A Scammer is Threatening to Post Pictures of Me: What Should I Do?

Minc Law
10 min readMar 7, 2024

By: Michele McBride Simonelli, Attorney at Minc Law

Is a scammer threatening to post intimate pictures of you online? It is an unfortunately common scenario and commonly referred to as ‘sextortion’: an attractive stranger sends a friend request on social media, and before you know it, the conversation escalates to an intimate nature. Now, they are demanding payment, or they will expose explicit photos, videos, or even texts sent by you.

If a scammer is threatening to post your pictures, remember these: Get Calm. Get Secure. Get Help. Follow these steps to effectively deal with the situation:

  • Stay calm and composed,
  • Do not engage with the scammer and, instead, take note of their contact information and then block them,
  • Turn off read receipts on your phone or platform settings to be able to monitor the situation without being detected by the scammer,
  • Document everything including contact points for the scammer on each platform or device,
  • Secure your online social media, email, and financial accounts,
  • Report the scammer to the authorities (file an IC3 with the FBI, local law enforcement),
  • Report the scammer to the online platforms involved,
  • Reach out to an attorney who handles these types of scams,
  • Monitor the internet for unwanted content, and
  • Seek out emotional and professional support.

If you are reading this you may be in a fast-moving, stressful situation which may lead to increased anxiety and rash decisions. Scammers traffic fear and panic, hoping it leads to a big payday by a panicked victim. Handling internet sextortion requires a specialized understanding of all aspects of the situation, and our team is well-equipped and experienced in addressing these challenges.

As seasoned and the first sextortion attorneys, we have successfully guided hundreds of clients through to safe harbor, without drawing unwanted attention to the situation. We know how to respond to sextortion attempts, prevent the release of compromising media, and, if necessary, quickly remove intimate content from the internet.

In this guide, we will explore actionable steps to reclaim control if a scammer is threatening to expose intimate content.

What to Do When a Scammer is Threatening to Post Pictures of You

It can be very unsettling if a scammer threatens to expose your private photos, but it is important to take swift and strategic action. By taking the right steps, you can regain control and mitigate any potential damage.

Stay Calm & Composed

More often than not, these threats come suddenly and often late at night, but it is essential to maintain composure. Sleep deprivation can cloud judgment, making it difficult to navigate the situation effectively. Take a moment to pause and inject rational thinking into the equation or, at least, realize that you have options.

Our team at Minc Law has consistently been the steady hand at the wheel, guiding you through the storm to a place where you can objectively assess the situation and make decisions that will lead to the most optimum outcome.

Minc Law handles these cases when they happen, not the next business day. You need help now and we know that. Whether the threat involves explicit photos or suggestive messages, regaining control starts with a composed mindset.

Black the Scammer & Do Not Engage Further

Interacting with the blackmailer can worsen the situation. Stop all communication with the perpetrator immediately. By choosing not to engage, you can reduce the risk of providing them with additional information to use against you. However, it is important to distinguish between not responding and ignoring. Do not ignore the situation; instead, take proactive steps to address the issue and strengthen your defenses.

Steer clear of negotiations and do not make promises because this will lead the blackmailer to believe they have the ability to influence you. Firmly resist any of their demands.

Also, block them on your social media and messaging platforms after you have documented all communications as evidence. Blocking the perpetrator not only helps thwart further threats but also secures your profile.

Turn Off Read Receipts

When facing a sextortion threat, it is essential to control what information the scammer can glean from your actions. Disable read receipts to stay informed without alerting the scammer that you have seen their messages. Be particularly vigilant with platform and phone settings, including Snapchat’s screenshot notifications or read “ticks.”

For those using older text messaging systems where “read” settings are visible, be aware of the potential exposure and adjust your settings accordingly. Likewise, consider changing your phone number if it has been shared, as scammers might exploit it, linking it to various aspects of your online presence, potentially even on the dark web.

Document Everything (Including Conversations & Accounts)

Preserving evidence is crucial when facing a sextortion threat. Refrain from deleting any communication with the perpetrator; instead, take screenshots to create a comprehensive record. These screenshots, displaying sender information along with clear time and date stamps, serve as tangible evidence that will be necessary when reporting sextortion to law enforcement or for legal proceedings.

