QR codes are becoming much more common, especially in recent years. You can find them almost anywhere, whether in advertisements, at your favorite restaurant, or at the checkout counter. Quick Response (QR) codes can make it fast and convenient to access a particular website, make a payment, or view information — just a quick scan using your phone will allow you to open a webpage on your screen. However, it is always important to stay vigilant, because not every QR code is as it seems.
Because QR codes are effortless to generate, cybercriminals are taking advantage of this quick and convenient functionality in an attempt to steal users’ information and data. For example, ABC News reported on a series of fake QR codes appearing on parking meters in San Antonio, Texas. Scanning this QR code directed users to a fraudulent site to submit payment to a phony vendor. While providing your payment details to a scammer is already very serious, the FBI warns that fake QR codes can also contain embedded malware that downloads straight onto your device.
To avoid scanning a fake QR code, the most crucial thing you can do is inspect the URL that pops up while scanning the code. Most devices will preview the URL that the QR code directs to, similar to the hover over feature on a computer. If the URL doesn’t match where you intended to visit, do not go any further! Always be cautious of unmarked QR codes or codes that promise a deal that seems extreme — if it looks too good to be true, it probably is. Finally, it is best practice to avoid sharing personal details or payment information via a QR code if possible. Instead, you should navigate to the company’s website by typing it into your browser directly.
We hope that spreading awareness of these common scams helps you stay vigilant and stay safe online. Click here to read about other types of online scams and get some great tips to help you protect your personal data.