our understanding, let’s take an example. One of your acquaintances, who is going through a rough ride in this pandemic, starts spending more time on social media. In some time, he reaches out to groups of having similar interests. Because discussing similar issues with strangers always brings great relief and positivity, he gets close to a stranger who seems to be very supportive and like-minded.

Casual talks gradually move to another level and they start to share personal experiences on travel, food, music and life over e-mails and texts. Soon enough, he feels safe in discussing his sex life and the challenges he has faced so far, and ends up disclosing some very personal details and images.

A false sense of security

Belief is a very strong emotion. It drives on a vehicle named ‘trust’, enabling exchange of the very personal secrets of life. A false belief is always a trap, and is many a times difficult to identify. The realization comes only after you’ve gone too far.

Online perpetrators exploit this vulnerability in humans. They gain the trust of the target by pretending to be someone they are not. In our example, the victim started sharing very sensitive details including images to a stranger which he had never done previously. The action was driven by a honey trap, a false sense of security, which was actually nothing but a fallacy.

The Demand

The moment the victim realizes and starts to repent on the incident, it is already too late. The criminal starts to blackmail the victim. He threatens victim that if the demands are not met soon, all his personal/ sensitive information and images will be published online, for the whole world to see. This time is the most critical frame in the episode as it devastates the person emotionally. Of course, no individual in his right mind would like to see his/ her private and sensitive data going public. It is a great threat to the reputation of the victim.

How can you avoid this?

An extortionist may try to gain access to you by either trying to be an emotional friend or by taking control of your electronic devices, using a malware to gain access to your images/ videos/ files or to your camera and microphone, without you knowing it. Here is what you can do to protect yourself.

            –           Never send a compromising images of yourself to anyone.

            –           Do not open attachments from strangers

            –           Cover your web cameras and microphone when not using them

            –           Talk to police/ a lawyer, if you have a compromised situation.

What to do if you are a victim

In most cases, the threats are a bluff. They do not have any image/ photograph of you and are just bluffing to get something out of you. So, it is advised that you talk to a lawyer who can help you identify the issue correctly and determine if it indeed needs a response.

In case you become a victim to such crime, there is no need to panic. It is a good idea to reach out to a legal expert as soon as possible. We advise victims in such cases and in numerous instances have even stopped them from deleting crucial evidence, which they often tend to delete, in the aftermath of incidence, making it difficult to establish the chain of evidence leading to the criminal.

Apart from that, it is quite possible to trace down the criminal. The cyber laws of India extend beyond the Indian territory and the police can locate, charge, arrest, and prosecute the criminal. Many online criminals are professionals, work operate in the dark and are afraid of getting exposed. Although they minimize their chances of being traced, but they are not immune. We have also seen criminals who often project themselves with a fake identity. In all these circumstances, you can reach out to the police and register your case. If the police are not eager to take up a case, contact a lawyer who will definitely help you deal with the issue.

Lastly, precaution is always better than cure. It is better to inform all your friends and family about such blackmail and online sextortion and the ways in which fraudsters trap their targets.

Is something this terrible happening to your child? Here’s what you must know about the POCSO Act.

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Adv. Sulabh Shukla

Sulabh has 13+ years of experience in Information Technology, Manufacturing, Financial, Corporate sector with a growth from Software Engineer to Advocate. He has a rich experience in advising International Clients from Large Financial Institutions in Europe, USA and Japan to Blue Chip companies and SME’s in India. He also has excellent exposure in understanding the needs of the client and builds enduring relationships with external and internal stakeholders. Key Skills include Financial Laws, Corporate Laws, Technology law, Mergers & Acquisitions, Stakeholder Management.

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