QR code fraud: what is it and how to prevent it?

Created on 10 July, 2023General • 3 minutes read

How to recognize a fraudulent or fake QR code? Security Measures in the Digital Age

In today's digital age, QR codes have played a revolutionary role in simplifying information transfer. Whether sharing contact information, navigating to websites, or providing payment details, the versatility of QR codes is undeniable. But as with any technological innovation, there are always malicious people who try to take advantage of the situation. Fake QR codes are one of the many ways cybercriminals attempt to steal sensitive information or spread malware. But how can you recognize a fake QR code?

Here are some tips to help distinguish between legitimate and fake QR codes:

Where does the QR code come from?

The first step to recognizing a fake QR code is knowing what you are scanning. Make sure you know the source of the QR code and understand why you are scanning it. For example, if you find a QR code on a company's official website, it's probably safe to scan it. However, if you come across a QR code in a suspicious location, such as on a flyer or if you receive a QR code through an unsolicited e-mail or from an unknown website, for example, you should be wary.

What information is being requested?

If you scan a QR code and it asks you to enter sensitive information, such as your bank details or personal information, that is a red flag. Legitimate businesses will rarely, if ever, ask for sensitive information through a QR code.

Check the physical characteristics of the QR code

Another way to spot a fake QR code is to check the physical characteristics of the code itself. Real QR codes generally have a square shape with three larger squares in the corners. These are the positioning markings that help the scanner read the code correctly. If a QR code is missing these markings, chances are it is fake.

Use a secure QR scanner

Using a reliable QR scanner app can help you spot fake QR codes and avoid becoming a victim of fraud or if it is a known phishing attempt. Many of these apps offer a built-in security feature that alerts you if you try to scan a malicious or suspicious QR code. Make sure you choose an app with good reviews and regular updates to stay up to date with the latest security measures.

Check the URL

Some QR scanners offer a preview of the URL the QR code leads to before you open it. If this is the case, pay close attention to the URL. Does it look suspicious, contain many unnecessary characters or appear unrelated to the expected source? Be careful if this is the case.

Be wary of redirects and pop-ups

A fake QR code may redirect you to an unsafe website or display unwanted pop-up ads. Be wary of websites that ask you to enter personal information, such as passwords or credit card information. It is also wise to navigate away from Web sites that show unexpected pop-up ads or ask you to download unknown software.

Be Careful of Entering Information

If the QR code asks you to enter sensitive information, such as passwords, bank details or personal information, be extra careful. Legitimate companies usually do not ask for such information through a QR code.

Don't Install Unknown Apps

Some QR codes may ask you to install an app. Unless you are sure the app is legitimate and from a reliable source, it is best to avoid it.

Stay alert, when in doubt do not scan the QR code

Cybercriminals are getting smarter and smarter in their tactics. It is important to always be on your guard and use common sense. If something seems too good to be true, it probably is.

It is important to note that recognizing a fake QR code is not always easy. In many cases, fake QR codes look like legitimate codes. However, by being aware of the source, the nature of the information requested, the QR scanner used and the URL the code leads to, you can better protect yourself from potential threats.

Recognizing a fake QR code is an important step in staying safe in the ever-changing digital world. Always be alert and thoughtful when scanning QR codes. By following the tips above, you can protect yourself from potential cyber threats and stay safe from fraud and phishing.