Valley woman Debra Tupper overpays Southwest Gas bill by $18,000

ANTHEM, AZ - A minor gas bill and an easy way to pay has turned into a nightmare for an Anthem hair stylist.

Debra Tupper said she paid her $18.69 Southwest Gas bill early, but soon found out a slip of a keystroke drained her bank account.

Wells Fargo called her to tell her she had overdraft fees for thousands of dollars.

"I lost my iPad on a plane and thought someone had used it to break into my bank account," said Tupper.

But a closer look showed the mistake was hers. She had inserted a "0" and didn't see where the decimal was.

Her $18.69 Southwest Gall bill had a payment of $18,069!!

"I was paying several bills at one time and it went through as $18,069," said Tupper

So naturally the next call she made was to Southwest Gas, but what she heard next sank her heart.

"She's like 'Oh yeah, I see it here. We'll just credit you, we don't send checks back to people.' I'm like, no you have to send this back," said Tupper.

But getting her money back wasn't so simple.

Amy Washburn, a Southwest Gas spokesperson told ABC15 with such a large mistake, the company first had to see if the check cleared, then had to conduct a fraud investigation. 

Washburn explained that a person could overpay their bill and demand the money be returned. If the company returned the money before the check cleared, Southwest Gas would be out the amount.

In this case that amount would've been more than $18,000.

But Tupper said the check had cleared before she called.

"By now this is getting ridiculous, I'm three weeks into it. I've had to borrow money from my friends to cover my bills and I have overdraft charges like I've never seen," exclaimed Tupper.

Tupper's credit also took a huge hit.

Washburn sent this statement to ABC15:

We sympathize with Ms. Tupper, the customer involved.  We have worked with Ms. Tupper and her bank to rectify her overpayment as swiftly as possible, while keeping all security and fraud protection practices in place. We are pleased that all funds are expected to be returned to the customer within the next few business days.  As always, Southwest Gas is committed to delivering exceptional safety, service and reliability to our customers and the communities we serve.

Tupper is relieved to hear the money is now coming back.

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