Extortion vs Blackmail
Extortion and blackmail are similar crimes or offenses that we hear frequently and also read in newspapers. The concept behind the two is similar making people confuse as to which of the two terms to use in a particular situation. In both extortion and blackmail, people are threatened, and coercion is used to extract money or favor from them. This article attempts to highlight the differences between extortion and blackmail so that readers are able to use the right word in the right context.
What is Extortion?
Extortion is a crime that involves making use of threat of violence to exact money from a person or a company. Euphemistically, it is called protection as when organized syndicate or gang wrests money from people in lieu of providing protection to them.
Coercing someone to cough out money or favor is extortion. Now this coercion could be because of threat of violence, use of governmental action, or by inducing fear emotionally. Even a government official can be accused of extortion as when he obtains money to perform an official act.
Withholding testimony to extract money from a person or company also constitutes extortion. A police officer not performing his duty to nab culprits in lieu of extortion he gets from the criminals falls under this category.
What is Blackmail?
Blackmail is a term that originated when Scottish farmers were threatened by chieftains and asked protection money from these hapless fellows. The word is made up of two parts black and mail where black signifies the evil nature of such an act whereas mail comes from English of the Middle Ages. During those times, mail meant tribute or rent.
Today, blackmail has come to refer to act of threatening a person to reveal something about him that may be socially damaging or embarrassing for him. We hear of so many cases of women being blackmailed into submission once the criminal obtains their photos or videos in a compromising position with a person.
If the victim feels his image will be destroyed by the revelation of some information about which the criminal has proof, he agrees to pay money to the offender. There have been many high profile cases of blackmail where celebrities have been found paying money to cover up their illicit relationships.
Extortion vs Blackmail
• If you threaten to reveal some information about a person that can be potentially damaging for him unless you are paid the money, you are blackmailing the victim
• Threatening to use violence or force against a person unless he pays money is a criminal act that is termed as extortion
• Extortion is an offense that is mostly committed by organized gangs and they euphemistically call it protection money