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Church Hill police warn of new phone scam involving a wreck and ransom

Jeff Bobo • Updated Oct 31, 2018 at 9:45 PM

CHURCH HILL — Church Hill police are warning about a new scam in which a caller claims a family member of the victim has caused an accident and owes money for the damage, and won't be released and/or will be harmed unless money is paid.

The CHPD received a report on Friday in which a Church Hill family was coerced into buying $560 worth of Visa gift cards, and then giving the card numbers to the culprits.

There was a second complaint to the CHPD Tuesday pertaining to an almost identical scam, but this time the intended victims started asking questions, and deduced that it wasn't real.

Both scam phone calls were made from a phone with the number (814) 795-6628, which is a Pennsylvania area code.

CHPD Chief Chad Mosely told the Times-News Tuesday what differentiates these two incidents from most telephone scams is the amount of personal information the scammers knew about their victims.

They knew the names  and cell phone numbers of the victims, the names and relationships of the victims’ family members, what kind of cars they drove, and apparently where they worked.

In one case the "accident" supposedly occurred in Sullivan County. In the other it happened in Washington County.

Both were in locations the victims would have expected their family member to be.

In the Friday report the victim received a call from a person claiming to be a Sullivan County paramedic who stated the victim's mother had been in a crash.

In the background the victim hears arguing, and then a person identifying himself as Michael Cruz supposedly snatched the phone form the paramedic and states that the victim's mother struck his son's motorcycle, causing $600 worth of damage.

Cruz states that police will not be called because his son is wanted, and some other men are holding his mother prisoner until the $600 is paid.

The victim was told not to hang up with Cruz or his mother wouldn't be released. After the ransom had been paid the victim hung up with Cruz, called his mother, and found out she was OK and the entire call was a bogus.

On Tuesday another victim contacted the CHPD to report an almost identical scam in which they received a call from someone claiming to be from Washington County EMS stating their son had been in a crash.

"They needed him (the victim) to meet and pay cash, or they would harm him," Mosley said. "This (intended victim) started asking questions, and then hung up on them when he realized it was (phony)."

Anyone with information that could lead police to these scammers is asked to contact the CHPD at (423) 357-3487 during business hours, and (423) 357-7181 after hours.

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