SECO Energy sent out a warning last week to its members to report that a nationwide scam targeting utility customers through email and phone has made its way to the Central Florida area.

Several SECO Energy members reported receiving phone calls threatening disconnection of service if payment was not immediately rendered by phone, according to reports.

However, the company verified that these accounts were not past due. The company urges anyone that receives a call threatening the disconnection of service, to immediately hang up and call SECO Energy directly to verify the status of your account.

Customers can also log into their SECO Energy Smart Hubs online account to confirm the status of their accounts.

According to AARP, there are several tips to follow to avoid being scammed this time of year:

  • During the holidays, lots of people like to donate to charity, or resolve to be more charitable in the new year. Before donating to a charity, verify that it is registered with the Secretary of State and ask how much of the money goes to the charitable fundraiser and how much goes to the charitable purpose.
  • Purchase gift cards directly from the store that they are for. Ask the cashier to scan the card to make sure it has the balance you paid for.
  • Require a signature on all package deliveries. You can even write specific instructions for the delivery company on where to leave your package. You can also have your packages delivered to the delivery company’s store so that you can pick them up at your convenience or even have them delivered to you at work.
  • Use a credit card instead of your debit card when making holiday purchases.

On Jan. 6, Leesburg police Lt. George Whittaker will speak at the Leesburg Public Library at 11 a.m. about current scams occurring in the area.

The free event will also explain how identity theft works and things people can do to avoid being a victim.

The library is at 100 E. Main St. in Leesburg. For more information, contact Josephine.Dix@leesburgflorida.gov or call 352-728-9790.

Financial crimes, such as fraud and other "white collar" crimes are taken very seriously by police and prosecutors. Crimes that involve scams and fraud are on the rise and can destroy a person's credit or even an entire business. For this reason alone, these crimes often result in harsh penalties.

If you are facing criminal charges for theft, fraud, or any other type of white collar crime, you need to make sure your case is handled properly. A Villages Criminal Defense Lawyer at Whittel & Melton has the knowledge and experience to defend fraud crimes in both state and federal courts. Call us today at 352-369-5334 or contact us online for a free consultation to learn how we can assist you.