In today’s times, technology is constantly getting smarter. We expect contactless grocery pickup and food delivery, contactless payments, and convenience at every turn. Some of these conveniences, however, require caution as scams and fraud attempts continue to be on the rise. The recent re-popularity of QR codes has brought about additional fraud and scam attempts aimed specifically at these black and white squares which can be scanned and read directly from your smartphone. Keep in mind, these scams work just like any other phishing attack. Pointing your phone at a phony QR code gives hackers the chance to lead you to malicious websites where you may be invited to provide personal information and credit card numbers, all while your device is being infected with malware. 

THE GOOD NEWS: there are tips and tricks to help keep YOU and your personal information safe. Here are five things to look out for when scanning QR codes. 

5 Things to Look Out For Before You Scan QR Codes

1. Do not open QR codes sent to you by strangers. These unsolicited messages have higher potential to be harmful. Leave them be and do not open them, even if they are promising you a hefty gift card amount or luring you in with other forms of gifts or incentives.

2. If it is sent to you by someone you know, confirm with the individual directly. This verifies they did, in fact, send you a reputable QR code and ensures they have not been hacked. This is an important part of making sure the QR code comes from a reputable source. 

3. Be wary of links which appear shortened when you scan a QR code. A shorter link limits your discretion on where it is directing you, meaning it could be malicious.

4. Inspect advertising materials and make sure they haven’t been tampered with. Many businesses have their QR codes printed directly on marketing materials, menus at restaurants, coasters, and in public transportation areas. Keep your eye out for hackers placing stickers over the QR code with alternate QR codes to lure you elsewhere.

5. Download an antivirus app on your phone which checks the safety of QR codes. This comes highly recommended and can protect your smart devices, as well as help you steer clear of harmful links, scams, and downloads.

In reality, it can be hard to look at a QR code and determine if it is legitimate since the QR code simply looks like a normal barcode. We encourage you to use caution and your best judgement when scanning codes and linking to websites, especially when out in public. 

DON’T FORGET: If you do fall victim to a phony QR code, having IDProtect setup on your USCCU accounts will ensure your financial and personal information remain secure. Through this protection service you, and your family members receive identity monitoring from more than 1,000 databases and public records to identify any suspicious activity on your account. You’ll have access to a fraud specialist, as well up to $10,000 in theft reimbursement coverage. 

Keeping your financial and personal information safe and secure is our top priority, and with the increased sophistication of scammers these days, we want to be sure you have access to every tool possible to keep you safe. 

Next time you are out and about, take a pause before you scan the QR code. And remember, we are here to help you stay safe.