The dark side of any technological advancement is that bad actors will use it for their personal advantage. We are already seeing this happen with artificial intelligence as AI-powered malware is being spotted, as well as a higher number of deepfakes have also surfaced. But the threat that is reaching a highly concerning level has to do with QR code-based scams. These online scams are on the rise and have led many people to fall prey to scammers and they end up losing a fortune. You need to know how a QR Code scam works because that will also help you in avoiding such scams altogether. So, let us take a look.
A 30-year-old Indian Institute of Science professor recently became a victim of a QR code scam. The professor was trying to sell his washing machine on an online portal on August 11, reported Economic Times. He was soon contacted by a potential buyer who was willing to pay the asking price without any bargaining. The buyer then sent a QR code to the professor, asking him to scan it to get the money directly deposited into his bank account. However, as soon as he did, Rs. 63000 was stolen from his account instantly!
QR code scam: How does it work
QR code scams are when scammers use a fraudulent QR code that is disguised as a legitimate code for payment, and then they fool innocent victims into scanning it on their phones. The code installs malware that steals the personal and financial information of the victim. At this point, the cybercriminal can simply use it to wipe out the account of the victim.
But like all online scams, a little vigilance, and care can protect you from having your money stolen and to avoid your personal information being compromised. So, let us take a look at some of the things we can do to avoid such scams.
Different types of QR code scams
The main problem with QR code scams is that you cannot look at a QR code and determine whether it is real or fake. With UPI payments growing increasingly popular, many of us today, pay through QR codes at many places from shops, restaurants, parking areas, and paying bills.
However, all of these QR codes can be compromised.
If you have to pay your parking bill with a QR code, and it is placed in an area that is not secure or being actively monitored by security personnel, then it could be a fake code planted by a scammer.
Similarly, there have been incidents where people have scanned a QR code for a virtual menu card, only to find out that a cybercriminal replaced the real code with a fraudulent one.
In fact, even paying bills isn’t easy. Some reports have highlighted that victims were sent emails about fake ‘due bills’ that come with a warning to get the victims to panic and once they scan the code, they get hit by malware that siphons the money from their account.
So, is the solution to never use QR codes? No. Vigilance goes a long way.
How to avoid QR code scams
1. Whenever you are scanning a QR code, ensure that it is placed in a well-guarded location or is placed somewhere people cannot mess with it.
2. If you ever find a QR code in an unsecured location, try to pay through other methods.
3. Always apply caution when you receive a bill by email. Never pay it if you are not sure about the email address, the language of the mail body, and the billed amount. Even then, you should always call and cross-check its authenticity.
4. Do not use your payment apps without 2-factor authentication and never enable one-tap payments like some of the apps allow you to do. Also, avoid keeping large amounts of money in your e-wallets.
5. You can also download QR code scanners from reputable sources in the app marketplace as they can detect fraudulent codes and alert users.
6. Always install your security updates as soon as you receive them. This will help in protecting your device from all low-level scams.