Following an announcement by the City of Lake Worth that the third party vendor the city uses to handle all online utility payments, had suffered a potential data breach, customers are beginning to report fraudulent charges on the bank accounts they had used when paying their utility bills
One utility client said she had a $40 charge for an Uber ride, yet she hadn’t take an Uber in a year.
Another utility client had a $99 charge also for an Uber and he had never taken an Uber.
Literally dozens of Lake Worth Utility customers are posting details on social media of inexplicable charges.
Customers are saying the charge match charges other Lake Worth Utility customer are seeing and they have been comparing them on a Facebook group.
There is no way to positively connect the charges to the recent breach. Lake Worth Utilities uses Click2Gov for online utility billing. They have reported more than one breach this year.
One Utility client said she has found suspicious charges amounting to some $500 going back as far as April this year.
She monitors her bank account weekly, but said the first few fraudulent charges were small and slipped by unnoticed. She was working and pregnant at the time. Naturally she is now worried that she won’t be able to claim a reimbursement for everything because too much time might have lapsed.
We have a child to provide for and every dollar counts she added.
The city is currently working on changing the third-party vendor it has been using, but Public Information Officer Benn Kerr said that it could take months.
In the meantime, instead of paying online, customers can pay by phone, drop off checks in the drop box situated in the parking lot at the City Hall Annex, or pay in person at the City Hall Annex, but in-person payments do incur a processing fee.
One consumer said they pay by check because they had a similar issue years ago, so they’ve always sent out a check.
Alan Crowetz, Channel 5 News’ internet security expert and CEO of InfoStream, said that breaches are going to happen these days and people need to protect themselves.
He went on to say that the bad guys are getting better than the good guys.
He recommends closely watching all accounts and particularly suggests using various complex passwords. Apps like LastPass can help with remember passwords. There are free services that can monitor credit card accounts.
Alan also added that if someone steals the password to your video game, you don’t care but if it’s the same password you use on your banking site, then you have a real problem.
When it comes to paying for bills or goods online, Alan recommends credit cards over debit cards. There is more protection in place for recovering fraudulent charges on credit cards. He also said that paying directly through a bank can help.
Crowetz says banks are doing a better job on security than business and municipalities.
He also said there is yet another option to better protect your information and that is to sign up for two-factor verification. Facebook even offers that these days.
It sends a little text to your phone asking ‘is this you?’ You have to accept to be let on the site he explained.
Crowetz offers a free downloadable guide on credit card security here: www.infostream.cc/creditcard