Palm Beach County warns of scams targeting its water utility customers

Published Thursday, August 4, 2005 1:00 am
by By John Johnston

Scam artists have approached about a dozen Palm Beach County households, according to the Palm Beach County Water Utilities Department.

“We want to make sure that innocent people are not tricked into believing that they need to purchase unnecessary filters to treat their tap water,” department director Bevin A. Beaudet said.
County Commissioner Mary McCarty’s office said that calls to the department’s customer service center alerted county officials that someone is targeting utility customers with an erroneous letter.

The letter states that customers who suffered diarrhea between February 20 and May 30 were exposed to fecal matter in drinking water. The letter also recommends that customers install a reverse osmosis filter and contact a plumber to install a backflow valve system.

“Whoever mailed this letter is posing as our water utility to frighten people into believing that they need to hire a plumber and buy expensive water treatment systems,” Beaudet said. “We suspect that they will follow up by soliciting business from the people they have scared with the letter.”

“Please don’t be misled into believing that your water is unsafe,” Beaudet said. “There is no need to call a plumber or purchase a reverse osmosis filter. This is a scam. We perform more than 80,000 tests each year to ensure the safety and quality of our drinking water. We’re trying to get the word out to everyone who might have received one of the fraudulent letters.”

Operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week, the department provides drinking water to approximately 450,000 residents in the county.

Stephen K. Lower, retired department of chemistry professor at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia has examined the many way in which con artists have used water as the source of a scam.

He said such scams have included “magnets and ‘catalysts’ for softening water, magnetic laundry balls, waters that are ‘oxygenated’, ‘clustered’, ‘unclustered’ or ‘vitalized’ (purporting to improve cellular hydration, remove toxins, and repair DNA), high zeta-potential colloids and vortex-treated waters to raise energy levels, halt or reverse aging “and remove geopathic stress.”

“All of these wonders and more are being aggressively marketed via the Internet, radio infomercials, seminars, and by various purveyors of new-age nonsense,” Lower said. “The hucksters who promote these largely worthless products weave a web of pseudoscientific hype guaranteed to dazzle and confuse the large segment of the public whose limited understanding of science makes them especially vulnerable to this kind of exploitation.”

John Johnston can be reached at 561-893-6427, or at jjohnston@bocanews.com