What To Do If You're Getting Blackmailed

Image: iStock

So you sent nudes. We live in a digital age, and now more than ever, the nude pic has become something of a dating currency in itself.

But what do you do when your ex threatens to publish your photos on the internet? It’s a tricky situation (to say the least) and it’s easy to feel vulnerable when you have little control, but there are ways to act in your best interest to stop it from happening. Nonconsensual pornography or revenge porn, is a crime in Australia, with penalties of up to $525,000 for corporations and $105,000 for individuals.

I spoke to Jeffrey Lichtman, a criminal defence attorney (and yes, El Chapo’s actual lawyer), about the steps you should take if you’re getting blackmailed for those not-so-PG-rated photos — and what to do if all else fails.

Record Any Interactions

Photo: Pablo Blazquez Dominguez, Getty Images

When someone’s hunting you down for money, it’s tempting to cut off all ties, but this isn’t necessarily the best action to take, according to Lichtman.

“The first thing you need to do is preserve everything about the blackmail attempt,” he said. “If it’s a call, you’re going to want to get that recorded on audio. If it’s an email, or by text, whatever it is, you need to get that memorialised in some fashion. At some point down that road, you’re going to need it.”

And don’t pay a dime, either. “You can never pay them anything, but you got to keep them talking enough that you’ve got enough evidence that you’ve got some leverage on them.”

Get a Lawyer

Don’t go to the police just yet, Lichtman said. “The whole idea is to try to avoid making this a public matter, and if someone gets arrested for blackmailing you, that’s going to be a public matter and the whole point of the blackmail attempt will, unfortunately, be realised, even if you put the person in jail.” Lichtman recommends finding a criminal defence lawyer, if possible, to help your case.

“Often times, what a lawyer will do is write a letter, showing what we have, explaining what the person is doing is illegal and that you’ve got evidence of their crime,” he said. “Your lawyer is going to make it clear that they’re not afraid to use that evidence. Now [...] is someone so crazy that they’re willing to risk their own freedom for this blackmail attempt? It’s usually unlikely, but it’s certainly possible.”

Contact the Webmaster

If all else fails and your photos make their dreaded rounds on the internet, you can contact the website where the photos are published.

“Often times, you can get the websites to remove it if it’s something that’s inappropriate or it’s something that’s stolen,” Lichtman said. “If someone’s phone or computer is hacked, usually, you’ll be able to get the websites that are publishing it to remove it because basically, it’s a product of a crime.”

In order to contact a webmaster, find a “Contact Us” line somewhere on the website’s homepage with email or phone information. Google Support also provides another solution:

You can perform a Whois (“who is?”) search for the site owner using Google. Go to google.com and search for whois www.example.com. The email address to contact the webmaster can often be found under “Registrant Email” or “Administrative Contact.”

Alternately, you can contact the web host, using a Whois search above. Once you’re in contact, explain your problem and they should be able to assist. Otherwise, if you have a lawyer, have them issue a takedown notice. These notices mean you own the copyright of these photos and a request will force them to take them down.

Don’t Pay Anything

Again, because this needs re-iterating, don’t pay your blackmailer. And don’t give in to the idea of giving money in exchange for an agreement that the photos won’t get out or will be deleted.

“I think it’s the people that try to talk their way out of it, try to reason their way out of it, those are the ones who get abused the most,” Lichtman said. “You need to go after them hard and they need to understand that if this continues, you’re going to do what you can to put them in jail.”

And if you want to avoid having photos leaked, sometimes it’s better to not take any at all, especially in an age where our privacy over our personal data is of concern.


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