In law, extortion is a criminal offense. It is obtaining money, property, or service from a person or institution, through coercion. This may be by threat to a victim, to their property or family. It may also be by false claim (such as claiming to be a public official). Another form of extortion is offering a business owner "protection". For example, to keep the business free from vandalism or burglary. In all states of the United States extortion is a felony.
Extortion may be in person, by telephone, mail, e-mail, text message or any form of wireless communication. If the extortion involves any form of interstate commerce, it may be a federal crime. It may involve the threat of hacking.
Extortion, like robbery and blackmail, are crimes that involve obtaining property by illegal means. The most serious of the three is robbery because it usually involves violence against the victim. Blackmail is a form of extortion. The threat is usually making damaging or embarrassing information public if demands are not met. The legal definition of extortion varies from one jurisdiction to another. In some states, extortion is only charged against public officials while the same act committed by a private individual is charged as blackmail.
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