Blackmailing is one of the most emotionally and psychologically draining crimes that someone can befall victim to. Unfortunately, blackmailing is very common and so subtle sometimes that most people don’t even consider it a crime. A lot of times, the victims themselves aren’t aware of the legal repercussions of blackmailing or how they can fight against it.
Most times, the victims are too embarrassed and ashamed to come out. And even if they want to, they don’t know how to present their case and whom to reach out to. This is something we will try to address in this article. How to prove someone is blackmailing you and what it can do about it.
Blackmailing vs. Extortion
These two terms are sometimes mistakenly used interchangeably. Even though there is a strong correlation between them, they are different.
Blackmailing is making demands in return of not revealing something embarrassing and damning about the victim. These demands can be anything: Money, services, illegal activities, or personal favors. The information or material, which the blackmailer threatens the victim with can be private or intimate, exposing or embarrassing material (pictures, videos, conversations), and evidence that might incriminate the victim. The blackmailing leverage may not directly belong to the victim themselves, but to their friends or family.
Extortion is receiving money, valuables, or favors through coercion or force. It’s also called a shake-down. In blackmail, victims aren’t hustled out of their money because the extorter had something on them. Instead, the person extorting may use force, the threat of harm or general bullying to take something from the victim. The most common form of extortion is corrupt officers of the law and criminal entities collecting regular payments from small business owners (shopkeepers and food stall owners).
We might define extortion and blackmail as one act, in which it extorts victims out of their money through extortion. But blackmail and extortion are two different criminal acts.
Definition, Penalty, and Types of Blackmail
Legally, blackmail can be defined as revealing or not revealing sensitive information about the victim for a payment. Most commonly, the amount is money. But a lot of times, cash can also do something damaging or embarrassing for the blackmailer.
The law varies from state to state about blackmailing. Some states lump it with extortion; some treat it as a separate crime. Some countries consider psychological trauma as a factor when deciding the punishment for blackmail, while some only pen out penalties based on what the victim paid to the blackmailer. The sentence for extortion is fine, imprisonment, or both, depending upon the severity of the crime.
Legally blackmail has not been correctly classified. But there are many scenarios through which we can differentiate blackmailing. For example, the blackmailer may only have information about the victim that, if revealed, could damage the victim. Or they might have actual material or physical evidence that can harm the victim.
Similarly, the blackmailing could be a onetime thing. The victim paid the blackmailer, and they destroyed whatever they had on the victim. Or it could be something continual, like blackmailer asking favors from the victim now and then. Because they know the victim will have no choice but to obey.
Different scenarios might have various repercussions for the blackmailer if they got caught. Similarly, as a victim, you might have to opt for a different strategy to prove that someone is blackmailing you.
How to Prove Someone is Blackmailing You
How to prove someone is blackmailing you depend a lot on how the blackmailer is communicating with you. If you go to the police claiming that your coworker threatened to reveal some of your secrets to the office, if you didn’t do something for them, the police don’t have a lot to go on. If they ask the perpetrator, they will outright deny it. Forget police; this is something you might have a hard time proving to your HR department.
But if the blackmailer communicated their threat in writing, like writing an email or sending a text, then you have relatively concrete proof that you are being blackmailed.
1. Preserve All Communication
If you are being blackmailed, and the perpetrator is communicating with you through written notes, texts, or through the internet, preserve all the communication you have with them. This is especially helpful against the plethora of internet-related blackmails. Most of which involve threats to reveal private photographs, videos, or calls to your loved one, or the internet.
If you are an unfortunate victim of any form of blackmail, and you don’t plan on alerting the authorities soon, you will still be better off if you have all the communication that happened between you and the blackmailer. In case something goes wrong, like you getting caught doing something illegal for the blackmailer, that communication will be vital in getting you a good deal.
So no matter what it is: post notes, letters, text messages, voice notes, video calls, emails, or messages through online messengers, keep it safe. Better yet, make copies of it. Many blackmailers might try using a tool like Snapchat, on which the blackmailer will know if you took a screenshot of the conversation. These are the conversations you have to save. Either find a hack around it or take a picture of your conversation with a different phone.
The more communication you have, the easier it will be to prove that someone is blackmailing you.
2. Recording the Blackmailer
Recording the blackmailer using audio or video equipment is might be your best shot of having iron-clad evidence against being blackmailed. But before you do this, do your research about laws in your state about filming someone without their consent. In most cases, you can shoot someone in a public area without them knowing. There might be stricter laws in your state, so look into it before trying to catch your blackmailer on cam.
