Extortion happens both in real life and online. The perpetrator can threaten with physical harm, prosecution, public exposure, or anything else that can cause ramifications in an individual’s life.
Extortion scams happen very often. The victim may start receiving accusing phone calls from legitimately sounding agencies that claim they are behind in payment. These perpetrators will usually have correct information about the person, including their full name, address, telephone number, bank account number, email, and even social security number. They threaten their victims with arrest, legal repercussions, and even physical violence.
Types of extortion
The most common type of extortion is threatening someone with violence, property damage, and reputational, legal, or financial repercussions. Such threats can be carried out via phone, text, email, live, or any other form of communication.
Blackmail is a type of extortion that threatens to reveal information about a person that would cause harm to their reputation. The intent of blackmail is usually to get something out of the person by leveraging deeply personal information about them.
Tips to prevent extortion
If someone’s threatening physical harm, contact authorities to let them know what’s going on. Threats and harassment are illegal and should not go unreported.
If someone’s trying to extort money from you through a phone call, ask them for more specific information. If they refuse to give it to you or start to sound shady, then it’s likely a scam.
Extortion crime stats
According to the FBI Internet Crime Reports, here's how devastating extortion cases were from 2015 to 2022:
Average losses and victim count
year over year
Extortion cases have reached record numbers with 76.7K yearly victims (around 210 victims per day) in 2020.
Victims have reported the highest average financial loss to extortion cases in 2019 ($2.5K per victim).
During the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, the number of extortion cases grew by 78%, but the average financial loss fell by 63% (from $2.5K to $924) per victim compared to 2019.
Despite the increasing awareness of online crimes, daily financial losses to extortion cases have grown around four times from 2015 ($40.5K per day) to 2022 ($148.9K per day).