White Collar Crimes: Blackmail, Bribery, and Extortion 

“People are not always who they look like; one cannot know a criminal or saint just by mere look,” says attorney Allen Yates of Yates and Wheland. White-collar criminals are members of society, typically businessmen or government officials, that violently, or non-violently commit crimes, typically for a financial gain. The name “white collar crime” comes from the fact that these criminally typically wear suits and work in high positions of power, rather than those with blue collars who work in a more industrial setting. White-collar crimes encompass various illegal actions, most of which are non-violent. The most common forms of white-collar crimes include blackmail, bribery, and extortion.


Blackmail is defined as a criminal’s threat to another of doing something that would cause shame or financial damage to an individual, unless they meet the criminal’s specific demands. This threat typically includes revealing private information about a person that would publicly shame them or revealing confidential material that would cause financial damage. Threats of blackmail can also include wrongly accusing a person of a crime or exposing a person’s participation in a crime.

A blackmail victim may pay the blackmailer money or undertake other activities to escape the threatened action. The blackmailer’s demand may or may not be illegal itself, but if a blackmailer requests money in exchange for not disclosing potentially detrimental information of another (even if the information is factual), it is deemed unlawful.

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Threats to a victim’s property or loved ones, intimidation, or a fraudulent claim of a right are all examples of extortion. Also, threats of extortion (coercive extortion) refers to the illegal use of a threat to get property or benefits from another without resorting to violence. Threats to execute a crime, harm a person or property, disclose a crime or humiliate information are common threats included in coercive extortion statutes. Historically, extortion under “color of office” refers to a public official soliciting or receiving a corrupt payment because of the position or potential to manipulate official action.


Bribery occurs when a public figure offers something of value to another public figure in order to influence that person in their official capacity, convince them to allow something illegal to occur, or convince them to do anything else that would break the law or contradict their official duties. Bribery, like blackmail and extortion, is usually associated with white-collar crimes. However, because the target is a party to the crime, they may not be considered a victim. With bribery, both parties could be prosecuted. 

Similarities and Differences between Blackmail, Extortion, and Bribery

Both blackmail and extortion frequently use threats or intimidation to obtain money from a victim. Bribery, on the otherhand, is typically agreed upon from both sides. Blackmail and extortion are one sided, with a criminal and a victim, while bribery can include equal participation, and culpability on both sides.

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Because of the similarity in the elements, extortion and blackmail often result in similar charges depending on the state. Extortion is usually conducted for influence or power, whereas blackmail is conducted for money. Due to acts of the other party, the crime elements could change. For Instance, bribery may replace extortion or blackmail if the victim offers to deliver a favor in exchange for cash or some other favor.

Penalties for White Collar Crimes

Blackmail carries a possible sentence of up to ten years in prison. If there are additional charges, such as injury to others, the severity of the punishments may increase or reduce. Extortion can result in a fine up to 20 years in federal or state jail. Penalties for bribery could result in criminal charges and convictions against the person. What determines the harshness of the punishments imposed is the number of people harmed. Conviction typically entails a fine and up to five years in prison.

How to Handle Blackmail and Extortion

In any crime, it is essential to contact law enforcement, rather than taking matters into your own hands. In addition, talk to someone you trust about the issue. See if they can provide some context to help you feel better about refusing to comply with the blackmailer’s requests and dealing with the consequences.

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Ensure you adhere to the law enforcement agents’ instructions, even if they appear contradictory. To get enough evidence to prosecute your case, the law enforcement agents may ask you to subject yourself to another round of blackmail at the hands of your blackmailer. Alternatively, they may tell you to deny the blackmailer or take other steps to lure them out; take whatever advice they give you. 

Most importantly, hire an attorney for help with legal issues like these. An attorney will not only aid you in obtaining perspective while safeguarding your privacy, but can also assist you in navigating the proper process for getting help with your situation. An attorney may also propose alternatives that you might not have considered otherwise. 

Many white-collar crimes are committed under someone else’s identity to discourage authorities from catching the perpetrator. To avoid conviction for falsely accused crimes, such individuals require a strong defense. Criminal defense attorneys can assist defendants in understanding their legal rights. They can defend these rights by filing all constitutional challenges and pushing for a strong defense throughout the trial. 

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