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JACKSONVILLE, Ark. (Feb. 21, 2014) - First Electric Cooperative wants members to be aware of phone and email scams that could target their money or identities.

In one setup, consumers are threatened with having service disconnected unless they buy a pre-paid debit card or use an online payment service to pay their bill immediately. Consumers then are directed to dial a toll-free number and provide the payment information, enabling the scammer to steal their money.

These callers typically stress the need for consumers to act quickly. First Electric will not threaten members with disconnection in this manner. The co-op strongly urges members to protect their credit card and checking account numbers, account user names, passwords and Social Security numbers. Those who want to confirm they are speaking with a First Electric employee are encouraged to hang up and call the co-op's toll-free number at 800-489-7405.

In another scam, consumers receive an email that appears to be a bill from an electric utility. When consumers click on the link to pay their bill, malicious software is downloaded to their computers, which searches for passwords and other personal information. These emails should be deleted. Do not click on the links, reply to the email or open any attachments. First Electric members always may pay their electric bill securely by visiting www.firstelectric.coop or calling 800-489-7405.

Those who have been contacted by one of these scammers, or are victims of a scam, are encouraged to contact the Arkansas Attorney General's Office on its Consumer Protection Hotline at 800-482-8982 or www.GotYourBackArkansas.org.

First Electric serves more than 88,000 active accounts throughout 17 counties in central and southeast Arkansas. The cooperative is headquartered in Jacksonville and maintains full-service offices in Benton, Heber Springs, Perryville and Stuttgart. For more information, call 800-489-7405 or visit www.firstelectric.coop or www.facebook.com/FirstElectric.

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