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The Duffy Law Criminal Defense Blog

Sextortion and Pornography Crime Scams

New Haven Criminal Defense Lawyers Representing Clients in Sextortion and Pornography Crime Scams

When you are on the computer or sending emails on your smartphone, it is easy to click on websites and links without even realizing what images and content you are accessing. Sometimes people unknowingly access websites that place unlawful material on their computers, and sometimes scammers hack email to gain unlawful access to sexual images you may have shared lawfully with a spouse or partner. In recent years, state and federal law enforcement officials have seen a rise in sextortion and pornography crime scams. In most of these situations, a scammer will attempt to blackmail a person by asking for money—either to avoid disseminating embarrassing or unlawful sexual material on your computer or in your email, or to avoid prosecution for an internet sex crime. In some cases, scammers will pose as FBI agents or other law enforcement officials in order to convince people that they must pay.

If you have been contacted about federal child pornography or sex crime charges, it is important to avoid taking any action before you speak with a criminal defense lawyer. In the meantime, the advocates at Duffy Law want to provide you with more information about sextortion and pornography crime scams.

What is Sextortion or a Pornography Crime Scam?

According to a CNBC report, email extortion scams rose by about 242 percent last year, and a majority of internet or email extortion scams involve sextortion schemes or pornography crime scams. The Brookings Institute reports that computer hacking is involved in about 43 percent of sextortion and pornography crime scams involving adults, while social media manipulation is used in more than 90 percent of cases involving minors.

Sextortion scams, according to the FBI, typically involve a predator who obtains explicit images or videos of a person—often an underage person such as a teenager. Internet users may be contacted through email, social media accounts, games, or apps and asked to provide an explicit photo or video. The scammer will then threaten to expose the image to the broader public if the person does not pay money or produce additional explicit images.

Pornography crime scams are somewhat similar in that they also involve scammers seeking money from internet users by alleging proof of sex crimes. In these scams, as an NBC News report explains, a scammer will download child pornography onto a person’s computer, or will trick a person into downloading child pornography, and then will contact that person to seek money in order to prevent a prosecution. For example, internet users might send a spam email that has a clickable link to something seemingly innocuous, and when the user clicks, child pornography will be downloaded onto their computer. Then, the scammer might pose as a local law enforcement official or an FBI agent, making allegations about child pornography and internet sex crimes. The scammer will tell the internet user that she or he must pay a certain sum or money in order to avoid being prosecuted for child pornography or another type of sex crime.

Complaints about these pornography scams have arisen in various parts of the country, and parties of different ages and socioeconomic backgrounds have been targeted. What should you do if you are contacted by someone who says you will be prosecuted under federal or state child pornography laws?

Know That Child Pornography Laws Require Knowledge of Possession

Most importantly, you should know that federal laws and state laws pertaining to child pornography possession and many other related internet sex crimes require that a person knowingly be in possession of the illicit material in order to face criminal charges. Accordingly, if you clicked on a link or an image and downloaded child pornography to your laptop or iPhone without meaning or intending to do so, a required element of the crime will be missing.

If you were to face actual charges for a case, you could work with a criminal defense lawyer to seek evidence that shows you unintentionally possessed unlawful material, or that you did not have knowledge of your possession of the unlawful material.

What You Should Do If You Get an Email Alleging Proof of a Sex Crime

Beyond recognizing that internet sex crime and child pornography laws require knowledge, it is essential to know what steps you can take if you are targeted by a sextortion or pornography crime scammer. Keep in mind the following:

  • Remain calm
  • Know that you may be the target of a scam
  • Do not click any additional links
  • Do not provide any personal information, including contact information or credit card or banking data
  • Do not engage in any way with anybody who contacts you over alleged online criminal activity
  • Get in touch with a criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible

Seek Advice from a Connecticut Criminal Defense Lawyer about Online Sex Crime Scams

At Duffy Law, we know how devastating it can be to unexpectedly receive an email that alleges proof that you have engaged in criminal behavior online by possession child pornography or engaging in other internet sex crimes. It is extremely important to familiarize yourself with these scams, and to recognize that people across the country are being victimized by these scammers. The FBI will never contact you by email and require you to pay a monetary fee to avoid prosecution. You should never engage with anybody who contacts you and makes such claims, regardless of whether you believe there is any unlawful material on your computer. Even if you are contacted by an actual law enforcement official, you should seek assistance from a Connecticut criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.

Sex crimes allegations, especially internet crimes that can result in federal charges, are extremely serious and can have life-long consequences. If you are convicted of a sex crime, you will likely need to register on a sex offender registry, and you may face significant prison time. Under any circumstances, if you are concerned about allegations of internet sex crimes, it is important to get in touch with a criminal defense lawyer who can assess your case and discuss options for a defense or having the charges dropped. If it turns out you have been scammed, it may be possible to take other action. Contact Duffy Law online for assistance with your case or call our firm at (203) 946-2000.

Justin T. Smith

Justin T. Smith

Attorney At Duffy Law

Attorney Justin T. Smith zealously defends individuals facing both state and federal criminal charges from their initial contact with law enforcement all the way through to jury trial if necessary. Prior to becoming an attorney, Justin was a criminal defense investigator with the Federal Defenders Office of Eastern Washington and Idaho, where he learned the intricacies of witness interviews, background investigations, forensics, and strategic and comprehensive trial preparation. Since 2003, he has passionately defended the full range of criminal cases from simple larcenies and domestic assaults to major drug conspiracies and murder cases. Justin can be reached at (203) 946-2000.
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