FTC Warns Consumers of New QR Code Scam

(NewsReady.com) – QR codes are an easy way for businesses to direct people to information they want them to know. The two-dimensional matrix barcodes were actually created by a Japanese company in the ‘90s to label automobile parts but have spread across most industries. While it’s a great tool, consumers should also be aware of QR scams.

According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), scammers are using QR codes to steal the identities of victims. They do this by putting a QR code in a place where they are commonly found. For example, the scammer will create a code and then put it at concert venues, parking garages or meter stations, bike racks, or other places. They might even cover up the QR code of a legitimate business.

Scammers also send QR codes through email and text messages. The FTC warned that a message often accompanies the code that indicates an urgent matter needs to be attended to. The federal agency explained that the schemers want victims “to scan the QR code and open the URL without thinking about it.”

Once the victim scans the code and opens the URL, the scammer uses a phony website that looks like a legitimate site to prompt the consumer to put their information on the site. Then the scammer steals their private information and, sometimes, their identity. Other times, the URL is a malicious link that places malware on the consumer’s device.

Preventing QR code identity theft is easy. Like anything else, consumers should not scan codes from emails and texts from an unknown sender. They should not scan the codes if they receive them unexpectedly, either. Always check the code’s URL before clicking it. Does it contain misspellings? If it’s a government site, does it end in .gov?

It’s also important for consumers to keep their phone’s software up to date. Those software updates protect phones from malware.

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