Phishing prohibited

By Andrea Lahouze

Community First Bank empowers customers to protect themselves from scammers.

Several years ago, a man in southwest Nebraska fell victim to a phishing attack. The scammers told him he had won the lottery and that they needed him to send money to have the winnings transferred into his account. This man was also a customer of Community First Bank in Maywood, Neb. When he shared the news with bank employees, they tried to dissuade him from making the transfer. But, believing the scammers’ every word, he sent money and kept sending more at their every request, until he lost his entire life savings.

“It was just heartbreaking to me to see someone lose everything that they worked their whole life for to a scam,” says Chad Johnston, president of the $130 million-asset community bank. “We had tried to point out to him how it was a scam and how this was not going to happen, and he just wouldn’t believe it. And so, from that point on, we decided we had to do something to educate our customers so that nobody else falls victim to this.”

Community First Bank became a member of the Financial Services-Information Sharing and Analysis Center (FS-ISAC), which alerts banks to local scams and cashier check fraud incidents, so employees can help customers avoid them. The community bank also has weekly meetings where they train on how to spot the signs of a potential phishing attack.

“We’re here to help our customers and to be the trusted person they can look to for keeping their money safe and knowing what is okay and what isn’t.”
—Chad Johnston, Community First Bank

In turn, employees have imparted this wisdom to bank customers, so much so that the bank has become a go-to resource in the community for cyber-risk mitigation, even among non-customers.

“If we have a customer that comes in with a problem, we many times will give them the information, and they’ve come back and stated, ‘Thank you. I didn’t know that this was possible,’ or, ‘I didn’t think I could be taken advantage of,’” Johnston says. “They look to us to be their trusted source for information, and it’s just made our relationship that much stronger.

“To me, that’s a huge part of what we do as a community bank. We’re here to help our customers and to be the trusted person they can look to for keeping their money safe and knowing what is okay and what isn’t.”

Good for business, too
Though attracting new business is not the focus of Community First Bank’s cybersecurity efforts, IT officer Ruby Timm says it’s a great example of the bank’s steadfast commitment to residents of its community. “They may not be a customer right now, but with the information we give them, we’re hoping that some day they may be a customer of ours,” she says. “It’s a trust issue. They’re learning to trust us and recognize that we think they’re family and we want to take care of them.”

Bank customers can also boost their cybersecurity smarts by reading the community bank’s monthly newsletter. “It may be on connecting home devices to the internet safely, or digital spring cleaning, or ‘Are you ready for being secure online?’” Timm says.

Scam patrol—Staff at Community First Bank attend a training session on spotting social media scams. From left to right: Kurt Kisker, DJ Lunkwitz, Annette Fink, Shelly Kerchal, Colleen Sellers and president Chad Johnston.

“My favorite part is seeing someone’s smile on their face when they say, ‘You know what, I got called by a scammer and I didn’t give them any information. I just hung up.’”

It’s also another way Community First Bank delivers on its promise to treat customers like family.

“Our tagline is ‘Welcome home,’ because we want everyone to feel like part of our family and that we’re watching out for them,” Johnston says. “This is just one of the ways that we try do that.”

ICBA member resource: Cyber & Data Security Toolkit

For tips on teaching employees and customers how to spot the signs of a scam, check out the Cyber & Data Security Toolkit in ICBA’s Knowledge Vault at

Andrea Lahouze is deputy editor of Independent Banker.