Some Gulf Power Company customers may have had their personal data exposed through a possible glitch at a third-party vendor.
Jeff Rogers at the utility says the data breach – detected by the firm TIO Networks -- may have affected customers who paid their bills by check at a local kiosk.
TIO was acquired by PayPal earlier this year.
“PayPal was doing a security evaluation of their systems,” Rogers says. “And about a couple of weeks ago noticed a vulnerability and suspended the payment processing through TIO. Then about a week ago they let [Gulf Power] know that there is a potential for compromising information.”
An estimated 22,000 Gulf Power customers – out of a total of 460,000 from Pensacola to the Big Bend – could be affected by unauthorized access to names, bank routing and account numbers, along with Gulf Power account numbers.
The utility is working with PayPal and TIO to get letters out to their customers.
“TIO’s letter has an engagement number; they can go to www.tio.com and plug it in. There’s free credit monitoring and insurance for those folks who may have been impacted,” said Rogers. “Right now, they say that nothing shows that any information was lost; but they’re acting as if that did happen, with an abundance of caution.”
Other information -- such as credit and debit card numbers -- was not compromised. Another third party vendor, Matrix, can be used to process those payments. Rogers says that’s also a part of offering more ways to pay, such as Authorized Payment Locations.
“Where Western Union and Check-Free Pay are – Walmart, K-Mart, Publix, Walgreen’s Winn-Dixie, for example, people can go in and pay their bills with cash,” said Rogers. “You can also pay on the Gulf Power app or the Gulf Power website with a credit card.”
At this point, the breach does not appear to include data stored in the Gulf Power system. Spokesman Jeff Rogers has some advice for customers who believe their information may have been compromised.
“You need to call your bank and let them know,” Rogers said. “We’ve been notified that no Social Security information was in the information; no government-issued identification card numbers were in that information as well.”
The different payment options are at www.gulfpower.com/waystopay. More on the issue is available at TIO.com, or the TIO help line -- 1-855-272-6796.