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March 2024

Proceed with caution when scanning QR codes

QR codes seem to be everywhere. You may have scanned one to see the menu at a restaurant or to pay for public parking. You may have used one on your phone to get into a concert or sporting event, or to board a flight. Unfortunately, scammers hide harmful links in QR codes to steal personal information. Here’s what to know:

“QR” stands for “quick response.” The QR code is a square image that you can scan with your phone—usually by just pointing your camera at it.

There are reports of scammers covering up QR codes on parking meters with a QR code of their own. Some crafty scammers might even send you a QR code by text message or email and make up a reason for you to scan it. These are some of the ways they try to gain your attention:

  • They say they couldn’t deliver your package and you need to contact them to reschedule
  • They say there’s a problem with your account and you need to confirm your information
  • They say they noticed suspicious activity on your account and you need to change your password

These are all false statements they tell you to create a sense of urgency. They want you to scan the QR code and open the URL without thinking about it.

A scammer’s QR code could take you to a spoofed site that looks real but isn’t. If you log in to the spoofed site, the scammers could gain access to any information you enter, or the QR code could install malware that steals your information before you realize it.

So how can you protect yourself?

  • Do not scan a randomly found QR code.
  • Be suspicious if, after scanning a QR code, the site asks for a password or login information.
  • Do not scan QR codes received in emails or text messages unless you know they are legitimate. Call the sender to confirm.
  • Some scammers are physically pasting bogus codes over legitimate ones. If it looks as though a code has been tampered with, don’t use it. Use the same caution with legitimate ads you pick up or get in the mail.

< Source=Federal Trade Commission Consumer Advice, Federal Bureau of Investigation>

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