Do you have customers or potential clients who are wary of scanning QR Codes? Well, it can’t be helped. After all, as the popularity of QR Codes have increased in recent years, so have QR Code scams.
In this blog, we will show you how you can protect your customers and yourself from different fraudulent QR Codes that aim to steal your data and harm your finances
What are QR Codes?
Quick Response or QR Codes are a type of two-dimensional barcodes that can store huge amounts of information and can be scanned using a modern smartphone camera. While it took almost two decades before getting adopted globally, the QR Code is now widely used for different purposes in various industries. Today, we see them in restaurant menus, billboards, posters, and product packaging.
Are QR Codes Safe?
QR Codes are generally safe to use. But there will always be people who will try to abuse this technology for their fraudulent intentions. Because they are so easy to create using any free QR Code generator, even criminals can use them for their cybercrimes.
What are QR Code Scams?
QR Code scams are a threat to businesses who intend to use this technology into their marketing campaigns or retail.
Have you ever clicked a link on a social media post or message that looks similar to the true website? Phishing is copying the appearance of a legitimate website to deceive customers into giving their personal information. This could be used to change your various account passwords, effectively kicking you out of services like Netflix, or to make fraudulent transactions using your bank account or credit card.
Another way fraudsters use QR Code for their illicit activities is by downloading malware, ransomware (blocks access to your device until you pay a ransom), or trojans into your device.
Fraudsters can also use QR Codes to get money from unsuspecting sellers. Some recent examples are the OLX scam, where sellers were asked by criminals pretending to be buyers to scan a QR Code, and the parking ticket scam, which directed drivers to send their payments to a completely different site.
How Can You Protect Yourself from QR Code Scams?
Being on the receiving end of a scam is a frustrating and scary experience. But there are ways to prevent these from happening to you. Here are some of the ways you can protect yourself from QR Code Scams.
Think Before You Scan
Similar to the reminder “think before you click” when we access anything on the internet, err on the side of caution whenever you see a QR Code – especially QR Codes that you receive on your email or on social media. Did the QR Code come from the official account of the company or organization? Check the grammar in the email or post; some scams are easily detectable because of bad language. A quick Google search helps you check the legitimacy of promos or campaigns. It might even come up with alerts on ongoing schemes from fellow users or the company itself. Also, if an offer is too good to be true, it most likely is.
Opt for a Secure QR Code Scanner
Most people use their native smartphone camera to scan QR Codes, but there are mobile applications that can securely scan QR Codes. These mobile apps can detect malware, ransomware, or trojans. If you want to go this route instead of using your native camera, find a reputable company that offers secure QR Code scanners instead of downloading the first app on the app store. Visit their official website and look for legitimate reviews by real people, such as online forums like Reddit.
Preview the URL
Most smartphone cameras will show you a preview of the QR Code instead of sending you directly to the destination URL. See if their official website or social media and the destination URL match. There are good free URL expanders that can help you check if shortened URLs really come from legitimate websites.
Don’t scan a QR Code when receiving money or crypto assets
An important thing to remember when dealing with sending or receiving money or crypto assets through QR Code is that you scan a QR Code to send, not the other way around. If someone sends you a QR Code to scan in order for you to receive money or assets, it is most likely a scam. Instead of you receiving money or assets, you will send the indicated amount to the owner of the QR Code.
Don’t Indiscriminately Give Away Your Personal Information
One of the most popular ways fraudsters scam online is by luring you into signing up for something, as in a promo, or checking out fake products. This is easy to do if the user fails to verify the URL. Check if the information being asked is normally asked in similar situations. For example, do they really need your birth place or birth date to check out products? Are you normally asked security questions? Always, always be mindful when answering online forms.
How Can You Protect Your Customers from QR Code Scams?
As a business, how do you protect your customers from fraudulent activities using QR Codes? Although most of the burden lies on the side of the customer, you can also do your part in ensuring that your brand will not be used for fraudulent purposes. Here are some ideas.
Increase trustworthiness by designing QR Codes that reflect your brand
This could mean using your business’ color scheme and adding your logo onto the QR Code.
Embed your QR Codes on official print advertisements, billboards, and social media posts.
Only authorized personnel should have access to your QR Code generator, website, and social media accounts.
Needless to say, you should keep your account details for various platforms secure and private. This can prevent criminals from accessing your existing dynamic QR Codes and changing their destination URLs and contents of your QR Code.
Encourage your customers to scan QR Codes that appear on your official social media pages and websites only.
Let your customers know that you care about their safety by encouraging them to scan QR Codes that appear on your official social media pages, websites and print advertisements. This shows your clients that you are doing your part in protecting them from possible QR Code scams arising from your adoption of the technology.
Add other options, such as including the short URL on your marketing materials, for customers who do not want to scan QR Codes.
Finally, there are people who you can never convince to scan your QR Code in fear of security risks. Don’t leave them out from your campaigns and services by providing alternative ways to access your content alongside your QR Codes. For restaurants, have a physical menu handy. For payment, continue to accept cash or credit cards. And for ads, add the link to your webpage for them to visit.
Fraudsters have always existed, offline and online, and QR Codes are not immune to people or companies using them to steal data and assets from unsuspecting customers. Being mindful before scanning and clicking a URL, using a secure QR Code scanner, and scanning only QR Codes from official accounts are some of the ways you can protect yourself, your business, and your devices from potential QR Code scams. In addition, there are ways for you, the business owner, to help increase the trustworthiness of your campaign.