Don’t Get Scammed by This QR Code Scheme

( – QR codes are everywhere these days. You scan them at restaurants and bars to use their digital menu. Schools use them to inform parents of policies, special events and schedule changes. They’re used to check in to see doctors, to pick up theatre tickets, and to pay for parking. Like many things meant to streamline modern life, they have now been repurposed by scammers for stealing money and identities.

One common QR scam is when the perpetrators cover up a legitimate QR code with a sticker with their own more nefarious one. These may be found in easy to access public spaces like parking garages, parking meter stations, bike share racks, concert venues, or on a publicly posted flier advertising some service or even asking for help. These will often lead you to a sham website that may look extremely similar to an official one.

Other attempts to trick people into scanning the misleading QR codes are more direct. They are sent with some constructed urgency by email or text. In this case the scammer will try to convince their target to scan it without considering it first. Commonly, the scammer will pretend to be from a delivery company or other legitimate business. They will tell people there are problems with their accounts or that they have a package that cannot be delivered.

There are some easy ways to protect yourself. Do not scan codes that are someplace they are not expected to be. Check to see if an official QR code is printed on a sign or on a sticker. When you have been sent one in a text or email, do not click on the code at all. If you are concerned there is a real issue with a business or other organization that you have dealings with, you should use a trusted website or phone number to contact them directly instead of using the QR code. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) also recommends keeping your phone’s operating system updated to help protect your data.

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