Laws about recording audio are relatively much stricter. If you want to record your blackmailer by wearing a concealed microphone or placing a microphone nearby, be sure if you are not breaking any law yourself. It will be safer if you consult an attorney before attempting something like this. Though, if you can prove your sole intention of using a hidden video or audio recording device is to catch the blackmailer, you might not be prosecuted for invasion of privacy.
Though spy cams would be your tool of choice for recording a blackmailer, outdoor security cameras can come in handy. You can record your exchange with your blackmailer using a small, wire-free security camera (usually intended as a nanny cam), by hiding it nearby.
Again, before attempting to catch your blackmailer, do thorough research about laws in your state regarding filming or recording someone without their consent.
There is another way that a battery operated home security cameras can help you if there are any cameras near where you handover money to your blackmailer, their recording can corroborate your story to the authorities.
Having clear audio of a blackmailer’s demand or a video of you giving something to the blackmailer are substantial ways to prove that someone is blackmailing you.
3. Confiding in Somebody
The critical element that blackmailers prey on is that the victim will not confide in anyone else. The reason is simple: Embarrassment and breaking trust. If the blackmailer has something on you, you would never want your loved ones to find out about, even if it isn’t something illegal, you will try everything in your power to stop blackmailers from revealing it. This is what blackmailers count upon.
But in most cases, whatever the blackmailer is using against you, gets blown out in the open. There are many reasons for it. Maybe the blackmailer keeps asking for more and more than you can give. Maybe you tire of being blackmailed and reveal the information yourself, but only after you have spent countless days in torment and agony. Or perhaps, the blackmailer is just a sadist that revels in tormenting people by revealing their dirty secrets.
You must confide in somebody if you are being blackmailed. If nothing else, that person can corroborate your story in front of the authorities. If it’s something damaging, you should confide in an attorney. Sometimes, people get blackmailed for past indiscretions for which it has already expired the statute of limitations.
It’s better to confide in someone if you are being blackmailed. Even if it proves not only that you are being coerced, it will undoubtedly augment your case if you report the blackmail.
How Can You Fight the Blackmail
Whether you can conclusively prove if you are being blackmailed or not fight against it. If you don’t and pay your blackmailers, the chances are that you will pay them for a very long time. Blackmailers feed upon your fear of exposure. And as cowards who prey upon the cowardice of others, it can fight them against if you will brace yourself.
4. Contacting Relevant Authorities
Even if you don’t have a shred of proof, contacting authorities might be the smartest thing to do. The simplest thing to do would be to write a proper statement, with every detail of the blackmailers and the demands you have. If they are threatening to expose anything illegal that you did, it might be better if you consult an attorney first and follow their advice. What the blackmailer has on you might not even be as illegal as you thought.
If you are being blackmailed using the internet, your best bet would be to report it to the cyber-crimes. They will be much more efficient in tracking and prosecuting your blackmailers than local law enforcement. And they will help you out a lot more, in case the blackmailer releases something embarrassing about you on the internet.
5. Revealing The Information Yourself
If the fear of exposure is keeping you under the blackmailer’s thumb, the most straightforward solution might be to take that weapon away from them. If you reveal whatever damning information or potentially embarrassing material they have on you, yourself, then the blackmailers will have nothing to leverage against you.
You don’t have to announce it to the entire world. You can confide in your family and friends, maybe even your employers. If you get ahead of the problem yourself, you will be in a much better position to handle it. Compared to the mess it would have created if the blackmailer had revealed it. It won’t be breezy, but it will be much better than suffering under someone who is preying on your weaknesses.
Blackmailing isn’t something that you should take lightly. Neither is it something that you should suffer through alone. If you are being blackmailed and you are reluctant to go to authorities, reach out to your friends and family. If nothing else, you will not be fighting the blackmailer alone.
In most cases, blackmailers succeed because the victims feel like they are guilty, and whatever is happening to them is the punishment. You understand that, even if you did something wrong, the right to punish you don’t live with any individual or entity, other than the law. If you made some embarrassing mistakes or were careless with your confidential data, you don’t ‘deserve’ to be blackmailed.
Confiding in someone, owning your mistakes, and standing your ground are the most effective weapons you can use against a blackmailer.