Don’t Fall for QR Code Scams: Here’s How to Protect Yourself

black samsung android smartphone on brown wooden table, QR Code, QR Code Scams, QR Code Scam

QR code scams are on the rise, as these convenient and contactless codes have become increasingly popular in recent years.

In this article, we will discuss how QR code scams work and how you can protect yourself. We will also provide some tips on how to spot a fake QR code.

What Are QR Codes?

QR codes or Quick Response Codes, represent a kind of barcode that smartphones and other mobile devices can read. They comprise a black and white square pattern; can store a variety of information, including text, URLs, contact details, and even payment information.

QR codes were first developed in 1994 by Denso Wave, a Japanese subsidiary of Toyota. They were originally used in the automotive industry to track parts. But they quickly gained popularity in other industries as well.

Today, a wide variety of applications utilize QR codes, including:

  • Marketing: QR codes facilitate the promotion of products and services, tracking leads, and obtaining customer feedback.
  • Payments: QR codes enable payments to be made in stores, restaurants, and other businesses.
  • Information sharing: QR codes aid in sharing contact information, directions, and diverse forms of data.
  • Authentication: QR codes serve the purpose of verifying the legitimacy of products and documents.

QR codes are a convenient and versatile way to share information. Nonetheless, it is important to be aware of the risks associated with QR code scams.

How QR Code Scams Work

QR code scams typically work by tricking the victim into scanning a malicious QR code. Once the victim scans the code, the scammer guides them to a fabricated website or app, meticulously designed to illicitly obtain their personal information or financial data.

Here are some of the most common ways that QR code scams work:

Phishing: In a phishing scam, scammers deceive the victim into scanning a QR code, leading them to a counterfeit website resembling a legitimate one. Upon inputting personal information on the fake site, scammers can pilfer it.

Malware: A malicious QR code can also serve as a tool for installing malware on the victim’s device. Subsequently, scammers can exploit the installed malware to seize personal information or take control of the victim’s device.

Payment scams: Scammers can exploit QR codes for payment scams as well. For instance, victims might be coerced into scanning a QR code they believe corresponds to a parking meter or a charitable donation. In reality, the code redirects them to a website that imposes a fee.

Also read: How to Use Data Analytics to Gain a Competitive Advantage

Typical QR Code Scams

1. Netflix QR code scam

In this scam, scammers send victims a QR code with the promise of a complimentary two-year Netflix subscription.

When the victim scans the QR code, the scammer redirects them to a malicious website that requests their personal information, including their credit card number.

Once the victim enters their personal information, the scammer can steal their credit card number and use it to make unauthorized purchases.

Read step-by-step guide to recovering a website from attackers HERE.

2. Parking meter QR code scam

In this case, scammers entice unsuspecting victims to scan a QR code that they perceive as intended for a parking meter.

In reality, the QR code redirects them to a website that imposes a fee.

The victim’s realization of the scam may only occur when they receive a bill in the mail.

3. Charity QR code scam

Scammers deceive victims into scanning a QR code, convincing them that it belongs to a genuine charity. However, the QR code actually takes them to a website that steals their personal information.

The scammer can then use the victim’s personal information to commit identity theft or other crimes.

4. Restaurant QR code scam

Scammers deceive victims in this scheme by enticing them to scan a QR code, which they believe is for placing a food order at a restaurant. In reality, the QR code directs them to a website that levies a fee.

The victim might only become aware of the scam once they receive a bill through mail.

5. Discord QR code scam

A Discord QR code scam typically involves a malicious individual or group trying to trick users into scanning a QR code that leads to a phishing website, malware download, or some other form of malicious activity.

How to Spot a Fake QR Code

Do not scan these codes!

A man walks past QR Codes on a wall. QR Code scams on the rise
A man walks past QR Codes on a wall.

There are a few things you can do to spot a fake QR code:

  • Verify the source of the QR code. If you are not sure where the QR code came from, do not scan it.
  • Check the QR code for authenticity. A genuine QR code will be clear and easy to read. A fake QR code may be blurry or distorted.
  • Preview the redirected URL. Before you scan a QR code, you can preview the redirected URL by opening the camera app on your phone and pointing it at the code. If the URL looks suspicious, do not scan the code.
  • The QR code should not ask for personal information that you don’t normally need to provide. For example, a QR code for a parking meter should not ask for your credit card number.
  • Avoid scanning QR codes from emails. Scammers often send emails with malicious QR codes attached. Do not scan any QR codes that you receive in an email.

Find out most common online cyberattacks HERE.

Tips for Protecting Yourself from QR Code Scams

  • Be careful where you scan QR codes. Only scan QR codes that you trust.
  • Use a secure internet connection when scanning QR codes.
  • Keep your antivirus software up to date. This will help to protect your computer from malware.
  • Be aware of the latest QR code scams. Scammers are constantly coming up with new ways to trick people. Stay informed about the latest scams so that you can avoid them.
  • Be wary of QR codes that you receive from unsolicited sources. If you receive a QR code in an email, text message, or social media post from someone you don’t know, don’t scan it.
  • Use a QR code scanner app that has a good reputation. Numerous QR code scanner apps are accessible, but their quality and functionality vary. Some apps are more secure than others.
  • If you suspect that you have fallen victim to a scam, promptly reach out to your bank or credit card company for immediate assistance.

To protect your online accounts, it is important to use unique passwords for each one.
Using the same password for multiple accounts makes it easier for hackers to gain access to your information if one of your accounts is compromised. For example, if a hacker gains access to your email account and they see that you use the same password for your bank account, they can easily access your bank account as well.

If you’ve been scammed by an American citizen or someone who resides in the United Sates, then consider reporting the crime to FBI via Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3). International Cybercrimes can be reported to Interpol.

Summary

QR codes persist in providing convenience for diverse applications, yet users must remain vigilant against scammers who exploit their popularity.

Through embracing best practices and maintaining caution, individuals can protect themselves from becoming targets of QR code-related scams and can ensure the security of their personal information.


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