Scan smart! How to stay safe from QR code scams.

Geoff Thomas
Director, Marketing

Have you ever scanned a QR code with your phone? You know, those square barcodes that show up on menus, ads, flyers, and social media posts. They are supposed to make things easier and faster for you, right? Just point your camera and get instant access to a website, a payment app, or a social media account. But did you know that QR codes can also be used by scammers to trick you into giving away your personal or financial information, downloading malware, or paying for something you don’t want? Unfortunately, these kinds of scams are on the rise.  


How can QR codes be used for fraud?

QR code scams are hard to detect because QR codes are not readable by the human eye. Knowing this, scammers will create fake QR codes and replace legitimate ones or send them through emails, social media, flyers, or ads relying on the fact that you don’t know where exactly the code is taking you. When you scan the fake QR code, it can take you to a malicious website that can steal your personal or financial information, download malware, or ask for payments. Scammers can also use QR codes to automatically launch payment apps or follow a malicious social media account. 


Examples of QR code scams

Some recent ways scammers are using QR codes include: 

  • Parking meter payment scams. At some parking lots, you can now pay for your parking by scanning QR codes to take you to the payment site. In this scam, the criminals replace the legitimate QR codes on the parking meters. When you scan the QR code, you’re taken to a fake website to steal your credit card details. Now you’re paying for a lot more than just that parking space. 
  • Restaurant menu scams. Due to the pandemic, many restaurants have switched to online menus accessible through QR codes instead of physical menus. Scammers can take advantage of this by placing their own QR codes over the original ones on the tables or windows of restaurants. When you scan the fake QR codes, you’re taken to phishing websites that ask for your personal information or download spyware onto your phone. 
  • Online shopping scams. Scammers can use social media posts, TV ads, or flyers to advertise products or services with attractive prices and include QR codes that supposedly link to their websites. However, when you scan the QR codes, you’re taken to fake websites to steal your personal and payment information or direct you to download fake apps.

How can you avoid QR code scams?

QR codes are everywhere now! So what precautions can you take to help avoid getting duped by fraudulent QR codes?

  • Don’t open links from strangers. If you receive an unsolicited message from a stranger with a QR code, don’t scan it, even if they promise you exciting gifts or investment opportunities.
  • If you scan a code that then requires you to install an app, make sure that they’re available in the iOS or Android app stores to help avoid malware.
  • Be wary of short links. If a URL-shortened link appears when you scan a QR code, be careful because it could be hiding a malicious URL.
  • Watch out for advertising materials that have been tampered with. Some scammers attempt to mislead consumers by altering legitimate business ads, such as placing stickers over the QR code. 
  • Keep your phone updated with the latest security patches and antivirus software.

QR codes can be convenient and useful tools if used correctly and safely. However, they can also be exploited by scammers who want to steal your information or money. Don’t let them fool you! Always be cautious and vigilant when scanning any QR code. But if you do fall victim to a QR code scam or any other identity theft scam, know that we’re here to help safeguard your identity and restore it if needed.

Remember to stay vigilant, stay informed, and stay safe.

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