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What Are Phishing and Skimming? Find Out Before Using Your Card

It’s almost impossible for the average person to go a day without swiping or inserting their preferred card, or making an online purchase. With so many electronic transactions, it’s important to protect yourself against identify theft scams like phishing and skimming. Because from gas stations to ATMs to online shopping, your credit or debit card information can be stolen wherever it’s used.

Follow these tips to understand the danger of these security threats, lower your risk of being impacted and keep your sensitive information secure.

Educate yourself. Information security is a hot topic, but phishing and skimming are often mentioned in the same breath. It’s true that both concern identity theft and credit/debit card fraud—so, what’s the difference?

Skimming is the in-person act of copying information from a card via a handheld tool the size of a lighter, or a device that fits neatly over a gas station pump or ATM. Both allow thieves to scan the account information off of your card’s magnetic strip.

Phishing, on the other hand, is conducted online. Criminals “fish” for information by sending out emails to receive usernames, passwords and other personal information in order to scam money out of unknowing participants.

Learn how to spot these threats. When it comes to skimming, make sure you keep your card in sight at all times. Sneaky behavior in an attempt to conceal your card from view should be a red flag. And when you’re anywhere that you can swipe a card, pay attention to the machine to see if you notice anything different. If any part of the device seems out of the ordinary, go with your gut and avoid using it. When you do choose to use your card, use your free hand to hide your pin when you type it in.

When online, you should be just as diligent to protect against phishing. An unfamiliar person who reaches out will almost always request financial and contact information in exchange for a reward. As a general rule, do not share your information with anyone outside of known and trusted institutions.

For phishing, follow the “too good to be true” rule. If it’s too good to be true, it usually is! Emails, phone calls or texts saying that you’ve won something or that you can easily make money should be avoided. When online shopping, don’t click on non-trustworthy advertisements, offers or emails. If there’s a crazy discount, usually something’s up — Ray Ban sunglasses for $14.99 fall in that “too good to be true” bucket. Diligently check the site you’re purchasing from and only buy from sites you trust completely. It’s the difference between shopping at a department store and buying a handbag from a person on the street. More tips are available at

Keep tabs on your account. It’s essential to keep a consistent eye on your account. But sometimes, even the most diligent shoppers fall victim to identity theft scams. Luckily, Community Bank and other financial institutions are continually on the lookout for malicious security threats, and detecting fraudulent account activity is always a top priority.

If you do notice any strange activity, call your bank’s fraud center hotline (this is a link to ours) to immediately report the charges. Many institutions have a zero liability policy to protect customers if they are notified.

You work hard for your money. You should enjoy it and be able to use it when and where you want! Always be attentive when shopping online or swiping/inserting your card to ensure your account information remains safe and your money stays protected.


Better banking starts with trust—and we’re honored to be recognized for it.

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