Fake QR Code

Fake QR Code: New Scamming Techniques and Security Measures.

In the realm of technological advancements, QR codes have emerged as a popular method for quick information retrieval. However, despite their convenience, not many people give scanning a QR code a second thought. They have become so ingrained in our daily routines that we often place unwavering trust in the codes, assuming they will direct us to the intended destination. Unfortunately, scammers have recognized this trust and are exploiting it to their advantage. In this blog post, we’ll delve into the world of fake QR codes, exploring the risks they malicious pose, the latest scams to be aware of, and crucial tips for staying protected. 

The FBI has also released warnings to consumers about Fake QR codes. “Cybercriminals are tampering with QR codes to redirect victims to malicious sites that steal login and financial information,” the federal agency said. 

FBI warns about cybercriminals tampering with QR codes l GMA 

Scammers Exploiting Basic Spots: 

Scammers are well-aware of the inherent trust people place in QR codes and exploit this vulnerability to their advantage. They strategically target locations where individuals are accustomed to encountering QR codes, such as on parking meters in bustling urban areas. By affixing counterfeit codes to these commonly used devices, scammers trick unsuspecting victims into making payments directly to their own accounts, effectively siphoning off funds for their own gain. The allure of contactless payments, which provide convenience and speed, often blinds us to the potential red flags that should raise caution in our minds. It is crucial to remain vigilant and exercise critical thinking, even when engaging in seemingly routine transactions involving QR codes.  

Latest QR Code Scams: 

  1. Social Media Hacker Accounts: Be cautious of any QR code received in a social media direct message, especially if it is sent by someone you haven’t spoken to in a while. This could be an attempt to trick you into scanning a code that leads to a malicious website or downloads malware onto your device. 
  2. Parking Meters and Tickets: Scammers target large cities where parking meters are prevalent. By tampering with QR codes on these meters, they can trick individuals into making payments to their own accounts, thereby pocketing easy money. Scammers have taken their deceitful tactics to new levels by affixing counterfeit parking tickets on unsuspecting individuals’ vehicles, complete with fake QR codes. When scanned, these fraudulent codes lead victims to deceptive websites, where they are prompted to enter their credit card or bank account details. It is crucial to exercise caution and scrutinize parking tickets before engaging with any QR codes. 
  3. Phishing Emails: Scammers often send emails pretending to be from legitimate organizations, claiming a failed payment and prompting you to scan a QR code to rectify the situation. Exercise caution and verify the authenticity of such emails before taking any action. 
  4. Tampered QR Codes in Restaurants: In today’s digital age, the convenience of scanning QR codes has become second nature for many when dining out. However, this widespread practice has also made restaurants an attractive target for QR code scams. It’s important to remain vigilant, as fake codes can cleverly deceive customers by posing as legitimate platforms but may actually aim to collect excessive personal information under the guise of innocent actions like signing up for an account or accessing menus. 
  5. Surveys via Email: Scammers might entice you with emails inviting you to participate in surveys by scanning a QR code. These codes can lead to websites designed to collect your personal information or install malware on your device. 
  6. COVID-19 Centers: With the ongoing pandemic, scammers are taking advantage of the situation by setting up fake COVID-19 testing centers. They may distribute QR codes that resemble those from legitimate testing centers, attempting to collect unnecessary personal information or mislead unsuspecting individuals. 
  7. Airports/Train Stations: Fake QR codes are increasingly appearing in airports and train stations, posing a significant threat to unsuspecting travelers. These deceptive codes often mimic official scanning systems, leading individuals to believe they are accessing legitimate information or services. Travelers should exercise caution when scanning QR codes in these settings and ensure they are using verified and trusted sources.  

Protecting Yourself from QR Code Scams: 

To protect yourself from the risks posed by fake QR codes, it is essential to implement a series of precautionary measures. By following these guidelines, you can minimize the chances of falling victim to scammers: 

  1. Examine the URL: Before hastily scanning a QR code, carefully analyze the URL it intends to redirect you to, some phone cameras offer a preview of the URL before clicking on it, so take advantage of this feature. Look for any signs of suspicious activity or inconsistencies that deviate from your expectations. If the URL seems questionable or unfamiliar, err on the side of caution and refrain from scanning the code. 
  2. Avoid entering login, personal, or financial information: Practice caution when entering sensitive information from a site navigated to from a QR code. Instead, manually enter a known and trusted URL to complete the payment. 
  3. Check for fake QR code stickers: To ensure your safety, be vigilant against counterfeit QR code stickers. Hackers have been known to affix fraudulent QR codes on signage while displaying a genuine QR code. When scanning QR codes, it is crucial to meticulously scrutinize their branding, appearance, and any signs of wear. If you come across a QR code sticker that appears pristine and flawless, while the signage behind it appears aged and faded, consider it a prominent warning sign.
  4. Watch for Spelling Errors: Scammers often employ subtle tactics to deceive individuals, such as inserting minor spelling mistakes or using domain names that closely resemble legitimate websites. Take the time to scrutinize the URL for any discrepancies that might indicate a fraudulent attempt. Even a slight deviation from the correct spelling or structure should raise red flags and warrant further investigation. 
  5. Beware of Shortened URLs: Scammers frequently utilize shortened URLs in QR codes, concealing the full web address and making it challenging for individuals to discern the actual destination they are being directed to. Exercise extra caution when encountering such URLs. If possible, use URL expanding services or web browser extensions that can reveal the complete URL behind a shortened link before proceeding. 
  6. Stay Updated on Security Practices: Stay informed about the latest security practices and trends related to QR code usage. Regularly educate yourself about emerging scam techniques and the best ways to protect yourself. By staying knowledgeable and aware, you can enhance your ability to detect potential threats and respond appropriately. 

Remember, an extra moment of scrutiny can go a long way in safeguarding your personal information and preventing unwanted consequences. By adopting these precautions, you can confidently navigate the QR code landscape and minimize the risks associated with fake QR codes. 

Should You Scan QR Codes? 

While QR codes offer convenience and efficiency, it’s essential to approach them with caution. Be vigilant, especially when scanning codes from unknown or suspicious sources. When in doubt, it’s better to err on the side of caution and refrain from scanning QR codes if you cannot verify their legitimacy. QR codes have undoubtedly simplified various aspects of our lives, but the rise of fake QR codes demands increased awareness and caution. Scammers are constantly finding new ways to exploit our trust and vulnerability. By understanding the latest scams, adopting protective measures, and maintaining a skeptical mindset, you can mitigate the risks associated with fake QR codes and navigate the digital world more safely. 

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About the Author

Caitlin Bergsma
Caitlin Bergsma

Caitlin is an accomplished Marketing professional with an unwavering enthusiasm for the dynamic world of the IT industry. Caitlin's journey in the field began after earning her Bachelor's degree in Health Communications from Trinity Christian College, where she honed her skills and developed a keen eye for identifying market trends.

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