Americans Wary as FTC Announces QR Code Scam

( – QR codes have taken the nation by storm. You have probably scanned one recently to pay for parking, board a commercial flight, get into a concert, or pull up a restaurant’s menu. However, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is warning consumers to be alert for harmful links fraudsters use to obtain personal information. Here’s what we know.

The FTC consumer alert warns that scam artists are overlaying QR codes used to pay for various products and services. For instance, the commission has received reports of criminals replacing the QR codes on parking meters with their own to collect payments from unwitting drivers.

Fraudsters are also contacting consumers via email or text messages containing QR codes. They use a variety of ploys to trick people into scanning their codes.

It’s a familiar scam. The criminals contact potential marks, telling them there’s a problem with their credit cards or bank accounts. Likewise, they might claim they must confirm payment information before delivering an unexpected package. In other instances, they advise their intended victims of a security breach involving one of their accounts, requiring them to change their password.

In the past, these cybercriminals would include a URL for victims to open to steal their information, obtain a fraudulent payment, or infect their computers with malware or ransomware. Nowadays, they have added QR codes to their arsenal of ways to trick consumers — a technology quickly becoming a familiar part of everyday life.

Fortunately, there are a few simple things you can do to avoid falling for these QR code scams. For example, you can use two-step verification for all your important accounts — especially those for your credit cards and banking system. Additionally, you shouldn’t scan a QR code received in an unexpected email or text message. Likewise, exercise caution using codes found in public places like parking lots.

If you have any questions or doubts about a particular QR code, you can always go “old school” and call the individual or company and ask for assistance.

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