As many as 15 young people may have been blackmailed, according to the Penn Yan superintendent
PENN YAN — Police are searching for an online predator preying on Penn Yan students.
Police say someone is blackmailing students for nude photos and so far, seven girls have been targeted.
Police are now trying to trace the social media account to find the person responsible.
The Penn Yan Central School District and local families are now on alert after discovering students have been victimized.
"It's kind of scary that there are people like this out there that have the ability to reach out and get into your kids' lives," said Nate Baker, parent.
While Baker's child wasn't one of the victims, he says it's alarming to hear this is happening.
"To learn that we don't know the name of the person behind this, it's kind of scary," added Baker.
The Penn Yan police chief told News 10NBC that the suspect could be local because all seven victims are from the Penn Yan Central School District, specifically the middle and high school.
The youngest victim is just 13 years old.
The predator "tried to blackmail them into sending nude photographs of themselves. In some instances, they claimed they already had photos that they would post online if they didn't send them nude photographs," said Chief Thomas Dunham.
Dunham says the predator targeted the victims on Instagram, blackmailing them for lewd photos and out of fear, some students gave in.
"We do believe there are some people who did send nude photos out to the individual and in cases like this, the people keep asking for more and keep blackmailing the person. We are happy people came forward and contacted the school to let them know what was going on," the chief added.
Police urge anyone else that may have fallen victim to contact authorities.
There is another incident at the Dundee Central School District, but the chief says it is unrelated to this crime.