Hey, Regular Joes, You've Got Blackmail
In tough times, many turn to extorting non-celebs
By Jane Yager,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 10, 2009 7:14 AM CST
This image rendered from video shows David Letterman, speaking on the "Late Show" Monday Oct. 5, 2009. Letterman was one of the highest-profile recent blackmailing targets.   (AP Photo/CBS)

(Newser) – Whether the perpetrators are spurred by the recession or inspired by the David Letterman and Cindy Crawford cases, the ranks of aspiring blackmailers are swelling—and an increasing number of their plots are targeting ordinary private citizens. The typical non-celebrity extortion victim has a high net worth and has engaged in "risky personal conduct," reports the Wall Street Journal.

One security expert who normally sees eight blackmail cases a year says he's landing as many as five a month. Extortionists include former business partners threatening to expose white-collar crimes and women on dating sites for wealthy men who threaten to divulge cheating to wives and girlfriends. Most blackmail is financially motivated, but a growing number of incidents are more about humiliating an old rival. "It is vengeance," says a private investigator. "Some involve money, and some are just outright, 'I want to see you suffer.'"