After a Virginia woman’s inbox filled up with emails from a power company that weren’t intended for her, NBC4 Responds uncovered a scam to avoid paying bills.
In February, Cindy Reed of Fairfax began getting emails from a Texas power company that weren’t intended for her. The emails -- disconnection notices, declined payment notices, terms of contracts -- included account numbers, bank account verifications and addresses of account holders.
“I thought it was a fluke,” Reed said.
Soon she realized it wasn’t.
“I think the company needs to know that I'm getting these people’s personal information,” she said.
The emails from Reliant, an NRG Energy company, were for customers in Texas.
“I felt that they needed to know,” Reed said.
Reed said she contacted the power company numerous times and escalated her complaint to a supervisor.
“He claimed to run some kind of program while I was on the phone with him and he said that it would never happen again,” she said.
But the emails seemed to increase, Reed said.
NBC4 Responds contacted NRG, which initiated an immediate investigation and discovered "an unscrupulous individual created a number of fictitious accounts to avoid paying for electricity service." All of those fake accounts created were online using Reed's email address as the point of contact.
NRG said it identified the IP address used by the perpetrator and is working with law enforcement to identify the individual who is responsible.
There is no doubt personal information has been compromised, from social security numbers to bank account information, a Reliant spokesperson said, but how that information was provided to the scammer the energy company has no idea, and the victims don't even know it yet.
The company is trying to cross-reference the information NBC4 Responds provided them through the emails and its customer database. The case escalated to the FBI and the computer crimes unit at the Houston Police Department.