Blackmail: How It Works

December 18th, 2023 by

Blackmail has long been a pervasive problem in our society, with its roots tracing back to ancient civilizations. In ancient Rome, tabulae, a form of blackmail, was common. With the invention of the printing press during the Renaissance era, a new dimension was added to blackmail: the threat of public humiliation. Then with the advent of the Internet and digital technology, the practice of blackmail dramatically changed as personal data, photographs, and/or videos are exploited.

The destructive nature of blackmail is often not known as this crime is secretive in nature. Perpetuators, those that use personal secrets as weapons to threaten personal and professional lives, are often not held accountable.

 For victims of blackmail, whose personal and professional lives are being violated, this could be a devastating experience as they go through fear, shame, and vulnerability. There is a grave emotional trauma that is inflicted upon the victim, which has potentially far-reaching consequences.

The Mechanics of Blackmail

Blackmail operates in a cyclical pattern. It starts with the gathering of compromising information, then followed by the issuance of the threat. The last phase is the compliance of the victim, who, in fear of potential repercussions, gives to the blackmail. 

Different Forms of Blackmail

  • Traditional Blackmail:  the perpetrator threatens to reveal damaging information unless their demands are met.
  • Cyber Blackmail: involves threats to leak sensitive digital data or launch a cyberattack unless a ransom is paid. 
  • Commercial Blackmail: targets businesses, threatening to damage a company’s reputation, disclose trade secrets, or disrupt operations unless the blackmailer’s demands are satisfied.

How to Respond

Here are some ways that individuals may consider when facing with blackmail:

  • Seek legal assistance: a lawyer can provide guidance on the legal implications of the situation. With a lawyer’s help, the victim can understand his or her rights and what legal actions he or she can take against the blackmailer.
  • Inform law enforcement: law enforcement agencies can bring the blackmailer to justice and hold him or her accountable, so it is important to report the blackmail to the proper authorities. 
  • Ignore the demands: refusing to engage with the blackmailer may discourage further attempts of blackmail.
  • Seek support: trusted friends, family, or support groups provide the necessary support and guidance when going through the experience of being blackmailed.

Preventing Blackmail 

Here are various ways to effectively prevent from being blackmailed:

  • Be cautious about the information you share, both offline and online. Once information is out, you can’t take it back.
  • Regularly updating your software; using strong, unique passwords; being wary of phishing attempts are just some of cybersecurity measures you can do.
  • Understanding the legalities of blackmail can discourage potential blackmailers, so seeking legal advice is important.

Conclusion Blackmail is a grave crime that exploits the weaknesses and vulnerabilities of people for personal gain. To prevent blackmailers to operate without impunity, a multifaceted approach is required. With strategies as being vigilant, promoting awareness campaign, and using legal measures, we can protect ourselves and the community from falling prey to blackmail.


Digital Forensics Corp. “Do Blackmailers Give Up If You Ignore Them?” Accessed December 10, 2013.

Nelson, Scott and Danielle Blinks. “What to Do If Someone Is Blackmailing You: How to Stop a Blackmailer.” Last modified October 3, 2023.

Tookitak. “Blackmail: A Comprehensive Guide on Its Mechanics and Prevention.” Accessed December 10, 2023.

What a Mess Blackmail by Mark Levy