Craft a detailed log of the entire situation, noting the date, time, and specifics of each interaction. Capture changes in the nature of threats, escalations, and relevant details for a clear timeline of events, as this will be essential for legal purposes.

While using your phone or computer to screenshot evidence is typically sufficient, advanced preservation tools like Visualping or Page Vault can be employed for more thorough documentation.

In the pursuit of stopping the extortionist, obtaining their real name and contact information is ideal, though challenging. If you cannot find that information, preserve as much data as possible, including usernames, email addresses, telephone numbers, payment receipts, social media profiles, online posts, and any details related to the website used for the extortion.

Secure Your Online Accounts

If you are dealing with online threats, it is imperative to strengthen your privacy settings. Adjust privacy settings to make it more difficult to find your personal information and posts on any platforms you use.

Ensure your social media profiles are private so only approved friends can access your posts, photos, and friend lists. By doing so, you limit the blackmailer’s ability to gather additional information about you or your acquaintances. Also, scrutinize and trim your friends list, removing any unknown or suspicious contacts.

Evaluate the information that is publicly available on your profiles, such as your location, workplace, or family details. Be sure to remove or limit the visibility of private information. Use the highest practical privacy settings for your accounts, and remember to change your passwords every 3–6 months. Consider opting out of data broker sites and online databases to further safeguard your information.

Extend this vigilance to professional networking sites like LinkedIn, where scammers may exploit your connections. You can also look into using a virtual private network (VPN) to obscure your location and encrypt online activity, bolstering your defense against sextortion and other potential threats.

Report the Scammer to the Authorities

Taking action against sextortion involves reporting the scammer to relevant authorities. Multiple government agencies handle reports of sextortion and other online crimes, including the FBI’s Internet Crimes Complaint Center (IC3), INTERPOL, Canadian Centre for Cybersecurity, National Crime Agency (UK), and your local law enforcement agency.

If you feel your situation may not warrant an FBI complaint, check for a local cyber crimes unit. You can locate the nearest precinct office using a search engine and contact or visit them to file your complaint.

While response times can vary based on factors such as the nature of the incident and the victim’s age, reporting contributes to a growing database. This collective information holds the potential to better combat and possibly prevent sextortion in the future. Reporting is incredibly valuable to law enforcement agencies.

Report the Scammer to the Online Platforms Involved

Taking swift action against the perpetrator involves reporting them to the platforms where these threats occur. Most social media platforms provide dedicated reporting features for handling threats and inappropriate content. Use these features to report the blackmailer’s account.

Ensure your report is clear and concise, detailing the nature of the threats. Include screenshots or other evidence to bolster your report and provide an overview of the situation. This helps the platform take appropriate measures to address and rectify the issue.

Reporting on Whatsapp

If you are facing extortion threats on WhatsApp, follow these steps to block and report the individual:

  1. Within the app, tap More Options and Settings.
  2. Navigate to Account, then Privacy, then Blocked Contacts.
  3. Tap on Add.
  4. Select the contact you want to block.
  5. Open a chat with the contact, then tap More Options, then More, then Block, then Report and Block. This will report and block the user’s number.

Reporting Sextortion on Facebook

If you are being sextorted on Facebook, take the following steps to report the individual:

  1. Go to the blackmailer’s profile.
  2. Click on the three dots in the top right corner of their profile.
  3. Select Report.
  4. Follow the prompts from there and submit your report.

Reporting Sextortion on Instagram

If you encounter sextortion threats on Instagram, promptly report the individual using these steps:

  1. Navigate to the perpetrator’s account or find the threatening comments they left.
  2. Click on the three dots in the upper right corner of their profile or comment.
  3. Choose ‘Report’.
  4. Click “It’s posting content that shouldn’t be on Instagram.”
  5. Select the reasons that apply to your situation and click Submit.

Reach Out to an Attorney Who Handles These Types of Scams

In the face of threats to release your intimate pictures, prompt action is crucial, and reaching out to an attorney immediately is a wise move. Waiting until it is too late or after substantial financial investment can exacerbate the situation. Our firm and many law enforcement agencies are available outside of regular working hours for emergencies.

Dealing with sextortion effectively requires knowledgeable legal representation. Online sextortion is complex and nuanced, and the available remedies differ by jurisdiction. An experienced sextortion attorney can assist in preserving evidence, dealing with the perpetrators, reporting harassment, and removing explicit content if threats are carried out.

