QR codes have come back around in the past few years predominantly as a contactless form of information sharing during COVID. They’re not inherently bad, but that said they do offer new opportunities to be scammed in dangerous ways, especially if you are off your guard.

As defined in Forbes, a QR code (Quick Response code) is a two-dimensional barcode that is readable by a smartphone with a camera. It allows the encoded image to contain over 4,000 characters in a condensed, machine-readable format and was designed as a rapid method to share content or do a specific task. You may have most recently seen them at businesses to do COVID screenings, restaurants to share menus, donation boxes, transportation, etc.

A word of caution: while QR codes have been able to help different businesses and organizations accomplish different ways to share promotions, information, surveys, forms etc, it is easy enough for scammers to take advantage and hijack the good intention of a QR code.

For example, if you scan a QR code to complete an email message with a subject line and recipient, the scammer would then collect your email address in the process once you hit send, which could lead to future phishing or spear-phishing attacks.

Another basic concern, scanning a QR code could automatically launch or redirect you to a website (even if you believe the code will bring you elsewhere). This is risky because if the code has indeed been hijacked, the website that opens could contain malware, an exploit or other undesirable content.

An extreme example of how QR codes have been exploited, scammers in a few big Texas cities have been putting fake QR codes on parking meters to trick people into paying the fraudsters. Parking enforcement officers recently found stickers with fraudulent QR codes on pay stations in Austin, Houston, and San Antonio.

Unfortunately, there’s no way to know if a QR code is safe by just looking at it. Therefore, the first considerations you should make are the environment and where it’s placed.

If you randomly run across a QR code while you’re out and about, especially those telling you that you could win something, probably best to just walk away. Or, if a QR code has been stuck somewhere seemingly random, ie. Sidewalk bench, public tables, telephone poles, etc, again be very cautious of how “official” that code is.

Don't fall victim to Qishing Attacks - learn more at this link, via Cyware Social.