New BPUB Accounts Issued to Hundreds of Customers Due to Possible Breach

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BROWNSVILLE – The Brownsville Public Utilities Board’s Office was busy Monday with dozens of customers looking to make their payments.

Customers told CHANNEL 5 NEWS the lines were unusually long.

"The line is very long, yes," said Argentina Guevara.  

It was due to one of the preferred payment methods being shut down until further notice.

"I always come pay my bill here at the machines, but right now they told me that they are closed," said Joaquin Castrillon. "I was almost going to leave because of the line, but they are helping customers - those of us that pay with card. There was a lady behind the counter."

PUB spokesman Ryan Greenfield confirmed the payment kiosks are currently not in service. He said the software's parent company, PayPal, informed PUB of a vulnerability in the system that may have exposed customers' information.

"The investigation has shown that the only data that was potentially at risk was for any transactions at our kiosks that involved electronic checks," Greenfield said.

He said that equates to about 800 customers.   

Some of them weren't happy to find out their information was possibly exposed.

"Almost all of Brownsville depends on PUB," Margarita Gallegos said. "Just like they tell us, 'You have by this date to pay your electricity or they'll cut you off,' that's how we want them to be taking care of us."

Greenfield said all those customers whose information was possibly jeopardized will first get a phone call this week and then an official letter explaining what happened.

Although the threat has been addressed, he said, the kiosks will not be available until PayPal gives the all clear to get the software up and running.

Meanwhile, officials are asking customers to stay vigilant of other potential problems that could stem from the incident. They gave the following advice:

  • BPUB will be making phone calls but will never ask for any bank or payment information over the phone.
  • Officials said if you do not feel comfortable with a phone call, hang up and report it to the main office.

The board said PUB online and phone payments systems have been deemed safe to use.

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