QR Code Scams: Here’s How You Can Avoid Them

Update:  December 13, 2023

QR code scams are on the rise, with cases increasing at an alarming rate.

The surge of QR code tampering incidents caused the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to release a warning statement regarding this matter.

Oblivious web users are often victims of clickbait QR codes that can redirect them to phishing sites, consequently collecting data such as personal information, credit card details, and bank accounts.

According to Dave Ring, FBI’s Cyber Division section chief, the recent malicious QR code exploitation in San Antonio, Texas, is the best example of how scammers are leveraging innocent people’s financial information.

Scammers are continuously looking for ways to prey on unsuspecting targets. And now, these fraudsters make use of QR codes to conveniently disseminate malicious links for their phishing schemes.

But does this imply that QR codes are totally unsafe? Definitely not.

QR scams may be on the rise, but they can easily be avoided.

Here are some expert tips on how you can prevent yourself from falling victim to fake QR codes.

Tips on how to avoid QR code scams

Here are some measures you can take to guard yourself against cybercriminals who use QR codes to deceive the public.

1. Invest in a virus scanner for your devices

Smartphones are commonly used in scanning and accessing QR codes, which means such devices are vulnerable to malware that can disrupt your phone and even leak stored information.

Protect your phones how you protect your computers by installing a virus scanner.

Avast, Norton, Bitdefender, and McAfee are some of the most used antivirus software for mobile devices.

A virus scanner notifies you whenever you scan a malicious QR code or access a URL.

It can save you from getting malware on your device, especially if you accidentally click on a spam link.

2. Assess the location of the QR code

Where is the QR code located? Is it in a well-known establishment or in a random street corner? What material was it printed on?

Scammers always find a way to spread malware to unwitting victims.

Always check if the QR code comes from a trusted company.

QR codes in a public setting are more prone to tampering, so always use extra caution before scanning them.

3. Verify the credibility of the QR code

To verify the authenticity of a QR code, look into the tiny details.

For instance, a poster with numerous grammatical errors and a bad layout may not be trustworthy.

Or if the QR code is plastered on storefronts or within the premises of an establishment, you can ask the owner or the staff to know where the QR code leads you when scanned.

4. Examine the QR code’s URL

Most QR codes contain URLs or multiple URLs that pop up on the screen upon scanning.

To examine the safety and security of the URL, first, it should have the “https” extension at the beginning of the link address.

Second, the domain name should match the brand or the company name promoting the QR code.

Third, the website should feature the same content as the ones promoted on the poster.

If the landing page displays a login form asking for your personal information, bank details, or your passwords outright, take no action and close the page.

5. Check if it is tampered with a sticker

Scammers tend to attach QR code stickers to an existing QR code image to trick their victims.

Before scanning any codes, scratch the surface of print materials to see if it is tampered with or has been overlain with a sticker.

6. In short: Be cautious before you scan

How to tell if a QR code is legit? It’s the same mindset as the “think before you click” advocacy.

Think before you scan a QR code.

The moment you see a QR code, remember all the other tips above before pointing your smartphone device at it.


Summary

QR code is a brilliant technology that has already been proven to be of great use to various industries.

However, just like phishing schemes that infiltrate email, SMS, direct messaging, and any other technology, scammers are using and abusing QR codes to dupe unsuspecting mobile users.

Fortunately, these QR code scams are avoidable if you follow these simple tips. 

To know about QR codes and QR code generators, you can explore our QR code software product. 

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