QR codes can hide deceptive links from identity thieves, FTC warns

Scammers Using QR Codes to Steal Personal Information, FTC Warns

The use of QR codes has become increasingly popular in recent years, with the square bar codes being used for a variety of purposes such as boarding flights, entering concerts, and viewing restaurant menus. However, the Federal Trade Commission has issued a warning about scammers using QR codes to direct people to harmful websites that can harvest their personal data.

According to Alvaro Puig, a consumer education specialist at the FTC, scammers have been hiding dangerous links within QR codes, prompting unsuspecting users to unwittingly provide their personal information. The deceptive tactics used by scammers include placing their own QR codes on top of legitimate codes on parking meters and sending the patterns to be scanned by text or email in ways that make them appear legitimate.

Once users click on these harmful QR codes, scammers can steal their information or install malware on their devices. The deception often involves creating a sense of urgency, such as posing as a delivery service needing to reschedule a package or as a company needing to change a user’s password.

John Fokker, head of threat intelligence at cybersecurity company Trellix, noted that the pandemic has led to a resurgence of QR code use in daily life, making them an attractive target for cybercriminals. Fokker also highlighted the vulnerability of mobile users to these attacks, as mobile devices may not have the same level of security as desktop computers.

To protect themselves, organizations and individuals are advised to never open links, follow QR codes, or download documents from unknown contacts. Additionally, using two-factor authentication and keeping software updated are recommended security measures.

The FTC also urged consumers to check the URL before opening a scanned QR code and to avoid scanning QR codes in unsolicited emails or text messages. The FBI has also issued an alert warning people not to download apps linked from QR codes without first verifying their legitimacy.

QR code Technology has seen a long history of evolution, dating back to their invention in 1994 by Denso Wave, a Japanese subsidiary of Toyota. Originally used for tracking automotive parts, the Technology has since become widely utilized for various identification and data storage purposes.

As the use of QR codes continues to grow, it is important for individuals to remain vigilant and cautious when scanning or interacting with them. By taking proactive measures to protect personal information and verifying the legitimacy of QR codes, users can help prevent falling victim to scammers and malicious attacks.

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