If you’ve been to a restaurant lately, you may have noticed these on the table instead of menus:
These are called QR codes (quick response codes). Pointing your phone’s camera at one will redirect your mobile browser to whatever the code chooses – in this example, to the restaurant’s online menu. Unfortunately cybercriminals have latched onto our newfound trust with using QR codes in day-to-day pandemic life, targeting everyone from job hunters to Bitcoin traders to college students wanting a break on their student loans.
The Better Business Bureau (BBB) recently warned consumers to watch out for a growing list of scams that involve QR codes as their simplicity makes them very attractive for scammers.
How theses scams work
You might receive an email, direct message on social media, text message, flyer or a piece of mail that includes a QR code. In it you are asked to scan the code with your phone’s camera to take advantage of the offer, which by the way, is often too good to be true. In some scams the QR code will take you to a phishing website where you are prompted to enter your personal information or login credentials for scammers to steal. Others automatically launch payment apps, follow malicious social media accounts or even download a malware monitoring app onto your phone.
These scams differ greatly, but they all have one thing in common: scammers hope you will scan the code without really taking a closer look at where it’s coming from. For example, one victim told BBB Scam Tracker that they received a fraudulent letter about student loan consolidation. It contained a QR code that appeared to link to the “official” Studentaid.gov website, which turned out to be fake and was just gathering private information for nefarious purposes.
How to avoid QR code scams
Here are 5 quick tips to keep yourself from becoming a victim:
1) Have you received a QR code from someone you know? Check with them first
It could be that their phone or social media account has been hacked.
2) Don’t take candy or open links from strangers
Don’t scan QR codes from strangers, especially if they’re promising exciting gifts or investment opportunities. Don’t take candy either.
3) Check yourself before your wreck yourself
If a QR code seems to be from a reputable source such as a bank or government agency, double check. Call or visit their official website to confirm the solicitation.
4) Watch out for advertising materials that have been tampered with
Some scammers attempt to mislead consumers by altering legitimate business ads by placing stickers over the QR code. Keep an eye out for signs of tampering.
5) Install added security on your mobile device
Cylanda has the ability to check the safety of a scanned link before you open it. We can identify phishing scams, forced app downloads and other dangerous links. More information here.
Scammers are calling the pandemic a Golden Age for Cybercrime. Do your part to help keep the community protected!
Stay safe out there.