As you have most likely seen, scanning QR codes is one of the latest trends for getting information on products and services, but there’s a dark side to this trend as we will show you. QR codes are an easy way to share information but as they say, “that sword cuts both ways”! So, here are some things to be aware of when using them.
A little history on QR codes. QR codes, which stands for “Quick Response” codes was a product of the Japanese revolution in the 1990’s. Anybody who is familiar with LEAN 6 Sigma would quickly remember the manufacturing initiatives of Toyota and Honda about that time period in pushing “Process Improvement” activities in making processes more lean, efficient and effective.
The QR codes were a way to convey vital information on products and material up and down the supply chain. QR codes are the ultimate in contactless convenience and a quick way to get information to and from a website.
The rapid acceptance of QR codes during the pandemic has provided cyber criminals with a new way to launch their attacks.
Here’s how the attack works.
People will see a QR Code on display advertising a product at a store or gas station for an offer that is enticing. People who are interested in this offer will then scan this QR code unknowing from a cybercriminal that has made their own fake QR code and fake website. This is easy with today’s instant website services.
The cyber criminals then make and print their own QR codes to the same dimensions as the real one. They then tape or glue these QR code over the real one thereby sending you to their website for you to be scammed.
Once there, they will no doubt ably have some fabulous offers for you to take advantage of if you just leave your PII (Personal Identifiable Information) along with a credit card. You can see where this is going, and it is not a good place.
So, here are some things you can do to protect yourself:
Check for tampering, such as stickers or overlays on signs showing QR codes.
Don’t use a QR code that comes from strangers, even if they promise a prize, free vacation, free money, or a way to make quick cash.
Don’t download an app suggested by a QR code. It could be loaded with malware. Go to the Apple App Store or Google Play Store instead.
Be suspicious any time you see a shortened URL when you scan a QR code. Unless you take the time to read the full web address, there’s no way to know where that link will take you.