QR Code Scams Are on the Rise, FTC Warns — Here's How to Avoid Falling for the Grift From fake stickers to spoofed sites, here are all the ways criminals use QR codes to steal your information (and money).
Last week, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued a consumer alert warning Americans about scammers "hiding harmful links in QR codes to steal your information."
The agency said it has received "reports of scammers covering up QR codes on parking meters with a QR code of their own."
In July, actor DL Hughley posted a video of the same kind of scam on Instagram with the caption: "Don't do anything using QR codes to pay. Pay directly through the site. Take the few minutes to set up an account and protect your info!"
In the video, the TikTok account @atlscoop warns viewers that criminals are placing fake QR code stickers on top of real codes in parking garages. The video was taken in Atlanta.
The agency offered several examples of how these scams happen, such as being directed to a spoofed website, getting an "undeliverable package" message, or telling you there's a problem or suspicious activity on your account.
The FTC also warns that scammers will try to create a sense of urgency after getting your contact information. "They want you to scan the QR code and open the URL without thinking about it," the warning reads.
If you get scammed, dont take it personally. The FBI also issued a QR code warning in July 2022. The agency noted that some of the spoofed sites look very real. In fact, some phone numbers will even have a bank's caller ID, Wells Fargo warned.
How to protect yourself from QR code scams, according to the FTC
- If you scan a QR code, inspect the URL before opening it. Even if it looks the same, look for easy-to-miss misspellings or a random switched letter.
- Don't scan QR codes in texts and emails you weren't expecting. Use a phone number you've used before, or go directly to the website to contact the company.
- Keep your phone and computer updated. Use strong passwords and multi-factor authentication and keep the device's operating systems up-to-date.