What to Do When Someone Threatens to Expose Photos of You

Minc Law
10 min readMar 12, 2024

By: Karin Marx, Client Intake Specialist at Minc Law

It can be difficult to know what to do when someone threatens to expose photos of you. Perhaps an ex-partner with a grudge threatens to share your nude sexts, or a stranger you shared intimate content with on webcam is now blackmailing you for money. No matter the situation, it is crucial to act quickly to limit harm and end the harassment.

If a blackmailer is threatening to expose compromising photos of you online, we recommend taking the following actions immediately:

  1. Assess whether the blackmail attempt is credible,
  2. Stay calm and collected,
  3. Preserve all evidence and communications from the blackmailer,
  4. Avoid communicating with or paying the blackmailer,
  5. Resist the urge to “get ahead of the story,”
  6. Maximize your online privacy settings,
  7. Report the blackmailer to relevant platforms and law enforcement agencies, and
  8. Reach out to an experienced blackmail attorney for help.

At Minc Law, our team has proven experience helping blackmail victims end harassment swiftly and discreetly. Not only can we remove intimate online content (should it be published), but we also actively monitor the internet for subsequent threats. This proactive approach reduces the risk of future attacks, providing comprehensive protection and peace of mind.

In this article, we define image-based abuse on the internet. We then provide proven, actionable steps you can take when someone threatens to expose photos of you online.

Understanding Image-Based Abuse

At Minc Law, we often see image-based harassment cases ranging from potential blackmail to revenge porn. Despite each case’s nuances, each category’s underlying concern remains consistent.

Clients in these situations share a common worry: that their personal photos might be laid bare on the internet for all to see. This anxiety holds true whether you are a content creator or a victim of blackmail. No one wants their intimate images shared without consent.

Is Threatening to Expose Photos a Crime?

Yes, it is unlawful to threaten to share explicit photos without the owner’s consent. This crime is usually categorized as blackmail, sextortion, or revenge porn.

Blackmail & Sextortion

Blackmail is a form of extortion involving threats to reveal compromising information about you unless you pay a ransom. When the crime involves using explicit content as leverage, it is also referred to as sextortion.

At the federal level, blackmail is punishable by up to one year in prison or a fine. State laws, on the other hand, often classify blackmail and extortion as theft or larceny and consider them to be felonies — punishable by imprisonment. Further, some states may punish blackmail involving bodily harm more harshly than crimes involving reputational harm.

Revenge Porn

Revenge porn is the crime of sharing intimate photos or media without the subject’s consent, usually for the purposes of harassment, shaming, or extortion.

Forty-eight states now have laws criminalizing revenge porn, with punishments ranging from felonies to low-level misdemeanors. Some states also allow victims to file a civil lawsuit to seek financial compensation and a court order for the content’s removal.

Will the Blackmailers Give Up if You Ignore Them?

While it is true that most blackmailers never follow through on their threats, there is a difference between ignoring a blackmailer and not responding directly. We generally recommend not replying to a blackmailer’s messages, but you should still take proactive measures to protect yourself.

Immediate Steps to Take to Stop a Blackmailer From Exposing Your Photos

Receiving threats and harassment from a blackmailer can be an overwhelming and distressing experience. While it is tempting to bury your head in the sand and hope the problem will go away, it is better to take immediate action to protect yourself.

In this section, we provide actionable and effective steps for responding to a blackmail attempt.

Assess Whether the Blackmail Attempt is Credible

Some scammers try to trick their victims into believing they have compromising information or photos. These scams often start with a phishing attempt where the scammer emails a large list of potential victims. By casting a wide net, they hope at least one recipient will fall into their trap.

In most cases, if the blackmailer does not include proof that they have compromising material, you can simply ignore the email. However, if you engaged in intimate acts or sent explicit photos recently, you should take the threat seriously.

Stay Calm & Collected

If you have reason to believe the blackmailer’s threats are credible, it is natural to feel panic. But try to remain as calm and focused as possible. Blackmailers rely on your panic and fear to coerce you into paying a ransom before you can consider other options.

At first, it can seem like you have no choice but to meet the blackmailer’s demands, but do not give into that instinct. Take a step back and try to see the situation with a clear head-and remember, you have more control than you may think.

Preserve All Evidence & Communications

You may be tempted to erase all messages and attachments sent by a blackmailer, especially if you feel embarrassed or ashamed. But before you take drastic action, know that proof of your communications with the blackmailer can help law enforcement bring them to justice.

Take screenshots of all emails and messages from the blackmailer, along with any other proof of their identity-like a social media or dating profile. While professional-grade preservation tools like Page Vault and Visualping are recommended, you can also use your device’s screenshot tool with the following commands:

  • Shift+CMD+3 (Mac),
  • CTRL + PrtScn (Windows),
  • Lock + Volume Up (iPhone), and
  • Power + Volume Down (Android).

Ask a Trusted Friend to Help Document the Evidence

If possible, have a trusted family member or friend take screenshots or make a backup file of the blackmail proof. That way, it will be more difficult for the blackmailer to claim you tampered with the evidence of their messages.

Avoid Engaging Further With the Blackmailer

Stop responding to the blackmailer immediately. It can feel counterintuitive to ignore their messages, but replying to their threats will not help the situation. In fact, the more you respond to the blackmailer, the more likely they are to continue harassing you.

Avoid Negotiating or Paying the Ransom

Engaging with a blackmailer is rarely a good idea, and it is never smart to try negotiating with them. Giving the impression that you are willing to pay just shows them you are a lucrative target who can be manipulated.

Remember: paying a ransom does not guarantee the blackmailer will leave you alone. There is a high chance they will make more demands after receiving the first payment.

