|Published:||Oct 05, 2012 5:05 PM EDT|
|Updated:||Oct 05, 2012 6:45 PM EDT|
CHARLOTTE COUNTY, Fla.- Your water bill could help crooks drain your bank account. Charlotte County Utilities is alerting customers of a crime that could flush your money down the drain.
"We were notified through a customer that he got a telephone call and he was told that his check to us for his water payment bounced and that his water was going to be shut off if he didn't pay immediately," said Joan Brown of Charlotte County Utilities.
What does the scammer know that you may not?
"Anyone can look up your account information if they have your address or your account number. Under Florida statues, we're a government entity and there's a thing called Florida Sunshine Law," she said.
But not every utility provider interprets the Sunshine Law in the same way. The City of Fort Myers does not give out account numbers, even if you request it from the county clerk's office. Collier County also redacts account numbers but Lee County Utilities does not. Only Charlotte County has the information easily accessible on its website.
"I'm here to open an account and I think they will protect my information. That's important because it's my life, my credit and everything, it's my privacy," said new customer Juan Machado.
"There's so many laws on the law book that really no body knows the laws anymore. It's crazy," said Jeff Bramwell.
To avoid the scam, don't give out sensitive financial information. Hang up the phone and call the utility company. Never allow anyone in your home to check utilities and always think safety first.
Certain occupations can also ask for their information to remain private. For example, police officers or public officials. You can contact your county clerk's office to apply for exemption.