Is Extortion Illegal?

I remember when my old boss tried to extort me. I had just been laid off and he called me up, asking if I wanted my old job back. He said he would “give me a good reference” if I agreed to come back to work for him. But he also made it clear that if I didn’t agree to his terms, he would make sure I never found work again. I knew he was serious, so I agreed to his demands. It was a really humiliating experience, and I was so relieved when it was finally over.

Yes, extortion is illegal in most cases. Extortion is the act of obtaining money, property, or services through coercion or intimidation, and is generally considered a serious crime. This can include threatening physical harm to a person or their loved ones, damaging someone’s reputation by spreading false rumors, or exploiting someone’s weaknesses in order to gain leverage over them. While there are some exceptions, most forms of extortion are considered crimes in most jurisdictions and can be punishable by fines or imprisonment.

I don’t know if you’re in a similar situation but it’d be good to read more on extortion and what you can do if you’ve started to deal with someone that’s trying to extort you.

What is Extortion?

Extortion is defined as the act of obtaining something, typically money, through force or threats. This can take many forms, from demanding payment from an individual in exchange for not revealing embarrassing information, to threatening physical harm if a victim does not comply with the demands.

The legal definition of extortion may vary slightly depending on the jurisdiction, but it generally involves the use of force or threats to obtain something of value from another person. This can include threats of physical harm, threats to damage property, or threats to reveal sensitive information.

While extortion is often confused with similar crimes such as blackmail or coercion, there are key differences between these crimes. Blackmail typically involves threatening to reveal embarrassing or damaging information about an individual unless they comply with the demands, while coercion involves using force or threats to compel someone to do something against their will.

In order for a crime to be considered extortion, certain elements must be present. These may include the use of threats or force to obtain something of value, the victim’s fear of the threatened harm, and the perpetrator’s intent to obtain the desired outcome through the use of threats or force.

The consequences of extortion

The consequences of committing extortion can be severe. In most jurisdictions, extortion is considered a felony offense, which means that it is punishable by imprisonment and significant fines. The severity of the punishment for extortion can vary depending on the circumstances of the crime and the jurisdiction in which it is committed.

For example, in the state of California, extortion is punishable by up to four years in state prison and a fine of up to $10,000. In the state of New York, the punishment for extortion can range from a fine of up to $1,000 and up to one year in jail, to a fine of up to $5,000 and up to four years in prison, depending on the severity of the crime.

In addition to the potential criminal penalties for extortion, the victim of the crime may also be able to seek civil remedies, such as damages, against the perpetrator.

Real-world examples of extortion

Extortion can take many forms, from demanding payment from individuals to threatening to release sensitive information. Some real-world examples of extortion include:

  • In 2018, the CEO of a major pharmaceutical company was arrested for allegedly extorting the company’s former CEO by threatening to reveal embarrassing information unless he was paid millions of dollars.
  • In 2017, a former NFL player was sentenced to nine years in prison for extorting his ex-girlfriend by threatening to release sexually explicit photos of her unless she paid him $1.5 million.
  • In 2014, a group of hackers known as the “Impact Team” extorted the dating website Ashley Madison by threatening to release sensitive user data unless the company shut down its website.

These examples illustrate the various ways in which extortion can occur and the potential consequences for those who commit this crime.

Extortion vs Blackmail

Extortion and blackmail are similar crimes in that both involve using threats to obtain something from another person. However, there are some key differences between these two crimes.

While both extortion and blackmail involve the use of threats to obtain something from another person, the key difference is the type of threat that is used. In blackmail, the threat is typically to reveal embarrassing or damaging information, while in extortion the threat is typically to cause harm or damage unless the victim complies with the demands.

How to protect yourself from extortion

If you are the victim of extortion, it is important to remember that giving in to the demands of the perpetrator will not make the problem go away. Instead, it is important to seek help from law enforcement and not to engage with the extortionist.

There are also steps that individuals can take to protect themselves from becoming victims of extortion in the first place. These may include:

  • Avoiding sharing sensitive personal information, such as financial information or personal photos, with anyone who you do not trust
  • Being cautious about giving in to demands for money or other valuables, even if the person making the demands claims to have embarrassing information about you
  • Seeking help from law enforcement if you receive a threatening message or are the victim of extortion in order to increase the chances of catching and prosecuting the perpetrator.

When to consult an attorney

If you are the victim of extortion, it is important to consult an attorney as soon as possible in order to protect your legal rights. An experienced attorney can advise you on how to proceed and may be able to help you obtain compensation or other remedies for any harm that was caused by the perpetrator. They can also provide valuable advice on how to avoid becoming a victim of extortion in the future.