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Extortion is the practice of obtaining benefit through
coercion Coercion () is compelling a party to act in an involuntary manner by use of threat A threat is a communication of intent to inflict harm or loss on another person. Intimidation is widely observed in animal behavior (particularly in a ritualiz ...
. In most jurisdictions it is likely to constitute a
criminal offense In ordinary language, a crime is an unlawful act punishable by a state or other authority. The term ''crime'' does not, in modern criminal law, have any simple and universally accepted definition,Farmer, Lindsay: "Crime, definitions of", in ...

criminal offense
; the bulk of this article deals with such cases.
Robbery Robbery is the crime In ordinary language, a crime is an unlawful act punishable by a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of Sta ...

Robbery
is the simplest and most common form of extortion, although making unfounded threats in order to obtain an unfair business advantage is also a form of extortion. Extortion is sometimes called the "
protection racket A protection racket is a type of racket and a scheme of organised crime Organized crime is a category of transnational, national, or local groupings of highly centralized enterprises run by criminals to engage in illegal activity, most commo ...
" because the racketeers often phrase their demands as payment for "protection" from (real or hypothetical) threats from unspecified other parties; though often, and almost always, such "protection" is simply abstinence of harm from the same party, and such is implied in the "protection" offer. Extortion is commonly practiced by
organized crime Organized crime is a category of transnational, national, or local groupings of highly centralized enterprises run by criminals to engage in illegal activity, most commonly for profit. While organized crime is generally thought of as a form of i ...
. In some jurisdictions, actually obtaining the benefit is not required to commit the offense, and making a
threat A threat is a communication of intent to inflict harm or loss on another person. IntimidationIntimidation (also called cowing) is intentional behavior that "would cause a person of ordinary sensibilities" to fear injury Injury, also known a ...

threat
of
violence Violence is the use of physical force so as to injure, abuse, damage, or destroy. Other definitions are also used, such as the World Health Organization The World Health Organization (WHO) is a list of specialized agencies of the United Na ...

violence
which refers to a requirement of a payment of money or property to halt future violence is sufficient to commit the offense. Exaction refers not only to extortion or the demanding and obtaining of something through force, but additionally, in its formal definition, means the infliction of something such as
pain and suffering Pain and suffering is the legal term for the physical and emotional Stress (medicine), stress caused from an injury (see also pain and suffering). Some damages that might come under this category would be: aches, temporary and permanent limitati ...
or making somebody endure something unpleasant. The term ''extortion'' is often used metaphorically to refer to
usury Usury () is the practice of making unethical or immoral monetary loan In finance Finance is the study of financial institutions, financial markets and how they operate within the financial system. It is concerned with the creation and ...
or to price-gouging, though neither is legally considered extortion. It is also often used loosely to refer to everyday situations where one person feels indebted against their will, to another, in order to receive an essential service or avoid legal consequences. Neither extortion nor blackmail requires a threat of a criminal act, such as violence, merely a threat used to elicit actions, money, or property from the object of the extortion. Such threats include the filing of reports (true or not) of criminal behavior to the police, revelation of damaging facts (such as pictures of the object of the extortion in a compromising position), etc. In law ''extortion'' can refer to
political corruption Political corruption is the use of powers by government officials or their network contacts for illegitimate private gain. Forms of corruption vary, but can include bribery, lobbying, extortion, cronyism, nepotism, parochialism, patronage, infl ...
, such as or
influence peddling Influence peddling is the practice of using one's influence in government or connections with persons in authority to obtain favours or preferential treatment for another, usually in return for payment. Also called traffic of influence or trading i ...
, but in general vocabulary the word usually first brings to mind blackmail or protection rackets. The logical connection between the corruption sense of the word and the other senses is that to demand bribes in one's official capacity is blackmail or racketeering in essence (that is, "you need access to this resource, the government restricts access to it through my office, and I will charge you unfairly and unlawfully for such access"). Extortion is also known as shakedown, and occasionally exaction.


