Schumer Wants Tougher Action Against Online Blackmailers

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ROCHESTER, NY (WXXI) – Senator Chuck Schumer is calling on lawmakers to make online predator blackmailing a federal crime. That’s when someone steals your personal information online and threatens you with it.

Senator Chuck Schumer and Canandaigua Police Chief Stephen Hedworth CREDIT JAMES BROWN / WXXI NEWS

During a visit to Canandaigua Academy Friday, the New York Democrat and Senate Minority Leader announced that he’s sponsoring the bill because state laws like New York’s are inadequate. He says these blackmailing attempts cross state lines.

“They can get financial information,” said Schumer. “They can get personal information. They can get pictures.  You can imagine. And blackmailing these poor kids. This is a despicable thing. If you saw these people you feeling is that you’d like to wring their necks. Not allowed to do that. But we’re here to make sure these people stop doing what they’re doing.”

Schumer was joined by Canandaigua School District Superintendent Jamie Farr, Canandaigua Academy Principal Vernon Tenney, Monroe County School Board Association Executive Director Sherry Johnson, and Canandaigua Police Chief Stephen Hedworth at the news conference. Hedworth says the internet makes tracking down predators difficult.

“Getting federal legislation is especially important because if that suspect is in New York State or the city of Canandaigua it makes our job manageable,” Hedworth said. “But if that person is sitting 3,000 miles away, the resources are very limited and the probability of getting an arrest or successful outcome is difficult.”

Schumer says kids are especially vulnerable to this type of blackmail and it could cause long term harm.

“Adolescents have their own insecurities, shall we say. And this kind of thing just plays on it. I think it can do real damage.”

Schumer says the FBI has   received 13,000 complaints about online blackmail in last July alone. He says four blackmail attempts happened recently in the Greater Rochester area. The latest one was in Penn Yan in December.