Quick Response(QR) codes have been present in the market for more than two decades now, although their importance was gained during the initial stage of the pandemic. QR codes are the easiest and most beneficial way to access any program or make a payment. But is it always safe? Nowadays, people give second thoughts while scanning a QR in a restaurant, be it for menus or related to bill payment. Because scammers have started to take advantage of this technique by morphing the QR codes linked to a website and stealing financial credentials or doing something even worse. Hence, this guide contains the techniques to avoid and protect yourself from QR code scams, along with the precautions to take if you have been scammed by a QR code fraud.
IN THIS ARTICLE
What are QR Code Scams?
Quick Response or QR code is a two-dimensional barcode that is a device-readable optical label that contains the information about the thing, which is attached and directed to the locator, identifier, or tracker that points towards a random platform or application. Recently, with the help of this technology, scammers have an easy chance to fraud innocent people. QR codes are available at every single location, from small convenience stores to big jewelry shops.
After the pandemic, people rarely keep cash on them because it is easy to make a transaction through their phones, by scanning QR barcodes rather than carrying heavy wallets in their hands or bulking up their pockets all the time. Due to this, scammers have started a new trend where they create fake QR codes in the name of charity and other donation schemes, which directs people to the unauthorized website which grasps a victim’s bank account details, turning out to be terrible.
Types of QR Code Scams
Fake QR codes sent through phishing emails
There is a traditional way of scamming people, which is through spoof emails. The email defines various offers and some random gift vouchers, but to redeem them a person has to click on the link provided in the mail. Although, it is a trap that leads to malicious websites that pull out all the information, it may get more dangerous if that information includes bank account details.
However, in this QR code scan scam, while sending a link in the mail, scammers sent a QR code claiming several emergencies or different counterfeit reasons. For example, a scammer will claim that he is a retailer from a trusted company in the marketplace and that you have purchased a product from them in the past. Further, they will send a mail stating the payment procedure has yet to be completed, and to do so; they will send one more mail with a QR code claiming that this will be the last step and then your order will be placed. To prevent this, cross-check with your internet banking application and see if that shows any anonymous debit statement, or check your SMS inbox if you have received any message through the bank regarding the order.
Tempering of QR codes in Restaurants
Restaurants are adapting to the method of viewing a menu through a QR barcode that’s scanned by their customer’s mobile phones. It is the most common way adopted in many countries, and now many developing countries are starting to adopt this method. In this case, scammers try to act viciously and switch the bar and food menu codes with malicious barcodes, redirecting their targets toward phishing websites that steal your personal information.
If you are unsure and want to prevent this situation, ask a different restaurant staff member if the website and URL provided is correct. And to be extra cautious, visit the restaurant’s website manually to see if it matches the one approved by the management. And in the end, if you are still unsure, pay with cash and follow extra precautions.
QR codes used at fraudulent COVID testing centers
This method is the most common scam reported during the pandemic. When a person used to arrive for vaccination through an appointment or walk in, the testing center used to tell the person to scan a QR code which was a fake sign in process. Further, it would ask for some personal information under the name of ‘issuing a vaccination certificate,’ which seems unnatural, further redirecting towards spoofing websites where it missues your information in several ways. The information may include Social Security Number, bank details, or even a driver’s license as a reference.
Although, to suppress these QR code frauds, connect with authorized testing centers and pharmacies, where they do not ask you to scan any QR codes and deliver the results on time as per their quotes.
A Charity or A Stranger in need scam
This is the most traditional method of scamming. Scammers approach face-to-face in this situation while making a crafty story about the charitable trust somewhere nearby and ensuring proof that they have been implementing this for a long time and are officially registered with a simple website, which is generally fake. Also, there are some scammers who come up with a made-up story saying that their loved ones are suffering from some illness and need some money to attain a cure. Further, they offer a QR barcode so they can log in to the victim’s account and steal their personal information.
To avoid this kind of fake stories that turn into QR code scams, refrain from acknowledging them at first, and if you feel they might be genuine, search more about the foundation they quote that they belong to and cross-check their history and other things.
How to spot QR Code Scams?
- First and foremost, if a QR code directs you to an anonymous page rather than the page you were instructed to, it must be one of these QR code scanner scams.
- If a QR code, maybe for payment, directs you to a page that asks you to give out your personal information to get through further steps, it is entitled to be a scam.
- If you receive any QR code while making a payment for a purchase that you have made online and it takes a more extended period through the payment procedure, it might be as permitted by a scam.
- Beware when scanning a QR code posted on any flyers, pamphlets, or stickers. If someone you don’t know personally claims that these are for survey purposes, with a suspicious approach, then it might lead to a scam.