United States

Extortion is distinguished from
robbery Robbery is the crime In ordinary language, a crime is an unlawful act punishable by a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of Sta ...

robbery
. In robbery, whether armed or not, the offender takes property from the victim by the immediate use of force or fear that force will be immediately used. Extortion, which is not limited to the taking of property, involves the verbal or written ''instillation'' of fear that something will happen to the victim if they do not comply with the extortionist's will. Another key distinction is that extortion always involves a verbal or written threat, whereas robbery may not. In
United States The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country Continental United States, primarily located in North America. It consists of 50 U.S. state, states, a Washington, D.C., ...

United States
federal law, extortion can be committed with or without the use of force and with or without the use of a weapon. In
blackmail Blackmail is an act of coercion Coercion () is compelling a party to act in an involuntary manner by use of threats, including force. It involves a set of various types of forceful actions that violate the free will of an individual to induce ...
, which always involves extortion, the extortionist threatens to reveal information about a victim or their family members that is potentially embarrassing, socially damaging, or incriminating unless a demand for money, property, or services is met. In the
United States The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country Continental United States, primarily located in North America. It consists of 50 U.S. state, states, a Washington, D.C., ...

United States
, extortion may also be committed as a
federal crime In the United States The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country Continental United States, primarily located in North America. It consists of 50 U.S. state, st ...
across a computer system, phone, by mail, or in using any instrument of
interstate commerce The Commerce Clause describes an enumerated powerThe enumerated powers (also called expressed powers, explicit powers or delegated powers) of the United States Congress The United States Congress or U.S. Congress is the bicameral legisl ...
. Extortion requires that the individual sent the message willingly and knowingly as elements of the crime. The message only has to be sent (but does not have to reach the intended recipient) to commit the crime of extortion.


United Kingdom


England and Wales

In
England and Wales England and Wales () is a legal jurisdiction covering England and Wales, two of the four countries of the United Kingdom, parts of the United Kingdom. England and Wales forms the constitutional successor to the former Kingdom of England and follows ...

England and Wales
extorting property and money by
coercion Coercion () is compelling a party to act in an involuntary manner by use of threat A threat is a communication of intent to inflict harm or loss on another person. Intimidation is widely observed in animal behavior (particularly in a ritualiz ...
is the offence of
blackmail Blackmail is an act of coercion Coercion () is compelling a party to act in an involuntary manner by use of threats, including force. It involves a set of various types of forceful actions that violate the free will of an individual to induce ...
which covers any "unwarranted demand with menaces" including physical threats. See section 21 of the
Theft Act 1968 The Theft Act 1968c 60 is an Act of Parliament, Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It creates a number of offences against property in England and Wales. On 15 January 2007 the Fraud Act 2006 came into force, redefining most of the off ...
plus sections 29 and 30 of the
Larceny Act 1916 The Larceny Act 1916 was an Acts of Parliament in the United Kingdom, Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Its purpose was to consolidate and simplify the law relating to larceny triable on indictment and to kindred offences. The definit ...
. A group of people may also be committing
conspiracy A conspiracy, also known as a plot, is a secret plan or agreement between persons (called conspirers or conspirators) for an unlawful or harmful purpose, such as murder or treason Treason is the crime of attacking a Sovereign state, state a ...
.


Scotland

Extortion is a common law crime in Scotland of using threat of harm to demand money, property or some advantage from another person. It does not matter whether the demand itself is legitimate (such as for money owed) as the crime can still be committed when illegitimate threats of harm are used.


Cyber extortion

Cyber extortion is when an individual or group uses the internet as a mean of demanding some sort of material gain. The group or individual usually sends a company a threatening email stating that they have received confidential information about their company and will exploit a security leak or launch an attack that will harm the company's network. The message sent through the email usually demands money in exchange for the prevention of the attack.


Cases

In March 2008, Anthony Digati was arrested on federal charges of extortion through interstate communication. Digati put $50,000 into a variable life insurance policy by
New York Life Insurance Company New York Life Insurance Company (NYLIC) is the third-largest life insurance Life insurance (or life assurance, especially in the Commonwealth of Nations A commonwealth is a traditional English term for a political community founded for the comm ...

