Think Before You Scan Learn How to Avoid QR Code Phishing

Think Before You Scan Learn How to Avoid QR Code Phishing

QR codes have become a handy way to access information quickly. You see those little black and white squares popping up everywhere these days. From restaurant menus to trade show exhibits, a simple scan with your phone unlocks a world of convenience. 

But hold on a second. Just like any technology, QR codes can be misused by scammers. That’s why it’s important to be aware of QR code phishing and how to protect yourself.

What is QR Code Phishing?

Phishing can take many forms, and in all of them, scammers try to trick you in some way. It may be getting you to click a malicious link or download a dangerous attachment. They might send you fake emails or texts that look like they’re from a legitimate company, hoping you’ll fall for their scam.

QR code phishing works similarly, but instead of a link, the scammer hides a deceptive website address within the QR code. When you scan the code, you’re unknowingly directed to a fake website that looks real. Once there, you might be tricked into entering your login credentials, credit card details, or other sensitive information. 

A new cybersecurity study found that QR codes are now used in 22% of phishing attacks.

You can run across these fake QR codes online or IRL (in real life). Scammers may place their phony code over a legitimate one on a poster in a heavily trafficked area. Or they may use them in emails or social media posts. Anywhere you see a real QR code, a scam code can be inserted instead.

A person holding a phone with a qr code on it
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How to Spot a Phony QR Code

Here’s the tricky part: QR codes themselves don’t look inherently suspicious. But there are some red flags to watch out for.

Unexpected Placement

Be wary of QR codes in unusual places. For example, if you see one randomly plastered on a lamppost, that’s a good sign to avoid it. Legitimate QR codes are usually displayed by reputable businesses on their storefronts, advertisements, or packaging.

Sense of Urgency

Phishing messages often try to create a sense of panic or urgency. Does the message with the QR code say your account is locked or needs immediate action? Don’t scan! Take a deep breath and contact the company directly through a trusted channel (like a phone number you know is real) to verify if there’s actually an issue.

Shady Source

If you receive a text or email with a QR code, especially from an unknown sender, be suspicious. Legitimate companies won’t typically send unsolicited QR codes via text or email.

Safe Scanning: Your QR Code Survival Guide

So, how can you use QR codes safely and reap the benefits of their convenience? Here are some smart practices.

Inspect Before You Scan

Most QR scanner apps allow you to see a preview of the website you’ll be directed to before you actually visit it. This is a crucial step! Carefully examine the URL. Does it look like the legitimate website you expect? Be on the lookout for misspellings, extra letters, or swapped characters. If something looks off, trust your gut, and don’t scan.

Scan with a Secure App

There are many QR scanner apps available. While most are fine, opt for one from a reputable developer with good reviews. Avoid downloading scanners from unknown sources.

Don’t Auto-Connect

Some QR scanner apps offer features like automatic Wi-Fi connection or downloading files. It’s best to disable these features unless you completely trust the source of the QR code.

Beware of Public Wi-Fi

Avoid entering sensitive information on websites accessed through public Wi-Fi networks, even if you scanned a legitimate QR code. Public Wi-Fi can be less secure, making your data more vulnerable.

Keep Software Updated

Just like any device, keeping your phone’s operating system and security software up to date helps protect you from potential security threats, including those hidden in QR codes.

QR Code Power in the Palm of Your Hand

By following these tips, you can transform QR codes from a potential security risk into a safe and convenient tool. Remember, a little healthy skepticism can go a long way. So, next time you encounter a QR code, take a moment to think before you scan. With a bit of awareness and these handy practices, you can keep your information secure and enjoy the many benefits QR codes offer!

Bonus Tip

If you’re still unsure about the legitimacy of a QR code, you can always manually type the URL into your web browser instead of scanning. This way, you can double-check the website address before entering any personal information.

Protect Your Device with Quantum Care

There are many ways that a hacker can infiltrate an unprotected device. Don’t wait, get proactive about your security so you’re not paying the price later. 

Quantum Care is our all-in-one cybersecurity solution for your home or business. It provides 24/7 threat monitoring and the ultimate in device protection.

Contact us today to learn more.