- Last but not least, the most common QR code scam to spot is at restaurants and cafes. Recently, they have adopted a new style of presenting menus and bill payment procedures. They provide scanners that direct you toward the menu. But in this scenario, QR code hackers take part and swap the menu barcode with their malicious code, which leads them to phishing websites, where they then hack in and pull out their information.
How to avoid a QR Code Scam?
Check if the QR code is vandalized
Scams using QR code try to mislead a person by altering valid business ads or printing stickers on QRs. However, most businesses permanently install scannable QR codes in their companies by using lamination or placing it behind glass. They sometimes include their company logo in the code, often in the middle.
Avoid making quick decisions
if you obtain any unsolicited message from an unknown person consisting of a QR code, do not scan it immediately. These messages may portray exciting gifts or great investment deals, but under one condition, if you scan the QR right away. Scammers use this kind of language conventionally and expect from their target to make the decision quickly before verifying its authentication.
if you receive a text from your friend or any known person on social media, cross-check with them whether they have actually sent the QR code by themself or the account has been hacked by someone. Social media is the most accessible platform to execute these kinds of scams because everybody relies on each other and believes that the other must be genuine and could be in real need.
How to stay away from QR Code Scams?
- Never share your bank details and UPI IDs with anyone, be it a known or unknown person.
- If someone from an unknown source asks you for an OTP, claiming that it is related to the update of your bank account, do not provide it! It includes confidential and authenticating login details that may be used for illegal instances.
- Whenever you are about to make an online payment or receive one from an unknown source, first check if that is genuine. For example, if you are buying something from OLX or Shopify, look for the seller’s joining date, name, number, profile picture, and more. Check if someone has reported about the inconvenience caused by the seller previously; these platforms exhibit their information.
- Ensure to make it safe with a security code if you use an online medium for transacting more often. Online payment platforms include PayPal, Apple Pay, Google Pay, and many more. It also permits the user to create a security pin for their account safety, and every time they open the app, it will ensure that no one without the security pin code gets access to it.
- The best possible way to stay safe away from these QR code scams is to try and deal in cash most of the time. However, cashless transactions are a great trait, provided you use suitable preventive measures.
How to protect yourself from QR Code Scams?
Survey about the URL before scanning the QR code
Primarily, your phone will convey where the link will direct you to. Cross-check the URL ID with the respective personnel within the establishment to determine if it is genuine or not.
Prevent scanning a QR code in public or one received via mail
a QR code set in public places or sent by malicious mail can be set up by the scammer or tempered by them after the placement of the respective authority. To steer clear of QR code cams, avoid scanning these codes and rather pay in cash wherever necessary.
Signs of a phishing website
Look out for signs that you’ve landed on a fraudulent website, which may include misspelled words and typos, low-quality images and unprofessional design, and, most critically unsecure URLs. Since secure sites use HTTPS and not HTTP, even though they will display a padlock icon near their URL.
Do not download any QR code scanning apps
only use your phone’s camera to scan any QR code. There is no external need for any tools to scan QR; there might be fraudulent apps that could claim to be genuine, then trying to pull out all your personal information once you register yourself in it.
What to do if you have been Scammed by QR Code Scam?
If a QR code scan fraud has scammed you, firstly, do not panic or get frustrated. Mentioned below are some of the things that you should keep in mind after facing this situation:-
Change the passwords for all your online accounts
Update your id and passwords on every online website. Use secure passwords consisting of a minimum of six digits, including upper case letters, lower case letters, some numerals, and even symbols. Also, start using a password manager, which makes you alert if something goes wrong with your accounts. For added security, use two-step authentication, a verification that no one can enter undoubtedly.
Contact your bank and credit card company
Connect with your bank or credit card company’s fraud department immediately and narrate the situation to them. After hearing your disguise, they will immediately close your account and open a new one without any excessive formalities.
Enroll for identity theft protection
Identity theft protection is a process that monitors all of your most delicate personal information, online accounts, and finances from the signs of fraud. If a scammer tries to get access to your accounts or finances, this process alerts you, letting you take action before any damage is done.
Report the scam
If you have made a payment to a scammer, it becomes crucial that you report the scammer and take actions against them. Although the bank may not always be able to track or reverse the paid amount. But, fortunately, there are fund recovery agencies like Financial Fund Recovery who can do the needful. Start by reaching out to a reliable fund recovery specialist and disclose how the scam occurred. These experts then handle the investigation and recovery process.
Have you been a victim of a QR code scam? Give us a call to get assistance with recovery. Get your lost money back with the help of our professionals.