Avoid Trying to Get Ahead of the Blackmail

It is tempting to “get ahead of the story” by telling friends and family your version of events before the blackmailer can. But many blackmailers never follow through on their threats, so your loved ones may never find out about the incident if you do not tell them.

Maximize Your Online Privacy Settings

Every social media user should maximize their privacy settings, but it is especially important to do so if you are being threatened or harassed online. Maximizing your online privacy settings helps reduce the information blackmailers can use against you.

Such information can include your friends and family’s names, your location, and your place of employment.

Set all your social media and dating profiles to private, and block the blackmailer (after saving evidence of their messages).

Report the Perpetrator to the Platform

If the blackmailer messaged you on a social media or dating site, you can also report them to that platform. Every major networking app allows users to report online attacks and harassment.

By reporting blackmailers and having their online accounts suspended, you prevent them from using those accounts to harass others. For more information on reporting sextortion and blackmail to social media platforms, see these articles from our resource center:

Talk to an Experienced Blackmail Attorney

An attorney specializing in online blackmail can educate you about your legal options, offer objective advice about your situation, and communicate with the blackmailer on your behalf. Your attorney can also send demand letters, work with platforms to report abuse, and remove any harmful content from the internet swiftly and discreetly.

Contact Law Enforcement

You may also want to report the crime to the relevant authorities so they can bring the blackmailer to justice. Aside from calling your local police, you can also report online blackmail to national and international agencies such as:

  • National Center For Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC),
  • Internet Crimes Complaint Center (IC3),
  • Your local FBI Field Office, and

Resources & Strategies if Your Photos Are Posted Online

While it is rare, sometimes a blackmailer will follow through on their threats to publish sensitive photos of you online. If you find images of yourself on the internet, it can feel like the world is over-but please know that all hope is not lost.

There are options for removing this content swiftly. It is also important to have a support system on your side, including legal professionals and mental health resources.

In this section, we provide actionable strategies and helpful resources to end harassment and restore your mental well-being.

Report the Photos to the Platform

Just as most social media and dating sites prohibit online harassment, they also have strict guidelines against posting explicit content and revenge porn. If the blackmailer posted photos that violate the platform’s Terms of Service, you can report that content and have it removed by the platform.

Set Up Online Alerts to Monitor For Content

If you are worried about explicit photos being posted online-or if you have already reported and removed some photos-it is important to watch for future attacks. By monitoring your overall online footprint, you can respond promptly and effectively to new threats to your reputation.

You can use free tools like Google Alerts to watch for keywords (like your name) appearing online. Paid tools such as Minc Law’s Digital Risk Protection service not only monitor keywords but use a variety of tools and strategies to identify and eliminate digital threats in real-time.

Key Resources For Blackmail Victims

Being the target of blackmail can be extremely stressful and detrimental to your personal well-being. While taking concrete steps to remove content and end the harassment is paramount, do not neglect your mental health during this time.

First and foremost, remember that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. You will get through this experience-and you are not alone in the meantime. We recommend visiting Thorn’s website to speak with an anonymous, trained counselor and access other mental health resources. The Cyber Civil Rights Initiative also has resources for victims of online abuse, including a roster of attorneys and information for international victims.

Professional Mental Health Resources

Long-term mental health support can also be extremely invaluable. A psychologist or psychiatrist can help you work through mental health effects like depression and anxiety.

Some victims of online blackmail also experience thoughts of self-harm. Please remember that nothing is worth hurting yourself. You can call the Suicide Prevention Helpline at 988 any time of the day or night for judgment-free support.

If you are in the United Kingdom, you can reach Samaritans at 116 123. Canadian individuals can contact Crisis Services Canada at 1–833–456–4566, while Australians can reach out to Lifeline at 13 11 14.

Legal Resources For Blackmail Victims

Aside from providing objective advice about your legal options, an experienced blackmail attorney also has established processes for removing online content, identifying anonymous blackmailers, and working with law enforcement to bring perpetrators to justice.

For example, if the blackmailer was previously a romantic partner, you might explore criminal and civil lawsuits under revenge porn laws and other relevant statutes.

If you do not have the resources to hire an attorney, legal resources are still available to you. We recommend contacting your local legal aid society or law schools in your area, as they may have formal pro bono services available.

You can also check the American Bar Association’s directory for a comprehensive list of law school public interest programs.

We Can Help You Get Through Image-Based Abuse & Attacks

At Minc Law, our firm has multiple tools and strategies to help clients prevent their intimate photos from being published. We begin with a meticulous digital risk assessment to identify vulnerabilities and potential exposure points. Our proactive content monitoring services then detect any attempts to share or publish sensitive photos online. If we find explicit content, we can act swiftly to remove the content at its source.

In addressing the complexities of revenge porn, our firm recognizes the need for a multifaceted approach that extends beyond content removal. Our team also provides legal guidance, collaborates with law enforcement when necessary, and offers ongoing support to navigate the aftermath. By combining these tools and strategies, we aim to protect your privacy and address any challenges arising from the unwanted exposure of intimate photos.


“I was recently a victim of a predator trying to extort me. I was lost and had not idea what to do till I found Minc Law. Dorrian and Anna were amazing, patient and completely understanding of my situation. I followed their expert advice and the problem went away and I fell like a weight has been lifted off my shoulder. I cannot thank Minc Law enough for protecting my reputation. I would recommend Minc Law to anyone in a similar situation. They are simply the best. Thanks you for everything.”

March 10, 2023

To schedule an initial consultation with one of our experienced attorneys, reach out by calling us at (216) 373–7706, speaking with a Chat Representative, or filling out our online contact form.

Originally published at https://www.minclaw.com on March 12, 2024.



Minc Law

Minc Law is the Nation’s #1 Internet Defamation Removal Law Firm. Schedule your free, initial no-obligation defamation consultation at https://www.minclaw.com.