Almost everyone is familiar with the term “blackmail.” The term became increasingly popular as a device for driving the plot in dramas like Strangers on a Train (1951) Touch of Evil (1958), The Score (2001), and Burn After Reading (2008), among countless others. After all, being coerced into doing something you don’t want to do, or demanding payment to withhold sensitive information, is inherently dramatic and reflects the notion that our freedom often comes at a price.
However, blackmail is a very real thing with very real consequences. In this article, a Tampa surveillance investigator will explain everything you need to know about blackmail and explain the differences between blackmail, extortion, and bribery. As a private investigation company headquartered in Tampa, we cannot emphasize enough that the act of blackmail is a criminal offense that you do not want to be associated with.
What is Blackmail?
Blackmail occurs when one person threatens to reveal embarrassing, defamatory, or incriminating information about another person. Whether this information is true or false doesn’t matter. The blackmailer will threaten to release the information unless their demands for money, property, or services are met. Blackmail is actually quite common, but most cases remain unreported due to the nature of the crime.
When you hire a surveillance investigator in Tampa, you’re usually trying to build a case against someone. Conversely, you may need counter-surveillance services to ensure that your most personal information is kept secret. Regardless of which service you require, some important things to understand about blackmail include:
- Blackmail is often equated with extortion.
- Blackmail is considered a statutory offense.
- In many states in the United States, blackmail must be in writing if the victim wants to prosecute.
- Blackmail is outlined by 18 U.S.C. § 873 in the United States. Penalties include fines, imprisonment, or a combination of the two. Although the average prison sentencing for those charged with blackmail is relatively minimal at one year or less, the fines are much steeper by comparison.
- Blackmail is a misdemeanor crime.
The Difference Between Blackmail, Extortion, and Bribery
Although similar crimes, the differences between extortion and blackmail are quite significant. For example, extortion occurs when money, property, or services are obtained through coercion. This can include threats of violence, destruction of property, or unethical government action. Extortion has the potential to be a felony pending the value of the money, items, or property extorted from the victim. Historically, extortion was a crime associated mainly with public officials, but today, extortion includes crimes committed by private individuals. Bribery is essentially the inverse of blackmail and extortion. Bribery entails one party attempting to influence another illegally by offering a lucrative monetary incentive. Bribery, like blackmail and extortion, is commonly a white-collar crime.
If you are the target of an extortion plot, consult with a professional that can provide counter-surveillance measures to protect you from a potential threat. If you are in need of private surveillance in Tampa, contact Darwin Securities to discuss your options.