TAMPA — Patricia Farrington was preparing to pay her car insurance bill Tuesday when she did a quick check of her bank account balance.
"I was in the red," Farrington said. "This is the first time I was ever in the red. The money should have been there."
Farrington, 51, a stay-at-home mom from Keysville, quickly traced the problem to a nearly $500 online payment she made for her Hillsborough County property tax bill. Her account was hit twice for the same payment.
Tax Collector Doug Belden said the same thing happened to about 20 people who logged on to his Web site Sunday to make tax payments. Two hundred people used the site that day to make payments.
The technical problem appeared to be confined to those who used the e-check function as opposed to those who keyed in credit or debit card numbers.
RT Lawrence Corp., a vendor from Santa Fe Springs, Calif., that Belden's office uses to process online bill payments, took responsibility for the glitch. The company's director of operations said the problem occurred only in Hillsborough County.
Larry Tong, director of operations for RT Lawrence, said his staff is investigating to determine what caused the double billing.
"Our No. 1 priority at this moment is to make sure that all our customers' accounts are credited back as soon as possible," Tong said.
Tong said he expected that to happen by the end of the day Tuesday but that it would likely be today before customers notice the change in their bank account balances.
Belden said it appears people who paid using a checking account number also had payments sent to Charlotte County, where RT Lawrence provides online service for the tax collector, due to a technical problem. His office learned of the issue after receiving several phone calls from people who noticed a discrepancy on their bank accounts.
Farrington was one of them.
She said she believed she would be able to turn to friends to pay her car insurance bill. It was due Tuesday.
Bill Varian can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3387.