New York Life Insurance Company
and wanted a return of $198,303.88. When the firm did not comply, he threatened to send out 6 million
spam email Image:spammed-mail-folder.png, 300px, An email box folder filled with spam messages. Email spam, also referred to as junk email, is unsolicited messages sent in bulk by email (spamming). The name comes from a Spam (Monty Python), Monty Python sketc ...
s. He registered a domain in February 2008 that contained New York Life's name in the URL to display false public statements about the company and increased his demand to $3 million. According to prosecutors, Digati's intent was not to inform or educate but he wanted to "damage the reputation of New York Life and cost the company millions of dollars in revenue,". New York Life contacted the
Federal Bureau of Investigation The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is the domestic intelligence Intelligence has been defined in many ways: the capacity for abstraction Abstraction in its main sense is a conceptual process where general rules and concept Conce ...

Federal Bureau of Investigation
and Digati was apprehended. On February 15, 2011, Spanish police apprehended a man who attempted to blackmail
Nintendo is a Japanese Multinational corporation, multinational consumer electronics and video game company headquartered in Kyoto, Japan. The company was founded in 1889 as by craftsman Fusajiro Yamauchi and originally produced handmade playing ca ...

Nintendo
over customer information he had stolen. The man stole personal information about 4,000 users and emailed Nintendo Ibérica, Nintendo's Spanish division, and accused the company of data negligence. He threatened the company that he would make the information public and complain to the Spanish Data Agency if his demands were not met. After Nintendo ignored his demands, he published some of the information on an Internet forum. Nintendo notified authorities and the man was arrested in
Málaga Málaga (, ) is a municipality of Spain, capital of the Province of Málaga , population_note = , blank_name_sec2 = Parliament , blank_info_sec2 = Cortes Generales The Cortes Generales (; en, Spanish Parliament, lit ...

Málaga
. No information has been revealed as to what the man demanded from Nintendo. On February 7, 2019, , owner of
Amazon Amazon usually refers to: * Amazons In Greek mythology, the Amazons (Ancient Greek: Ἀμαζόνες ''Amazónes'', singular Ἀμαζών ''Amazōn'') are portrayed in a number of ancient Greek, ancient epic poems and legends, such as the ...
and ''
The Washington Post ''The Washington Post'' (also known as the ''Post'' and, informally, ''WaPo'') is an American daily newspaper A newspaper is a Periodical literature, periodical publication containing written News, information about current events and is ...

The Washington Post
'' and currently one of the world's wealthiest people, accused the ''
National Enquirer The ''National Enquirer'' is an American Tabloid journalism, tabloid newspaper. Founded in 1926, the newspaper has undergone a number of changes over the years. As of April 18, 2019, ''The Washington Post'' reported that the ''National Enquirer' ...
'' and its parent company
American Media, Inc American Media, Inc. (AMI), is an American publisher of magazines, supermarket tabloids, and books based in New York City. Originally affiliated with only the ''National Enquirer'', the media company's holdings expanded considerably in the 1990s a ...
., of attempting to extort him by threatening to reveal nude pictures of him unless he publicly stated that he "no knowledge or basis for suggesting that AMI's coverage was politically motivated or influenced by political forces." This threat was in response to Bezos investigating the tabloid for publishing details about his relationship with , which led to Bezos and his wife Mackenzie announcing their divorce on January 9 of that year. Bezos refused and posted the threat on
Medium Medium may refer to: Science and technology Aviation *Medium bomber, a class of war plane *Tecma Medium, a French hang glider design Communication * Media (communication), tools used to store and deliver information or data * Medium of i ...
. On October 21, 2020, the news sources reported roughly 40,000 patients' records having been stolen from the
Finnish Finnish may refer to: * Something or someone from, or related to Finland * Finnish culture * Finnish people or Finns, the primary ethnic group in Finland * Finnish language, the national language of the Finnish people * Finnish cuisine See also

...

