QR codes are increasing in popularity and more scammers are using them to trick consumers. At the height of the pandemic, the use of QR codes has become even more common due to COVID fears and touchless transactions. The rise of these digital codes also means the rise of QR scams. Be on the lookout for suspicious QR codes since all your personal information could be put in jeopardy. Learn more about QR scams and how to avoid them.
What Is a QR Code?
A QR code is a type of barcode that is read with devices such as smartphones. The codes store information as pixels in a square grid that can be read from top to bottom or right to left. QR codes contain a variety of data such as account information, website links, phone numbers, and coupons.
How QR Codes Are Used
QR codes are used for a wide range of activities. These codes are used to view menus, download an app, board a flight, and send and receive money. QR codes are also used for tracking products and product information, and much more.
How the QR Scam Works
Consumers receive a message by text, social media, or email, or they receive mail that has a QR code. The phone’s camera is used to scan the QR code and open the link. When it’s a scam, the QR code that was scanned takes you to a phishing website that prompts you to enter login credentials or any other type of personal information. In some cases, the scammers will use QR codes to follow a fraudulent social media account or automatically launch malicious payment apps.
How QR Codes Are Masked by Scammers
Swapping: It’s common for scammers to ride on the back of the reputation and work of legitimate companies. They will replace the real QR code on a sign or poster with a fake one.
Bad sources: Scammers often put a link to their website in a QR code and include them in emails, banners, and traditional paper ads. Their goal is for you to download a malicious app.
Spotting and Avoiding QR Scams
These are tips for spotting and avoiding QR scams.
Don’t open links from people you do not know: If you receive a message on social media or by email from a person you do not know, it’s best not to scan the QR code. Scammers may even try to entice you with exciting investment opportunities. You should avoid scanning anyway.
If you receive a QR code from someone you know, still confirm before scanning it: Contact the person directly since that person may have been hacked. Regardless of whether you receive a message from a friend, family member, or colleague, verify the source at all times.
Keep an eye out for advertising that has been tampered with: Scammers sometimes try to deceive consumers by changing ads from legitimate businesses with the act of putting stickers on the QR code. Be watchful for any signs of tampering.
Short links could be a red flag: If you scan a QR code and a shortened link appears, it could be taking you to a malicious website.
Always verify the source: Even if a QR code looks like it’s coming from a credible source, always verify. If the message appears to have come from a governmental facility, visit their website or make a call.
Use a scanner app: A scanner app can offer the ultimate protection as it checks the website the QR codes are leading to. Keep in mind that Android phones are the most targeted and vulnerable.
Beware of QR Scams
Only scan QR codes from trusted sources and avoid opening links from people you do not know. The scammers intend to ultimately obtain your personal or financial information. If you believe you have fallen victim to a QR scam, you have a few options for reporting it. Report it to the Better Business Bureau scam tracker or visit the FBI tip site.