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February 24, 2021updated 01 Mar 2021 10:49am

The HNW guide for dealing with blackmail

By Rasika Sittamparam

What should HNWs do when confronted with a demand for money with menaces? Experts offer tips on dealing with blackmail

1. PREVENTION IS BETTER THAN CURE

Among HNW victims, ‘sextortion’ is the most common form of blackmail, says Emma Woollcott, head of reputation at Mishcon de Reya. ‘A very sad and true fact is, most blackmail is men who got caught with their pants down, either with rent boys or younger girls.’

2. KNOW YOUR ENEMY

Blackmailers are often known to the victim, says David Sleight, a partner at Kingsley Napley, and are sometimes in a close personal relationship with them. However, Woollcott says perpetrators can also be discreet.

3. DON’T PAY UP

The most common mistake is paying the ransom before taking advice, according to Sleight. This can make the victim of blackmail criminally liable, and ‘my experience is that if you pay money once, it’s never just once’, he says.

4. SEEK EXPERT ADVICE

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‘Time is of the essence,’ advises Woollcott. ‘The earlier you get advice, the earlier we’ll be able to do forensic investigations that might be necessary.’

5. CONSIDER DOING NOTHING

‘In the majority of cases, the blackmailer is not going to carry out the threat – because if they do that, they’ve got absolutely no leverage,’ Sleight says. ‘Choosing whether to engage with the blackmailer or not is a critical decision.’

Image: Shutterstock/ Sasun Bughdaryan

Read more:

The best reputation lawyers for high-net-worth individuals

The best reputation managers for high-net-worth individuals

Reputation management in the time of cancel culture

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