Finnish
private health care provider Vastaamo. The extorters demanded 40 bitcoins, roughly 450,000 euros, or threatened to publish the records. The extorters published hundred patient records a day on a Tor message board to add pressure for their demands. The leaked patient records contained patient's full names, home addresses, social security numbers, and the therapists' and doctors' notes from each session. After the extortation of the company failed, the extorters sent victims an email demanding them to pay 200 euros in 24 hours or 500 euros in 48 hours in order to avoid publishing their sensitive personal data. The company's security practices were found to be inadequate: the sensitive data was not encrypted and apparently the system root password was very weak. The patient records were first accessed by intruders November 2018, while the security flaws continued to exist until March 2019. The president of Finland saw the cyber attack being "relentlessly cruel."


Similar crimes

*
Badger game The badger game is an extortion scheme or confidence trick in which the victim is tricked into a compromising position to make them vulnerable to blackmail. Description In its simplest form, a badger game proceeds thus: X, a man married to Y, e ...
: The victim or "
mark Mark may refer to: Currency * Bosnia and Herzegovina convertible mark The Bosnia and Herzegovina convertible mark (Bosnian Bosnian may refer to: *Anything related to the state of Bosnia and Herzegovina or its inhabitants *Anything related to Bo ...
"—for example, such as a married person—is tricked into a compromising position to make them vulnerable to
blackmail Blackmail is an act of coercion Coercion () is compelling a party to act in an involuntary manner by use of threats, including force. It involves a set of various types of forceful actions that violate the free will of an individual to induce ...
. *
Clip joint A clip joint or fleshpot is an establishment, usually a strip club or night club (often claiming to offer Striptease, adult entertainment or bottle service) in which customers are tricked into paying excessive amounts of money, for surprisingly low- ...
: A clip joint or fleshpot is an establishment, usually a strip club or entertainment bar, typically one claiming to offer adult entertainment or bottle service, in which customers are tricked into paying money and receive poor goods or services, or none, in return. An example of this is portrayed in the comedy film
Porky's ''Porky's'' is a 1981 teen sex comedy film written and directed by Bob Clark about the escapades of teenagers in 1954 at the fictional Angel Beach High School in Florida Florida (, ) is a U.S. state, state located in the Southeastern Unite ...
*
Coercion Coercion () is compelling a party to act in an involuntary manner by use of threat A threat is a communication of intent to inflict harm or loss on another person. Intimidation is widely observed in animal behavior (particularly in a ritualiz ...
: the practice of compelling a person or manipulating them to behave in an involuntary way (whether through action or inaction) by use of threats, intimidation, trickery, or some other form of pressure or force. These are used as leverage, to force the victim to act in the desired way. *
Confidence trick A confidence trick is an attempt to defraud In law Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to form a unified whole. A system, surrounded and ...
(also known as a bunko, con, flim flam, gaffle, grift, hustle, scam, scheme, swindle, bamboozle or finesse): an attempt to
defraud In law Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to form a unified whole. A system, surrounded and influenced by its environment, is described by i ...

defraud
a person or group by gaining their
confidence Confidence is a state of being clear-headed either that a hypothesis or prediction is correct or that a chosen course of action is the best or most effective. Confidence comes from a Latin word 'fidere' which means "to trust"; therefore, having ...

confidence
. *
Cryptovirology Cryptovirology is a field that studies how to use cryptography to design powerful malicious software. The field was born with the observation that public-key cryptography can be used to break the symmetry between what an antivirus analyst sees ...
: a software scam in which a
public-key cryptography Public-key cryptography, or asymmetric cryptography, is a cryptographic system that uses pairs of keys KEYS (1440 AM broadcasting, AM) is a radio station serving the Corpus Christi, Texas, Corpus Christi, Texas area with a talk radio, talk ...
system crafts fake keys which encrypt the user's data, but cannot decrypt them unless the user pays for the real key. *
Dognapping Dognapping is the crime In ordinary language, a crime is an unlawful act punishable by a state or other authority. The term ''crime'' does not, in modern criminal law, have any simple and universally accepted definition,Farmer, Lindsay: "Cri ...
: The crime of taking a
dog The dog or domestic dog (''Canis familiaris'' or ''Canis lupus familiaris'') is a Domestication, domesticated descendant of the wolf which is characterized by an upturning tail. The dog Origin of the domestic dog, derived from an Pleistocene ...

