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Scammers hiding harmful links in QR codes: FTC warning

(NewsNation) — You may want to think twice before scanning a “QR” code, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is warning.

There are reports of scammers covering up QR codes on parking meters with a fake code. Other scammers are sending QR codes by text or email, phishing with fake reasons for recipients to scan them.

What is a QR code? And how has usage changed since COVID-19?

“QR” stands for “quick response,” and the codes are usually accessed by pointing your camera at it. The data typically sends you to a website, payment portal or restaurant menu.

91% say they’ve used QR codes at least once, and interactions with QR codes have increased by an estimated 6,200% between 2017 and 2021., according to a data obtained by ZipDo.

87% of businesses are estimated to use QR codes in marketing by 2022, and about 57% of QR code users say the reason for scanning is to obtain a coupon or discount.

QR code usage accelerated when the pandemic hit, and 331.4 million QR coupons were redeemed worldwide in 2021.

Be on the look out for the following scams involving QR codes:

  • You receive a message saying a package couldn’t be delivered and you need to contact in order to reschedule.
  • You receive a message that says there’s a problem with your account and your information is needed.
  • You receive a message saying suspicious activity on your account has been detected and you need to change your password.

The FTC offered tips to protect people from opening up QR code scams.

  • Next time you have a QR code to scan, examine the URL before you click to open it.
  • Never scan a QR code from an email or text if you weren’t expecting it.
  • Protect your phone and accounts. Update your phone’s OS to ensure you’re protected against hackers.
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