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  • Writer's pictureBurton Kelso, Tech Expert

How Criminals Can Use QR Codes To Steal Your Money and Information

QR codes were popular in the early 2000s but soon people stopped using them. During the pandemic, many businesses have turned to Quick Response Codes, also known as QR codes to create an environment of touchless interactions. QR, which is essentially a sophisticated bar code can be accessed by any mobile device and allow you to get access to menus and payment options without having to touch anything but your smartphone or tablet. Now, the FBI is warning people that cybercriminals are using QR codes to steal data from unsuspecting people. Follow these quick and easy steps to keep safe from this latest scam.

The use of QR codes is a great way to provide convenient contactless access and has helped slow down infection during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, anytime people use a popular piece of technology, cybercriminals always find a way to take advantage of it. In this instance, criminals are directing QR codes to malicious websites designed to steal your data, possibly embedding malware to get access to your device, and sending payments to criminals.

There haven't been any recent incidents where people have been scammed by a QR code, but scams were reported in October 2021 of QR codes being used to steal Microsoft Office 365 login credentials. Also, there have been reports of QR codes used in cryptocurrency scams.

Here are some tips to keep you safe:

  • Don't download a QR code scanner app without reading the reviews. They are a lot of malicious apps out there. Most iPhones have the ability to scan QR codes from the camera app. Android is going to implement this feature soon, phones already have a scanner on them.

  • When you scan a QR code, make sure it takes you to a legitimate website. Check for correct spelling and that it looks authentic. Most criminals hope you don't check for spelling, so do your due diligence.

  • If you're scanning a physical QR code on a flyer or poster, be sure there it has not been manipulated or has a sticker placed on top of the real code. Not all criminals just work over the internet. Criminals will do some leg work to get your information.

  • If a QR code is sent to you electronically, by a business or a friend, don't assume it's safe. Email and social media accounts are compromised daily. Directly contact whoever you believe sent it to you, through a trusted phone number or email address, and confirm it's legitimate.

  • Most QR codes are designed to give you information. If you find a QR code asking you to input personal or financial information, leave immediately.

  • Don't make payments through a website that popped up from scanning a QR code. Instead, visit a known website and trusted URL to complete the payment.

99% of cybercrime requires user interaction which means you need to always be on the lookout for scams that are designed to get you to click on links to give up your personal information. The FBI asked those who think they have been the victim of losing funds from a tampered QR code, to please report the fraud to a local FBI field office at

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