There are so many scams out there today it is hard to keep up with them all. Sometimes your electric cooperative is used as leverage in scams that revolve around paying your bill.

Be careful when paying your bills online.

Electronic bill pay is starting to become the norm. People today are moving away from the traditional form of paying bills through the mail by check to an electronic payment. In fact, many cooperatives today offer e-billing as an option, and you can pay your bill directly from your cooperative’s website.

Unfortunately, if you do a quick search online for your co-op and bill pay, you will likely see more than just your cooperative’s website. There are several third-party bill payment services that will turn up in the search and offer online bill payment services for a fee. While these are likely legitimate companies, they can be very problematic. There are numerous reports of payments not being made in a timely manner or even not being paid at all, resulting in services being shut off.

I would encourage you to visit your cooperative’s website directly and see if it provides an online bill pay option. This is the safest and most efficient way to pay your electric bill online and most, if not all, offer this service for free. If your co-op does not offer online bill pay at this time, you may want to check with your bank. Many banks are now offering this service and are more trustworthy and easier to deal with than some of the online third-party companies. Some banks even offer free unlimited online bill pay for their customers, giving you a one stop shop to pay all your bills online.

Be aware of phone scams.

I have received several reports recently of payment scams from Illinois electric cooperatives. Members are reporting they have been contacted by someone claiming to represent the cooperative, and indicating their bill is past due and disconnection is imminent unless they pay the balance immediately. What makes these calls believable is that often there is a live person on the other end. Even worse, the scammers can make the caller ID appear as the cooperative’s phone number.

It is true that some cooperatives will make a courtesy call to members who are delinquent on their account to notify them they may be disconnected if payment is not received. However, they will never demand you make a payment a specific way and will usually give you a time frame to post payment. Scammers, on the other hand, will encourage you to make payment over the phone now to avoid service disruption.

Your cooperative is here for you, the member-owner, and willing to work with you to provide safe reliable electric service. Most cooperatives have several payment options so members can select one that best suits their lifestyle. Your cooperative will also have specifics on your account whereas a scammer will not.

Under no circumstances should you make payment over the phone until you have verified by contacting your cooperative directly. If you receive one of these calls, promptly hang up and call your cooperative at the number found on your bill or by visiting the website.