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"Exact" redirects here. For the exact sciences, see Exact science.
"Extort" redirects here. For the album by KMFDM, see XTORT.

Extortion (also called shakedown, outwrestling, and exaction) is a criminal offense of obtaining money, property, or services from a person, entity, individual or institution, through coercion. It is sometimes euphemistically referred to as a "protection racket" since the racketeers often phrase their demands as payment for "protection" from (real or hypothetical) threats from unspecified other parties. Extortion is commonly practiced by organized crime groups. The actual obtainment of money or property is not required to commit the offense. Making a threat of violence which refers to a requirement of a payment of money or property to halt future violence is sufficient to commit the offense. Exaction refers not only to extortion or the demanding and obtaining of something through force,[1] but additionally, in its formal definition, means the infliction of something such as pain and suffering or making somebody endure something unpleasant.[2]

Extortion is distinguished from robbery. In robbery, whether armed or not, the offender takes property from the victim by the immediate use of force or fear that force will be immediately used (as in the classic line, "Your money or your life.") Extortion, which is not limited to the taking of property, involves the verbal or written instillation of fear that something will happen to the victim if they do not comply with the extortionist's will. Another key distinction is that extortion always involves a verbal or written threat, whereas robbery does not. In United States federal law, extortion can be committed with or without the use of force and with or without the use of a weapon.

In blackmail, which always involves extortion, the extortionist 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.

The term extortion is often used metaphorically to refer to usury or to price-gouging, though neither is legally considered extortion. It is also often used loosely to refer to everyday situations where one person feels indebted against their will, to another, in order to receive an essential service or avoid legal consequences.

Neither extortion nor blackmail requires a threat of a criminal act, such as violence, merely a threat used to elicit actions, money, or property from the object of the extortion. Such threats include the filing of reports (true or not) of criminal behavior to the police, revelation of damaging facts (such as pictures of the object of the extortion in a compromising position), etc.

United States[edit]

In the United States, extortion may also be committed as a federal crime across a computer system, phone, by mail or in using any instrument of interstate commerce. Extortion requires that the individual sent the message willingly and knowingly as elements of the crime. The message only has to be sent (but does not have to reach the intended recipient) to commit the crime of extortion.

Similar crimes[edit]

  • Badger game: The victim or "mark"—for example, such as a married person—is tricked into a compromising position to make them vulnerable to blackmail.
  • Clip joint: A clip joint or fleshpot is an establishment, usually a strip club or entertainment bar, typically one claiming to offer adult entertainment or bottle service, in which customers are tricked into paying money and receive poor goods or services, or none, in return.
  • Coercion: the practice of compelling a person or manipulating them to behave in an involuntary way (whether through action or inaction) by use of threats, intimidation, trickery, or some other form of pressure or force. These are used as leverage, to force the victim to act in the desired way.
  • Confidence trick (also known as a bunko, con, flim flam, gaffle, grift, hustle, scam, scheme, swindle or bamboozle): an attempt to defraud a person or group by gaining their confidence.
  • Cryptovirology: a software scam in which a public key cryptography system crafts fake keys which encrypt the user's data, but cannot decrypt them unless the user pays for the real key.
  • Dognapping: The crime of taking a dog from its owner, which usually occurs in purebred dogs, the profit from which can run up to thousands of dollars.
  • Loan sharking: A loan shark is a person or body that offers unsecured loans at high interest rates to individuals, often backed by blackmail or threats of violence.
  • Price gouging: a pejorative term for a seller pricing much higher than is considered reasonable or fair. In precise, legal usage, it is the name of a felony that applies in some of the United States only during civil emergencies.
  • Racket (crime): A service that is fraudulently offered to solve a problem, such as for a problem that does not actually exist, will not be affected, or would not otherwise exist.
  • Sextortion: Forcing individuals to send sexual images or perform sexual services
  • Terrorism: most simply, policy intended to intimidate or cause terror. It is more commonly understood as an act which is intended to create fear (terror), is perpetrated for an ideological goal (as opposed to a materialistic goal or a lone attack), and deliberately target or disregard the safety of non-combatants. Some definitions also include acts of unlawful violence or unconventional warfare, but at present, the international community has been unable to formulate a universally agreed, legally binding, criminal law definition of terrorism.
  • Tiger kidnapping: the taking of an innocent hostage to make a loved one or associate of the victim do something, e.g. a child is taken hostage to force the shopkeeper to open the safe; the term originates from the prior observation of the victim, like a tiger does with its prey. Ransoms are often used alongside these.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Exaction - definition of exaction by the Free Online Dictionary, Thesaurus and Encyclopedia". Thefreedictionary.com. Retrieved 2012-06-05. 
  2. ^ "Exact definition - Dictionary - MSN Encarta". Encarta Dictionary. Archived from the original on 2009-10-31. 

External links[edit]