A nationwide email scam has targeted utility customers, including United Cooperative Services members, by sending fake invoice messages with malware links embedded in the messages. Malware, short for malicious software, is used to disrupt computer operation, gather sensitive information or gain access to private computer systems. "At this point, we don't believe any United members appear to have been fooled, but one member has reported receiving the bogus email," said United Senior VP of Member Services Landy Bennett, United senior vice president of member services. The scam emails claimed to be from a utility with a fraudulent billing message telling consumers that their "latest energy bill is now available to view online" and it contains a hyperlink to view it. Members are urged not to open the link. The particular bogus email does not include "United" or "United Cooperative Services" in the message body or subject. United's websites are www.united-cs.com and, for bill pay, https://myaccount.united-cs.com. "It's our understanding that the link takes a person to a site that infects their device with malware, which targets personal information, including passwords and user names," said Bennett. "Do not open these emails. Any email from United Cooperative Services would include our name." United is advising members to ignore suspicious requests for personal information, such as bank account numbers, credit card numbers and user names and passwords. Members are also advised to delete those emails.

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"Unfortunately, these crooks continue to look for ways to target unsuspecting consumers," said Bennett. "First, it was phony phone call messages that stated consumers' accounts were delinquent and now it's evolved to similar tactics using email. Do not provide these evildoers with your personal information. If you have even an inkling of suspicion, call your local United office to verify your account status."