INDEPENDENCE, Mo. — The utility payment system is down after a ransomware attack in Independence. The city voluntarily took all systems offline about two weeks ago when staff noticed suspicious activity.
When residents like Laci Pittman, who’s never missed a payment, went to pay their bill, but couldn’t, it sent them into a panic.
“You owe us an explanation,” Pittman said. “I call in and I do everything that they tell me to do, and after I enter my account number and it just cuts off.”
Pittman said that happened three more times over a span of three days. She’s not alone.
LaShaun White received a disconnect alert in the mail after not being able to log on and pay her bill.
“It was kind of scary because I’m a single parent, and it’s like, are they going to come out here and turn my electricity off? And there’s nothing I can do to remedy it,” White said.
City Manager Zach Walker said not to worry. There are no late fees through January, and utilities will not be shut off while the system is down.
“Inconvenient though it is, hang tight. Again there are no late fees; there are no shutoffs for non-payment,” Walker said.
In the meantime, people can payments in person at City Hall or at the Utility Center.
It’s a drive-thru, kind of like a bank. You need your account number and cash or a check. No credit cards.
“Right now, it is the old fashioned way,” Walker said.
The cyber attack leaves a lot of people asking another critical question: “If your system was hacked, was my information compromised?” White said.
Walker said outside forces tried to get into the data system that holds information of about 54,000 customers.
Pittman wishes they were notified about serious issues beyond a couple of Facebook posts.
“People are really counting their pennies. And like I’m a single parent. I have a 10-year-old daughter. So if my bank account has been compromised, that could be totally life altering for us,” Pittman said.
Walker hopes to know more in the next week to 10 days. That’s when he also expected the system to be back up and running.