Companies use Quick Response (QR) Codes to point consumers to their apps, pay parking meters, track packages, view menus, and more. But because the human eye can’t read these codes, they have become a new way for scammers to disguise malicious links. As QR codes grow in usage, BBB Scam Tracker is seeing more reports of con artists using them to mislead consumers.
“Something to always keep in mind,” Mechele Agbayani Mills, President, and CEO of BBB Serving Central East Texas, said. “Is that whenever new technology grows in popularity, scam artists will capitalize on that trend.”
Where users found fraudulent QR codes recently:
Parking meter payments. Be on the lookout for fake QR codes on the back of parking meters designed to lure victims away from the legitimate payment portal.
Cryptocurrency wallets. While some may be legitimate, use caution when cryptocurrency traders direct investors to digital wallets via a QR code.
Phishing scams. Watch QR codes that send victims to phishing websites or contain malware-infected downloads.
These scams differ significantly, but they all have one thing in common. Scammers hope you will scan the code immediately, without taking a closer look. QR codes often appear to come from legitimate sources, so make sure any correspondence is legitimate before you scan the code.
How to Avoid QR Scams
If someone you know sends you a QR code, confirm it before scanning it. Whether you receive a text message from a friend or a message on social media from your workmate, contact that person directly before you use the QR code to ensure someone hasn’t hacked your friend.
Don’t open links from strangers. If you receive an unsolicited message from a stranger, don’t scan the QR code, even if they promise you exciting gifts or investment opportunities.
Verify the source. If a QR code appears to come from a reputable source, it’s wise to double-check. Call or visit their official website to confirm if the correspondence seems to come from a government agency.
Be wary of short links. If a URL-shortened link appears when you scan a QR code, understand that you can’t know where the code is directing you. It could be hiding a malicious URL.
Watch out for advertising materials that someone may have altered. Some scammers attempt to mislead consumers by changing legitimate business ads by placing stickers over the QR code. Keep an eye out for signs of tampering.
Install a QR scanner with added security. Some antivirus companies have QR scanner apps that check a scanned link’s safety before opening it. They can identify phishing scams, forced app downloads, and other dangerous links.
For More Information
To learn more about protecting your information online, read the BBB’s tips on data privacy and cyber security.
If you’ve been the victim of a QR scam, report it at BBB.org/ScamTracker. Information provided may prevent another person from falling victim.
For more tips on becoming a savvy consumer, go to bbb.org. To report fraudulent activity or unscrupulous business practices, please call BBB at 903-581-5704 or use BBB ScamTracker.