dog
from its owner, which usually occurs in
purebred dog A dog breed is a particular strain or dog type Dog types are broad categories of domestic dog The domestic dog (''Canis familiaris'' or ''Canis lupus familiaris'') is a domesticated form of wolf. The dog descended from an ancient, ext ...
s, the profit from which can run up to thousands of dollars. *
Loan sharking A loan shark is a person who offers loan In finance, a loan is the lending of money by one or more individuals, organizations, or other entities to other individuals, organizations etc. The recipient (i.e., the borrower) incurs a debt and ...
: A loan shark is a person or body that offers unsecured loans at high interest rates to individuals, often backed by blackmail or threats of violence. *
Price gouging Price gouging occurs when a seller increases the prices of goods In economics Economics () is the social science that studies how people interact with value; in particular, the Production (economics), production, distribution (economics ...
: a pejorative term for a seller pricing much higher than is considered reasonable or fair. In precise, legal usage, it is the name of a felony that applies in some of the United States only during civil emergencies. * Racket: A service that is fraudulently offered to solve a problem, such as for a problem that does not actually exist, will not be affected, or would not otherwise exist. *
Sextortion Sextortion employs non-physical forms of coercion to extort sexual favors from the victim. Sextortion refers to the broad category of sexual exploitation in which abuse of power is the means of coercion, as well as to the category of sexual exploit ...
: Forcing individuals to send sexual images or perform sexual services *
Terrorism Terrorism, in its broadest sense, is the use of intentional violence to achieve political aims. The term is used in this regard primarily to refer to violence during peacetime Peace is a concept of societal friendship and harmony in the ...
: most simply, policy intended to intimidate or cause terror. It is more commonly understood as an act which is intended to create fear (terror), is perpetrated for an ideological goal (as opposed to a materialistic goal or a lone attack), and deliberately target or disregard the safety of
non-combatants Non-combatant is a term of art Jargon is the specialized terminology Terminology is a general word for the group of specialized words or meanings relating to a particular field, and also the study of such terms and their use. This is also known ...
. Some definitions also include acts of unlawful violence or unconventional warfare, but at present, the
international community The international community is a vague phrase used in geopolitics Geopolitics (from Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic ...
has been unable to formulate a universally agreed, legally binding, criminal law definition of terrorism. *
Tiger kidnapping A tiger kidnapping or tiger robbery involves two separate crimes. The first crime usually involves an abduction Abduction may refer to: Of a person or people * Alien abduction, memories of being taken by apparently nonhuman entities from a diff ...
: the taking of an innocent
hostage A hostage is a person seized by an abductor in order to compel another party such as a relative Relative may refer to: General use *Kinship and family, the principle binding the most basic social units society. If two people are connected by ci ...
to make a loved one or associate of the victim do something, e.g. a child is taken hostage to force the shopkeeper to open the safe; the term originates from the prior observation of the victim, like a tiger does with its prey.
Ransom Ransom is the practice of holding a prisoner or item to extort Extortion is the practice of obtaining benefit through coercion Coercion () is compelling a party to act in an involuntary manner by use of threat A threat is a ''commu ...

Ransom
s are often used alongside these.


See also

*
Abusive power and control Abusive power and control (also controlling behavior and coercive control) is commonly used by an abusive person to gain and maintain power Power typically refers to: * Power (physics) In physics, power is the amount of energy transferred o ...
*
Bid rigging Bid rigging is a fraudulent scheme in procurement auctions resulting in non-competitive bids and can be performed by corrupt officials, by firms in an orchestrated act of collusion Collusion is a deceitful agreement or secret cooperation betwee ...
*
Blackmail Blackmail is an act of coercion using the threat of revealing or publicizing either Substantial truth, substantially true or false information about a person or people unless certain demands are met. It is often damaging information, and may be ...
*
Bribery Bribery is defined by ''Black's Law Dictionary ''Black's Law Dictionary'' is the most widely used law dictionary Image:Legal Dictionaries.jpg, 300px, Several English and Russian legal dictionaries A law dictionary (also known as legal dictionary) ...

