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Disturbing images, threatening messages part of phone scam targeting local families

ROSS TOWNSHIP, Pa. — Police are warning families about a terrifying and threatening phone scam in which the callers and their families are specifically targeted.

“I get a text message from an unfamiliar 412 number just saying, ‘Hey Kyle, what’s up,’” victim Kyle Dobson said.

Dobson thought nothing of it. A typical Thursday at work and a friend trying to get ahold of him.

“When I respond ‘who’s this?’ I get a very long block of texts,” he said.

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The person writes, “I’m Jason boss of the girl which you contacted for a service...if you don’t make the payment I’ll kill you and your whole family.”

“Last chance are you gonna pay or not? You must pay $600.”

Dobson replies that he doesn’t even have that money, and that’s when the threats begin.

“If I didn’t pay within the hour, he’d kill myself and my family, then sent me incredibly gruesome and gory pictures,” Dobson said.

Pictures of a dismembered body, the caller says, was someone who didn’t cooperate.

They also included a picture of Dobson, and knew his name and address.

“First and foremost concerned for my mom who was home alone at the address named in the text messages right next to these threats,” Dobson said.

Dobson left work and rushed to his parents' home, then called police.

“It’s creepy and it’s escalating,” Brian Kohlhepp

Kohlhepp, a detective with Ross Township Police Department, said phone scams have been around forever, but these add a new twist — a believable threat of violence.

“They send people these pictures of them and their families and say we know who you are we know these are your children. We’re going to come and inflict harm if you don’t send us money,” Kohlhepp said. “We’ve had ones where they send pictures of decapitated bodies, mutilated bodies.”

Kohlhepp said if this happens to you do not send money, check on your loved ones and call 911.

As for Dobson, his family is safe. He said this is a good reminder of how much personal information exists online.

“I was honestly a little shook. I’m not an easily jarred person,” Dobson said.

Police said there are so many versions of this scam targeting kids and the elderly.

They’ve also seen a husband and wife both get text messages claiming someone’s unfaithful, causing a rift and trying to extort money.

No matter what, don’t fall for it.