Pub. date: 2002 | Online Pub. Date: September 15, 2007 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412950664 | Print ISBN: 9780761922582 | Online ISBN: 9781412950664| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
In the United States, blackmail is a crime. Blackmail, like extortion, is a threat coupled with a demand for money or other valuable consideration. In blackmail, however, what the blackmailer threatens to do is perfectly legal, such as spreading gossip or building a spite fence. In extortion, by contrast, the threat is very different. Here, it is to do something that is illegal such as killing the victim, or kidnapping his children, or burning down his business. The classic example of blackmail is an offer to refrain from speaking ill of someone in return for compensation, usually money or sexual services. For example, one man tells another that unless the second man gives him $1,000 he will tell the man's wife and his prudish employer about his adultery. Or, a man tells his neighbor that unless the neighbor pays him $100 he will build a fence that blocks the neighbor's ...