How to protect yourself from QR code scams

Digital innovation has seen QR codes become an integral part of our daily lives. They seamlessly link us to websites, payment portals and other services. However recently there has been an increasing number of stories circulating about the darker side of QR codes, highlighting the importance of email protection and common sense in our increasingly connected world.

Imagine this: You park your car and look for the nearest payment kiosk. The kiosk has instructions to scan a QR code so you can make payment via the website.

The problem is, the QR code is not going to take you to the company’s website.


Because ill-intentioned individuals have discreetly covered the official QR sticker with their own – rather than taking you to the parking company’s payment portal, the QR code takes you instead to a rogue website. You’ll enter your card information as you would expect, but rather than just paying for the parking, your bank account will be emptied entirely before you’ve even made it out of the car park.

Not only that, you have likely also parted with personal information such as your name and also your car registration details, leaving you even more vulnerable to further fraud.

Whilst many understand the need for robust email protection and are aware of more traditional phishing attempts, the QR code deception brings to light a scenario where lack of awareness becomes a vulnerability.

Consider the act of scanning a QR code with your phone – it bypasses your email protection, as this act does not utilise email at all. It opens a door for exploitation, especially for anyone who may overlook the potential risks associated with scanning codes from unknown and untrusted sources. In essence, while email protection is crucial, it’s equally important to exercise caution and use common sense when engaging with digital elements outside of traditional email communication.

So how can we protect ourselves from this and other QR code scams? Here are some key points to consider:

Verify the Source

Before scanning a QR code, especially ones in public spaces, ensure that it comes from a legitimate source. Check to see if there are any signs of tampering or suspicious activity before you get your phone ready to scan.

Be Mindful of Permissions

When scanning a QR code, pay attention to the permissions it requests. Granting unnecessary access to your device is a guaranteed way to expose yourself to potential risks.

Educate Yourself

Stay informed about the latest digital scams and tactics. Being aware is one of the most powerful tools you can implement to stop yourself from falling victim to scams like this.

Install Security Software

Consider using reputable and reliable security software on your devices. This can provide an extra layer of protection against malicious activities. However, whilst this can be readily available on computers, it’s more difficult to source for mobile phones.

Report Suspicious Activity

If you come across any QR codes or digital content that looks suspicious, report it to the relevant authorities or the venue management team. Your vigilance will not only protect you, but others too.

This latest QR code scam is a stark reminder that in our interconnected world, digital safety is a shared responsibility. While robust email protection is crucial, the same can be said about exercising common sense in our digital interactions. By staying informed, remaining vigilant and taking proactive measures, it becomes much easier to navigate the digital landscape with confidence and protect ourselves from potential threats.

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