MADISON, WB (WBAY) – A growing number of businesses are using quick response codes – also known as QR codes – which can be scanned with a smartphone to help customers, but consumer experts warn the technology is also being used by crooks.
“QR codes or quick response codes have many legitimate reasons, especially during the pandemic we have seen their popularity increase. People can use them to scan a restaurant menu or contactless payments, so there are a lot of good purposes and uses for QR codes. But, as we’ve seen in the past, scammers take advantage of these new technologies and use them to deceive consumers, ”said Susan Bach of the Better Business Bureau of Wisconsin.
BBB officials claim that at least one person who reported being scammed through the BBB Scam Tracker website said they received a letter in the mail with a QR code. However, the agency claims that crooks can also send you an email, direct social media message, text message, flyer, or letter containing a QR code. It then tells you to scan the code with your phone’s camera and it will open a link.
Additionally, the BBB says some scams cause the QR code to take you to a phishing website, where you are then asked to enter your personal information or login credentials for the crooks to steal.
There have also been cases of scammers using QR codes to automatically launch payment apps or to track a malicious social media account.
“Yes, we’ve seen examples on our scam tracking portal, where people received a letter in the mail with a QR code with an offer to help them consolidate their student debt. It looked official, like it was the Ministry of Education, but in reality it was a letter from a scammer trying to get him to prepay money to consolidate this and like we know you shouldn’t have to pay to consolidate your student loan debt, ”Bach said.
So what can you do to avoid getting scammed by a QR code?
“The problem is, QR codes aren’t really readable by the naked eye, so crooks are really using them to direct people to malicious websites, or download malware or phishing for their personal information. So you really have to be wary of clicking on a QR code, or allowing your phone’s camera to scan it, ”Bach said. “If it appears or claims to be from a legitimate site you really want to verify the source, then go to the government website it appears to be from to verify. There are apps you can use to scan this QR code so that you can see where it will redirect you, that would be a really good idea, so that you can avoid being misled to a scam site. But really, just avoid clicking on QR codes from sources that send them to you unsolicited. Do not click QR codes in social media, websites, letters, or anything from an unsolicited or strange source. I think that would be wise. You just want to make sure that you don’t click on any kind of malicious link, or a link that will take you to a phishing website, things like that.
If you think you’ve been the victim of a QR scam, CLICK HERE to report it to BBB scam tracker.
Other tips for avoiding QR scams:
- If someone you know sends you a QR code, confirm before scanning it
- Don’t open stranger links
- Check the source
- Beware of short links
- Beware of advertising material that has been tampered with
- Install a QR scanner with additional security
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