In the unfortunate event of the content being posted or shared online, an attorney can work swiftly and discreetly to remove it.

At Minc Law, our approach to legal services is highly personalized and tailored to each individual’s unique situation. We have helped many victims of sextortion, and it is important to remember that you are not alone. Whether you are a small business owner concerned about how the threats will affect your online presence or a teacher-facing professional fallout, our tailored approach will address your specific needs.

We understand the intricacies of protecting online reputations and can provide the support and guidance necessary for your situation.

Monitor the Internet With Digital Risk Protection Services

In the wake of a sextortion threat, it is crucial to stay vigilant across multiple platforms, as a sextortionist may target you on multiple fronts. Monitoring your full online footprint allows you to swiftly identify any new attacks or posts and respond effectively.

Online reputation tools play a key role in finding and responding to threats promptly. These tools are instrumental in protecting you against the damage that can be caused by a sextortionist. Consider using free tools like Google Alerts and paid services like our Digital Risk Protection service.

Minc Law’s DRP service uses a combination of tools and techniques to identify and eliminate digital threats in real time. It is a comprehensive approach that provides ongoing protection for your digital presence, which can offer much-needed peace of mind.

Seek Out Emotional & Professional Support

For victims of sextortion and image-based abuse, the importance of a strong support network cannot be overstated. Reach out to trusted individuals who can offer the emotional support you need. Sharing your experience with others can help you feel less alone and provide comfort during a trying experience. You may also consider joining support groups, either locally or online, to connect with others who may have experienced similar issues.

Professional counseling can also help you cope with the stress of sextortion. Therapists experienced in trauma can equip you with tools and strategies to manage the negative emotions that can accompany sextortion. Many platforms even offer anonymous online counseling, which is not only convenient but can alleviate some of the anxiety you may feel discussing these issues with others.

Many nonprofits provide assistance to those facing sextortion and educate the public about the growing risks of online sextortion. Many of these non-profit organizations collaborate with law enforcement to offer victims the multi-faceted support they need.

Several of the most well-known non-profits offering sextortion services and resources include:

  • Cyber Civil Rights Initiative,
  • Thorn,
  • Without My Consent (WMC),
  • Polaris Project,
  • Thinkuknow,
  • Samaritans,
  • Crash Override,
  • HeartMob,
  • Revenge Porn Helpline, and
  • Get Safe Online.

Your Next Steps if Someone is Threatening to Post Your Pictures

Sextortion is a serious and prevalent issue that can have severe consequences for victims. While it may be tempting to ignore threats, it is essential to take action to protect yourself and mitigate potential harm.

By knowing the risks of sextortion threats and seeking professional help, you can handle the situation strategically and effectively. At Minc Law, we are committed to assisting victims of sextortion to find relief and support. Our legal professionals are experienced in dealing with online blackmail threats and prepared to help you put an end to your sextortion nightmare. We offer legal advice and representation, digital security consultations, content removal, and expertise in handling online harassment.

If you or someone you know is dealing with sextortion, do not hesitate to reach out to Minc Law for guidance and support. Our attorneys are here to help you navigate this challenging time and work toward a resolution.

★★★★★
“Michele Simonelli recently helped me with an sextortion case. Due to the escalating nature of the situation, she promptly moved a previously scheduled meeting forward, and took immediate action to help mitigate the threat. As anyone facing these type situations knows, it’s extraordinarily agonizing, and one cannot even think logically. Michele was reassuring, and extremely responsive to my texts and phone calls, and also appeared non-judgmental. There’s no way to know the outcome had I not used her services, however, the backing of her and the firm gave me enough confidence/hope to get through the situation, with what appears to be a successful outcome. Thank you Michele for your professionalism, responsiveness and kindness! I highly recommend this firm and particularly Michele.”

Anonymous

August 19, 2022

Ignoring sextortion is not a viable strategy. By addressing and confronting the issue, you can regain control of your life and effectively combat the harmful effects of online blackmail. We are here to support you every step of the way. If you are being threatened by a sextortionist, you do not have to face them alone. Contact our experienced legal team today by calling (216) 373–7706 or filling out our online contact form.

Originally published at https://www.minclaw.com on March 7, 2024.

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Minc Law

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