Entergy Customers Beware: Scam Callers May Have Access to Your Account’s Data

Scam calls are like mosquitoes, they are annoying, they frequently bug you, but typically, they are harmless. This in large part is due to how obvious it normally is that someone is a scam caller. 

Unfortunately, in the New Orleans area, scam callers have recently upped their game. 

The scheme is a well-known one: scammers call Entergy customers and pretend to be Entergy. They tell the customers that they are collecting delinquent electric bills and they threaten to cut off their energy if they don’t immediately pay them over the phone.

This scam played out so frequently it received media coverage, was identified in Better Business Bureau reports, and even resulted in Entergy publishing news releases to alert customers. 

A well-known scam tends to not be an effective one, however, instead of limping off to go die in scam hell, it rebounded, adapting through using specific data harvested from Entergy customer accounts. 

One customer, Terrell Perry, said that the scammers who called her knew that the actual account balance of her rental property in Gentilly was $85 and had a deposit of $200. She might have believed the scammers were legit if they hadn’t grown belligerent over the phone.

Drew Ward, who had billing issues all summer, said he got an official-sounding automated call that threatened to shut off the power in his house the day before Thanksgiving. When he called the number left in the voicemail, the representative he spoke to was able to cite all of his previous payments and corresponding credits in real-time. 

Ward explained, “He read off all of my payments going back into the summer and said, ‘I see in September you paid a thousand-whatever. And that was returned. And I see they credited you back this fee for that. But … that actually wasn’t applied to your account either. You’re going to need to pay this and pay that.” 

The only thing that stopped him from paying on the spot was remembering the moratorium on all water and power shutoffs that the New Orleans City Council put in place during the pandemic. 

Upon hearing about all of the data that scammers have somehow been able to access, New Orleans City Council President Helen Moreno, who is also Chairwoman of the Utility Committee, sent Entergy New Orleans CEO David Ellis a letter encouraging him to review his company’s data security operations and those of third-party vendors they work with. 

She also invited Entergy representatives to discuss their findings at the next Utility Committee meeting on March 16. “We’d heard about these potential scams, but we just thought it was, hey, someone’s calling pretending to be Entergy or even the Sewerage & Water Board and saying you owe us money,” Moreno explained. “But once we watched stories about the specificity of people’s bills, that was when it became alarming and concerning.”

The New Orleans City Council has the power to require Entergy to audit its data security and fix any issues. They could even force them to shut down their billing operations until they can pinpoint the source of the data breach. 

There is mounting evidence that Entergy New Orleans has a data breach, yet Entergy spokeswoman Lee Sabatini claimed, “Entergy has investigated recently reported potential customer information breaches related with scams and there is no known impact to Entergy’s systems at this time.” 

The data breach might have occurred on a different level, through a third-party vendor’s system that Entergy uses. Entergy uses numerous outside vendors for its billing and payment collection process. 

One notable vendor is BillMatrix which Entergy uses for customers who pay by credit card. BillMatrix is owned by financial tech giant Fiserv Corp which is currently being sued in federal court for what a federal credit union called “baffling and amateurish security lapses.”

“Maybe Entergy is right.” Moreno commented, “Maybe they see nothing that’s on their specific end right now or that their systems are secure. But there has been a breach somewhere along the way. So, who else received the data? Who did they send the data to? … Those are the questions that we need to answer.”

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