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CPW tells commissioners it thwarted attempted fraudulent acts

'We don't see anything that people tried to hack into our system.'

Published on Tuesday, December 18, 2012

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"CPW customers reported the fraudulent activity in written documents and we know those cases were prosecuted."

Ken Holliday

CPW Human Resources Director

The timeliness of the Red Flag committee report today alerted commissioners of fraudulent activities directed against Greer Commission of Public Works.

There were two fraudulent acts against Greer CPW in July and last week two more were documented, according to Ken Holliday, Director of Human Resources at the Greer utility. The Red Flag committee, consisting of six CPW associates, annually presents to commissioners acts that demand attention or corrective remedies that safeguard the utility and its customers.

“We don’t see anything that people tried to hack into our system,” said Brian Forrester, CPW Chief Information Officer. Forrester said he has been in contact with a state agency and more safeguards have been put in place.  “We identified some weaknesses but I don’t want to get into that in a public forum. We have third party monitoring and we’re looking at our firewall each day. We’ve purchased new software to encrypt information.”

Holliday told commissioners some customers reported receiving phone calls from individuals identifying themselves as Greer CPW employees. CPW, on its web site said, customer’s caller identification will display Greer CPW’s name or phone number. The caller attempts to obtain customer account or personal information.

The utility also reported scam artists claiming to be Greer CPW employees are telling customers they have the ability to wipe out entire account balances – for a cash fee. CPW advises customers suspecting suspicious activity contact the company directly at 1-864-848-5500 to verify the person’s identity. Call police, 848-2151, immediately if you believe the person is an imposter.

CPW did not report to commissioners or its customers the fraudulent activity in July.  The Red Flag Committee delivers its report to commissioners at the last meeting of the fiscal year. It posted the activity and tips to recognize fraud attempts on its website this week.

A routine audit at CPW since that activity, according to Forrester, suggested change management procedures. “That involves taking a snapshot of codes today if there are any code changes. We do have frequent changes with our codes,” Forrester said, in response to a question.

Two fraud attempts, detected by CPW employees in July, were reported to the Greer Police Department. “The customers reported the fraudulent activity in written documents and we know those cases were prosecuted,” Holliday said.

The two fraudulent activities that occurred last week centered around an individual gaining access to customer accounts via credit cards and seeking payment in an unusual manner.  “The lady called with the customers’ account information. When that didn’t work the first time the same lady called another customer three days later,” Holliday said.

CPW’s investigation found two “pending” notifications on those customers’ transactions between the banks and CPW. The commission suspects the use of an employer credit card was used in last week’s activity.

Holliday said CPW will send alerts to customers via CPW’s web site and on bills reminding them the commission does not call asking for account information. (Commissioners, last month, set a rate hike effective Jan. 1, 2013.

Commission chairman Eugene Gibson said the public should be conscious of the information written on checks, too. “When you give someone a check you are handing over gobs of information. You may have your name, address, driver’s license, phone number . . . People are learning to use this information against the customer.”

Holliday said CPW has safeguards in place to minimize sensitive information leaking. “We don’t ever repeat a social security number back to people at the front counter. We have a cover over the monitors so the next person in line can’t see the transaction, we write down information and hand it to our customers and we ask them to do the same. We shred everything,” Holliday said.

In other commission news this afternoon:

Chuck Reynolds told commissioners, except for a net gain of $136,000 in natural gas revenue, CPW is projected to report a net loss of $353,000 for November. The electric revenue loss was blamed on the commission’s 4 percent rate hike opposed to an 11 percent increase imposed on it last May by the Piedmont Municipal Power Agency. Individual losses projected for November are:

Water – $109,000

Electric – $332,000

Sewer – $49,000

• Cash on hand dipped to a year-low of 113.1 days. It peaked at 124.9 days in 2011.

• The Compressed Natural Gas fast fill site has curbing surrounding the islands and the pavement was poured last week.

• Greer remains in a moderate drought. The rain this week was not factored in the report but wouldn’t have changed the category.

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