Difference between Extortion and Blackmail

Key Difference: Extortion refers to intimidating or threatening the person with violence in exchange for monetary compensation, blackmail, on the other hand, refers to threatening the person with social, emotional, or professional ruin in exchange for either monetary compensation or doing something the blackmailer wants.

The greed of humanity knows no bounds. Sadly, there are people out there who are willing to do anything for power and money, including turning to crime. Two such crimes are extortion and blackmail. Both are classified as a larceny or theft crime, i.e. a crime for monetary   A lot of people think that the two crimes are the same, and thus use the two terms interchangeable. However, they are two different crimes that are quite a bit different from each other.

Both extortion and blackmail incorporate forcing somebody to do something they don’t want to. Typically that involves handing over money, property, or something else of value. However, it can also be used to force them to do something that they don’t want to do. Due to this similarity, the two terms are often confused. Yet there is a slight but significant difference between the two.

Extortion refers to a situation where a person threatens the victim with violence or intended violence if they don’t provide the extorter with the money or property. The threat can be violence against the victim, someone the victim knows, against property damage, against the victim’s reputation or even the threat of financial hardship. Basically, the person threatens to make their life harder for them if the victim doesn’t do what they day. So, the victim agrees to do it even though they don’t really want to.

This sounds similar to armed robbery, however in armed robbery the threat to the victim is immediate, i.e. your money or your life kind of scenario. In extortion, the threat is not immediate; in fact, the threat can be implied, with the extorter never directly threatening the victim. As long as the victim feels pressured to do something or pay the person even though they don’t want to, it can be counted as extortion.

The term ‘blackmail’ originated in Scotland where raiding tribe would claim a bounty from the villagers. As long as they continued to pay, the tribe would not raid their village. The ‘mail’ part comes from Middle English male, which meant "rent, tribute". The ‘black’ comes from the fact that this rent or mail was paid in goods or labor. White mail referred to rent paid in silver.

It may be said that blackmail is a type of extortion. While, extortion refers to intimidating or threatening the person with violence in exchange for monetary compensation, blackmail refers to threatening the person with social, emotional, or professional ruin in exchange for either monetary compensation or doing something the blackmailer wants.

Comparison between Extortion and Blackmail:

 

Extortion

Blackmail

Classification

Type of crime, punishable by law

Type of crime, can be classified as a part of extortion.

Definition (Oxford Dictionaries)

The practice of obtaining something, especially money, through force or threats.

The action, treated as a criminal offence, of demanding money from someone in return for not revealing compromising information which one has about them.

Description

When a person threatens that something bad (physical or otherwise) will happen to the victim or their family members if they do not comply with the extortionist’s will.

When a person 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.

Threatened

Typically with violence or intent to cause harm

Usually for emotional, social, or professional ruin

Reference: Oxford Dictionaries (Extortion and Blackmail), Wikipedia (Extortion and Blackmail),
FreeAdvice, Mintzer Law
Image Courtesy: reolink.com, testmagic.com

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