Speak up and report before handing over money to someone who threatens you.

Scammers pretend to be from an organisation and claim you need to pay money. They may threaten you with arrest, deportation, or even physical harm, if you don’t agree to pay them immediately.

They can also blackmail you by threatening to share naked pictures or videos you have sent them unless you send them money.

Don’t be pressured by a threat. Stop and check whether it’s true.

Warning signs it might be a scam

  • You receive a call, message or email unexpectedly from someone claiming to be from a government department, debt collection agency or trusted company.
  • They will claim that you owe money and threaten you with legal action or arrest.
  • The caller will tell you that to fix the matter you will need to pay a fee or fine.
  • The caller may ask for your personal information, such as your passport details, date of birth or bank information.
  • The caller may claim the police will come to your door and arrest you if you do not pay the fee or fine straight away.
  • You are asked to transfer money to an account to ‘keep it safe’ or for ‘further investigation’.

Steps you can take to protect yourself

  • Don’t be pressured by a threatening caller asking for money. Hang up and don’t respond.
  • Don’t pay anyone by unusual methods such as by gift or store cards, iTunes vouchers, wire transfers or Bitcoins.
  • Don’t use any contact details provided by the caller. Verify their identity by calling the relevant organisation directly. Find them through an independent source such as a phone book, past bill or online search.
  • Do not respond to texts or emails. If you do, the scammers will escalate their intimidation and attempts to get your money.

More safeguards

  • Never send money or give credit card details, online account details or identity information like your driver licence or passport to anyone you don’t know or trust. Never share them by email or over the phone.
  • If you are concerned for your safety, contact the police.
  • If the scam is sent by email, don’t open any attachments, click on links, or download files. They can infect your computer with malware.

Common threat and extortion scams

A scammer blackmails you by threatening to share an intimate image of you to get your money. This is a serious crime, and you should report it to the police immediately.

Scammers target people through dating sites, social media, and gaming apps. They message you out of the blue claiming they have your private images. Or they pretend to be looking for love, then deceive you into sending them nude images or videos of yourself or record you during a live video chat with them.

Once the scammer has an intimate image or video of you, they threaten to share it with your family, friends, or people you know unless you give them money.

The scammer will tell you they will delete the image or video if you pay but will keep asking you to pay more money.

Find out more information about sextortion at the esafety Commissioner.

Steps you can take to avoid sextortion

  • Be careful about what you share about yourself online.
  • Never share naked pictures or videos of yourself with someone you’ve never met in person.
  • Cut off contact at once if you suspect you are in contact with a scammer.
  • Do not pay the blackmailer or give them more money or intimate images.
  • Information on how to stay safe on different social media platforms can be found here.

Get support

If you are under 18, the best way to get help with sextortion is to report it to the Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation (ACCCE). 

Speak to trusted friends or family about the blackmail or contact a confidential counselling and support service.

Chinese extortion

Scamwatch is warning the Chinese community in Australia about 2 scams that involve extortion and threats of arrest. This content is also available in simplified Chinese (简体中文) and traditional Chinese (繁體中文).

A scammer speaking Mandarin will call directly or leave an ‘urgent’ voice message to call back. When you call back, the scammer may pretend to be from a Chinese authority such as the police, a government or immigration official, or a parcel delivery service.

They may claim:

  • you are in serious trouble as they have a package addressed to you with illegal material such as fake passports or credit cards
  • your identity has been stolen or hacked and used for illegal activity
  • the Australian Government will arrest or deport you due to a problem with your visa.

They will threaten you’ll be sent back to China to face criminal charges unless money is sent to them. They will claim this money is needed to prove your innocence while they investigate the supposed crime, but there is no crime.