QR code scams: What to know and how to avoid them

ByNydia Han WPVI logo
Thursday, April 11, 2024
QR code scams: What to know and how to avoid them
QR code scams: What to know and how to avoid them

PHILADELPHIA -- QR codes are everywhere, but that doesn't mean all of them are safe to use.

It's estimated that this year alone, about 98 million Americans will scan a QR code with their phone. But while QR codes are convenient, experts say you need to pause before you scan.

What is a QR code?

By now you probably know when you scan the code using your smartphone, it brings up a link to a specific website. Then, you can just tap that link to go to that online page.

"Everyone uses QR codes now and they became really popular due to their simplicity manner of it," said Gerald Kasulis of NordVPN.

However, cyber security experts say as with anything online, you have to be vigilant.

"It's almost close to three-quarters of Americans so 73% do not actually check QR codes before scanning them," he said.

More than 26 million people in the U.S. have been taken to an untrustworthy site and one in six of them had personal data stolen, and that's not all that can happen.

How to spot a scam

"A lot of times it could be a lot more malicious than that. So, the QR code itself could actually take you to a page where automatically your phone gets infected with malware," Kasulis said.

Here's the advice: Only scan QR codes given to you by people or organizations you know and trust.

If you aren't certain do an internet search for the information you're trying to find. Also, consider using a dedicated QR code scanning app instead of your phone's camera to scan.

"Those apps tend to have security measures implemented that stop malware attacks."

If a QR code does take you to an unrelated or suspicious website do not provide any personal information and exit the page.

This information is really important because QR codes are only going to become more common. In 2024, four times more QR codes are expected to be created than in 2021.

And by next year, more than 100 million Americans will be using them.