BBB Warns of Recently Reported QR Code Scams

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As you might expect, crooks are finding ways to profit from the use of QR codes in the modern market. QR codes (quick response codes) seem to be everywhere now. Resembling tiny works of abstract art, the little dotted squares of computer codes are found on transportation tickets, advertisements, in-store product labels, and entertainment tickets. They are useful for such purposes as tracking packages and displaying menus. When easily scanned by cell phones, QR codes instantly direct consumers to websites or other applications.

As a form of contactless transactions, they have proliferated during the pandemic. Unfortunately, with this proliferation comes an increase in the number of scammers who have latched onto the QR code as a means of directing your private information and money into the hands of crooks. Your Better Business Bureau (BBB) ​​receives reports of such scams and offers the following information as a way to protect consumers from this recent technological threat.

How QR scams work

Consumers report misrouting codes in emails, direct social media messages, text messages, flyers, and regular mail. Fake QR codes are sometimes applied as stickers on legitimate codes. They have even shown up in restaurants, where they are stuck on napkin dispensers supposedly directing customers to the establishment’s menu.

Once scanned with a cell phone, the code can lead to a bogus website designed to retrieve your personal financial data, login credentials and, in turn, steal your money.

A consumer reported to BBB Scam Tracker that he had received a bogus letter regarding the student loan consolidation. It looked like the code linked to the legitimate studentaid.gov website, but it was scam. Also fraudulent was another person’s message claiming their electricity would be cut off unless they quickly paid their bill at a nearby gas station via a QR code. The codes have also been used fraudulently in association with coin transactions.

Keep QR scams at bay

Here are the points to remember when using QR codes:

• In any public place, look carefully for evidence that a fake QR code sticker has been applied to a legitimate business sticker.

• Don’t trust a QR code sent to you by a friend on social media. Your friend’s account may have been hacked specifically for this purpose. Instead of scanning the code, contact the friend and verify that they sent it to you.

• Never open stranger links, especially QR code links. Pay no attention to promises of gifts or investment opportunities.

• When a code appears to be from a trusted source, double check. If correspondence appears to be from a government agency, call or visit their official website to confirm.

• Beware of shortened URL links as they won’t reveal where the code is taking you. It could be a malicious URL.

• Use a QR scanner with added security. There are antivirus companies that have scanning apps that can check the security of a scanned link before opening it. They are useful for identifying phishing scams, forcing downloads of apps, etc.

If you have any questions or concerns about QR Code scams, contact your BBB at 800-856-2417 or visit bbb.org.


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