QR Code Scams | Right Hand Technology Group | Cybersecurity in Pittsburgh

What are QR codes?

It seems like lately Quick Response codes (QR Codes) have been popping up everywhere. They’re a type of barcode that consists of many pixel-shaped blocks and is readable by mobile devices such as smartphones. Establishments such as restaurants, medical offices, retail stores, etc. have benefited from this contactless form of sharing information, such as URLs and links to app downloads. As a result of the measures many had to take due to the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses from all over the world have been relying on QR codes more than ever. Unfortunately, this has opened the door for bad actors to tamper with QR codes, trying to steal information from unsuspecting individuals.

How does the scam work?

Fraudsters aim to trick unsuspecting victims into providing banking or other personal information after scanning a malicious QR code. And since almost everyone nowadays is in possession of a smartphone, it makes the majority of people vulnerable to these types of scams.

The city of Austin, TX for instance, experienced a “pay to park” scam where fraudsters left maliciously designed QR codes on parking meters, which led unsuspecting victims to a bogus website form deviously crafted to collect ‘payment’ for parking.

How can I avoid falling victim to QR Code Scams?

Unfortunately, security software doesn’t always protect against these scams, so follow these tips to avoid falling victim:

  • Exercise caution while scanning QR codes; verify that the code isn’t simply a sticker covering another QR code.
  • Be vigilant of QR codes placed in suspect areas (e.g., telephone post, bus stop shelters, etc.)
  • Whenever you do scan a QR code, observe the destination URL and verify that it’s from a legitimate source, and not a phishing site. Avoid QR codes from unknown sources.
  • Avoid inputting personal information, such as payment information, into a website or form after scanning a QR code.
  • Stay away from QR code scanning apps; most smartphone cameras already have QR code scanning capabilities.
  •   Dario Rampersad
  •   Mar 09, 2022
  •   Blog