Blackmail and Cyber Extortion
The amount of technology-based crimes in Hong Kong is said to have doubled in 2020. One of the least discussed type of online crime is cyber blackmail and cyber extortion. The purpose of this article is to shed some light on the common situations that we have encountered and share the tips that we have learned dealing with extortionists.
If any of the scenarios described below sound familiar, it is very likely that you have been a victim of fraud and should take immediate action to avoid incurring additional losses. You can read our Guide on Cyber Fraud and Recovery in Hong Kong, which we hope will allow you to take the necessary steps before it is too late.
What is Blackmail ?
Blackmail occurs when a person, with a view to gain for himself or another or with intent to cause loss to another, makes an unwarranted demand with menaces. On the internet, it can take various forms: cyberbullying, ransomware, and sextortion.
What is Cyber Extortion ?
Cyber extortion is an umbrella term for various type of cybercrimes involving some form of blackmail (or extortion).
Common Types of Cyber Extortion
Cyberbullying: Cyberbullying is a form of bullying that takes place over the internet. It occurs mostly on social media platforms, forums, or online video games. Basically anywhere on the internet where the public can view, participate in, or share content. The bully will often threaten to send, post, or share information that can harmful, false, or defamatory content about someone else unless money is paid out. Victims often pay to avoid personal or private information being shared publicly which would embarrass or humiliate them.
Ransomware: It is a type of software commonly known as "malware" used to block access to internal data owned by a company unless a ransom is paid to the fraudsters. The data is held hostage until the victim pays out the ransom to the developer of the malware.
Sextortion: This is a common scenario where a criminal befriends a victim online (usually using a fake identity) and then persuades him or her to perform sexual acts on video or taking pictures of the same. There are also situations where the criminals will use technologies like Deepfake to create fake video showing the victim performing sexual acts. Then the victim is asked to pay money to the extortionist failing which the victim's video or picture will be made public by being released online. You can read our dedicated article on sextortion here.
Underage Girl Scam: This type of scam is prevalent on dating applications and websites. It involves people pretending to be consenting adults willing to perform sexual acts on video or taking pictures of the same for the victim. Thereafter, the victim will be contacted by an angry family member (often someone pretending to be the girl's father) and told that the girl is underage. The person will tell the victim that his life will be ruined, and he will become a known sex offender, unless the victim pays to make the problem go away.
What to Do if You Are Being Blackmailed or a Victim of Cyber Extortion ?
If you are the victim of any form of blackmail, we recommend that you pay attention to these six tips to stop or limit the damages from the extortionist.
Do Not Panic: It is important to recognize early on that you are being blackmailed and that there is a way out of that situation. Do not keep silent about this, talk to your friends and family, no matter how embarrassing the situation is.
Do Not Pay: It is important not to give in to the demands of the extortionist. Otherwise, you can end up being on the hook for a long period of time without any prospect of things improving.
Do Not Further Contact the Extortionist: This is probably the most important tip on this page. Ignore the extortionist, do not engage with him. He or she thrives on getting your attention and manipulating you into doing what they want. We do not recommend blocking the extortionist early on, just ignore him or her. If you block them too early, the extortionist might use various telephone numbers or online accounts to try to get in touch with you. It is important to continue to avoid giving any attention whatsoever to that person. Over time, that person will lose interest and move to another target.
Do Not Delete Anything: Everything relating to your case should be kept in multiple copies. Take screenshots and save them carefully. If the information is stored on your phone and computer, they should be backup regularly.
Do Report to the Police: You need to report the situation to the police as soon as possible. Getting them involved early is a good way of maximizing the chances of the culprit being arrested. Blackmail is a very serious offence, and they might be able to engineer a situation with you where they can catch the extortionist red handed.
Do Talk to a Lawyer: If you paid any sums of money to the extortionist, make sure to speak to a lawyer and let him or her know the details of your case. A lawyer is best suited to tell you what options are available to you and whether recovery is possible in the circumstances.
If you have additional questions which are not addressed here or wish to schedule an appointment to discuss your case, please contact us by telephone on +852 2176 4777 or by email at [email protected].