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Updated September 1, 2023

8 common scams defined

From phishing and malware to smishing and vishing, scammers use tricks and tools to steal money and personal information. Your best protection is to be informed and aware of them, so here’s a cheat sheet of key terms to help you recognize scams—and avoid falling for them.

Dark web
A hidden part of the web where criminals anonymously sell and share illegal items and information, like stolen credit numbers.

Data mining
Collecting and analyzing data from online activity, websites, and social media. Most data mining is done for legitimate purposes, but cybercriminals use it to identify potential victims and craft convincing, targeted scams.

Identity theft
Stealing and using a person’s identifying information like Social Security and passport numbers to access bank and credit card accounts, apply for loans, charge purchases, or use health insurance.

Imposter scams
Criminals posing as a familiar or trustworthy person to convince you to send money or provide personal information, including:

  • Romance scams, where they create fake profiles and interactions on dating apps.
  • Investment and business scams where they offer a job or investment opportunity.
  • Tech support scams, where they say your computer has a critical virus.
  • Charity scams, where they make up a story or fundraiser to solicit donations.
  • Authority scams, where they pretend to be someone official, like a law officer, IRS auditor, utility company representative, or lottery or sweepstakes administrator.
  • Friend, relative and colleague scams, where they pose as a person you know or care about.

Software secretly installed on a computer or phone to damage the operating system or collect personal information. Specifically:

  • Ransomware encrypts the victim’s files and demands a ransom to remove it.
  • Trojans look like legitimate software downloads but sneak malicious code into the victim’s device.
  • Spyware steals personal information from the victim’s computer or phone.

Directing or redirecting victims to fake but realistic-looking websites to collect identifying information, bank account or credit card numbers, or passwords.

Trying to trick people into giving out identifying information, often by sending emails with links or attachments containing malware. Variations include:

  • Vishing: phishing over the phone
  • Smishing: phishing through text or chat messages

Manipulating the name and number that appear on caller ID to impersonate or “spoof” a legitimate caller.

Remember, trustworthy institutions like Community Bank will never ask you to share your Social Security number, account numbers, or password over email, text, or the phone. If you’re not sure, call your local branch or our Customer Care Center at 1-866-764-8638.

Explore our Financial Literacy Hub and our blog for content that helps you make money decisions confidently.

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