Bribery
* UK Bribery Act 2010 *
Conflict of interest A conflict of interest (COI) is a situation in which a person A person (plural people or persons) is a being that has certain capacities or attributes such as reason Reason is the capacity of consciously applying logic Logic is an i ...
*
Corruption in India Corruption in India is an issue which affects the economy of central, state and local government agencies in many ways. Corruption is blamed for stunting the economy of India. A study conducted by Transparency International in 2005 recorded t ...
*
Financial abuse Finance is the study of financial institutions, financial markets and how they operate within the financial system. It is concerned with the creation and management of money Image:National-Debt-Gillray.jpeg, In a 1786 James Gillray caricatu ...
*
Foreign Corrupt Practices Act The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977 (FCPA) (, ''et seq.'') is a United States federal law The law of the United States comprises many levels of codified and uncodified forms of law, of which the most important is the nation's Constituti ...
* Group of States Against Corruption (GRECO) of the
Council of Europe The Council of Europe (CoE; french: Conseil de l'Europe, ) is an international organisation ''International Organization'' is a quarterly peer-reviewed academic journal that covers the entire field of international relations, international aff ...

Council of Europe
*
Influence peddling Influence peddling is the practice of using one's influence in government or connections with persons in authority to obtain favours or preferential treatment for another, usually in return for payment. Also called traffic of influence or trading i ...
* Kompromat * Money trail - Money loop *
Organized crime Organized crime is a category of transnational, national, or local groupings of highly centralized enterprises run by criminals to engage in illegal activity, most commonly for profit. While organized crime is generally thought of as a form of i ...
*
Pay to play Pay-to-play, sometimes pay-for-play or P2P, is a phrase used for a variety of situations in which money Image:National-Debt-Gillray.jpeg, In a 1786 James Gillray caricature, the plentiful money bags handed to King George III are contrasted wit ...
*
Political corruption Political corruption is the use of powers by government officials or their network contacts for illegitimate private gain. Forms of corruption vary, but can include bribery, lobbying, extortion, cronyism, nepotism, parochialism, patronage, infl ...
*
Principal–agent problem 320px, Basic idea of agency theory. The principal–agent problem, in political science Political science is the scientific study of politics Politics (from , ) is the set of activities that are associated with making decisions in g ...
*
Ransomware Ransomware is a type of malware Malware (a portmanteau for malicious software) is any software intentionally designed to cause disruption to a computer, server (computing), server, Client (computing), client, or computer network, leak private ...
*
Tariff A tariff is a tax A tax is a compulsory financial charge or some other type of levy imposed on a taxpayer (an individual or legal entity In law Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated el ...
*
Taxation as slavery Taxation as slavery is the idea that taxation A tax is a compulsory financial charge or some other type of levy imposed on a taxpayer (an individual or legal entity) by a government A government is the system or group of people gove ...
*
Taxation as theft The position that tax A tax is a compulsory financial charge or some other type of levy imposed on a taxpayer (an individual or legal entity In law, a legal person is any person A person (plural people or persons) is a being that has cert ...
*
Tax protester constitutional arguments Tax protesters in the United States advance a number of constitutional arguments asserting that the imposition, assessment and collection of the federal income tax Income taxes in the United States are imposed by the Federal government of the U ...
*
Throffer In political philosophy, a throffer is a proposal (also called an intervention) that mixes an offer with a threat which will be carried out if the offer is not accepted. The term was first used in print by political philosopher Hillel Steiner; whil ...
*
Transparency International Transparency International e.V. (TI) is a German registered voluntary association A voluntary group or union (also sometimes called a voluntary organization, common-interest association, association, or society) is a group of individuals who ente ...


References


External links

{{Authority control Crimes Illegal occupations Organized crime activity Property crimes