Frauds involving QR codes are notoriously difficult to detect

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Keeping an eye out is a good idea. It’s not easy to recognize a fake QR code fraud.

Although quick response (QR) codes have been available for a while, their popularity grew during the COVID-19 pandemic. As an example, the square black-and-white illustrations on a restaurant’s menu reduced the potential for injury. They don’t need to handle it; instead, they may view it on their phones.

A few cons, however, emerged along with the renewed interest. Scammers have released bogus QR code apps despite the fact that you don’t need one to access the embedded links.

Scammers are now disseminating dangerous QR codes to unwary victims by posting them in stores around the country and by other means. Keep reading to learn more about these deceptive practices and how to protect yourself.

Here’s what led up to it

Quick Response codes (QR codes) are a form of barcode that was developed quite some time ago. Information like a website address, app link, or contact details is encoded in the optical label using random patterns.

To use them, simply point your smartphone camera at the QR code; a link to a brief explanation will open in your browser. Nonetheless, before clicking the URL, you often have no idea where it will take you.

The BBB issues a nationwide alert about scammers using dangerous QR codes. The Better Business Bureau warned that malicious QR codes might lead users to malicious websites that steal personal information or facilitate the installation of malware on a user’s device.

Some current QR code hoaxes include the following:

  • Payments at parking meters – Bogus QR codes are frequently affixed to the back of parking meters, leading unsuspecting drivers to think they can be scanned in exchange for cash. If it is a fake QR code, you will not be charged for parking. Instead, your money will go to con artists and the tow truck may be waiting for you when you get back.
  • Crypto -Scammers will spend months cultivating an intimate relationship with a potential victim before asking for money through a cryptocurrency exchange or offering investing advice related to cryptocurrencies in exchange for access to a victim’s cryptocurrency wallet. The victim, fooled into thinking the con artist is in financial straits or acting in their best interest, scans a QR code and sends the money to the fraudster’s virtual wallet.
  • Phishing scams – Scammers send harmful QR codes, sending victims to phishing websites or downloads that will infect devices with malware.
  • False public servants and utility workers – Several victims have said they have received calls from government agencies claiming they owe money. The agent threatens arrest, further fines, or disconnection of utilities if the overdue bill is not paid. The normal payment mechanism for these services, so the con artist claims, is temporarily down. However, there is another portal the victim can use to pay, and it’s as easy as scanning a QR code to steal your money, the code will take you to a fake website.

How to scan QR codes with your phone

Keep in mind that you may scan QR codes with any camera-enabled mobile device. There is an automatic mode on your phone’s camera that will take care of it for you. You may, however, need to allow QR code scanning on your mobile device. How to do it is explained below.

For the iPhone:

  • Tap Settings.
  • Scroll down and tap Camera.
  • Scan QR Codes is the second-to-last option in the first group.
  • If the tool is not already active, you can activate it by sliding it to the right. When functioning, it will show as green.

For Android:

  • Turn on your Android camera.
  • Choose a preferred configuration by clicking the gear.
  • Modify the parameters by selecting the More option.
  • Enable Google Lens suggestions.

How to protect yourself against fake QR codes

Some tips for avoiding QR code scams:

  • Before scanning a QR code sent to you by text or social media, be sure you’ve verified with the sender that they intended to send it to you and that they haven’t been hacked.
  • Don’t click on unfamiliar links, and avoid scanning QR codes for unwanted messages from unknown senders. Be especially wary if the communication promises something of great value, such as free stuff or a chance to make money, if you respond right away. This is a common tactic used by con artists, who count on their victims to make snap judgments without first checking the message’s legitimacy.
  • Watch out for short links – Picture this: when you hover your camera over a QR code, an abbreviated URL pops up. If so, there’s no telling where clicking on it will take you. Verify the authenticity of the QR code before scanning it, as some of these codes have been known to lead to rogue websites. While visiting a website, it is a good idea to check if the domain and subdomain make sense for the company running the site by looking at the URL. Scammers frequently alter the URL by changing the domain or subdomain or by slightly misspelling one word to make it look like a reputable resource.
  • Be wary of fraudsters who try to trick you by putting stickers over QR codes or modifying official-looking business advertisements. Keep a watch out for any tampering and report it to the business so they can verify the QR code’s authenticity. Most establishments will laminate or put a glass sheet over a QR code so that it may be scanned at all times. Sometimes, right in the heart of the code, you’ll find the company’s logo.



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