FORT WALTON BEACH — There may have been a security break for Okaloosa County Water and Sewer users who paid their bills with a credit or debit card, according to a press release from the county.

The security breach occurred involving external vendors which process electronic credit/debit card payments for water and sewer bills. In the past few business days, several local banks have alerted the county to unauthorized charges on cards used to pay county water bills, the release said.

The reports have raised a concern that the online payment system may have been breached. Upon learning of the potential breach, the county immediately reached out online payment software providers to conduct their investigation.

Currently, individuals who used the county’s website to make online credit/debit card payments may have been victims. It does not appear to have affected those who use autopay with checking/savings account information or their checking/savings account to make a one-time payment, the release said.

County Information Technology staff independently ran forensic analysis on the system and there is no indication a breach has occurred on the county system. In addition, the Inspector General’s Office provided a review. To be cautious, the county has disabled the system during further analysis.

Residents can still pay their bills over the phone, by mail, in person or through the payment dropboxes available at both county offices.

“At the present time, it appears the breach of debit/credit card data occurred outside of the county’s bill payment system, but until the outside vendor(s) are certain our customer’s financial information is secure we don’t want to put our customers in any jeopardy in paying bills online,” commented John Hofstad, County Administrator.

“The security of our customers’ information is of the utmost importance," said County Commissioner Chairman Graham Fountain. "We are on top of this. We are taking all necessary steps to investigate any potential breaches and restore the online payment system as soon as possible. We regret any inconvenience; however it’s just the world we live in today. With smart technology comes even smarter crooks."

Updates will be issued when additional information becomes available. For further information contact  Okaloosa County Water & Sewer Department 850-651-7171.