Fake QR code warning + what to check before clicking

Warning about scammers using fake QR codes. (Copyright 2023 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.)

It’s a quick way to read a menu or make a payment for something. These days QR codes are everywhere. While they are convenient, they could also be dangerous. We are looking into what you need to know about fake QR codes.

Scammers are using QR code technology

You might know how QR codes work. You hold up your camera to a square code, a website URL pops and you click on it. Scammers are using QR code technology to get your information or even take over your device.

The Better Business Bureau warns right now the “BBB Scam Tracker” is seeing an increase in fake QR codes. One hot spot for this - parking lots. People are scanning QR codes in lots, entering their credit card info, and being charged fake fees. Some victims don’t notice until they get a ticket or more credit card charges later.

The BBB says one victim reported: “I tried to buy a parking voucher using the QR code on the city parking meters. I scanned to pay for parking but received no proof of parking. I noticed a charge for $1.98 the same day. Later, I noticed a $49.99 charge on my credit card for three consecutive months. I tried calling and emailing the company with no luck. So, now I have to cancel the card.”

This is something KPRC has reported on before.

Fake QR code on the parking pay meter, as collected in Houston on Jan. 5, 2022. (Copyright 2022 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.)

The FBI is investigating fraudulent QR code cases all over the country.

Ways to protect yourself from fake QR codes

  • Once you scan the QR code check the URL to make sure it looks right. Check for spelling mistakes.
  • Avoid making payments through a site navigated from a QR code. Instead, go straight to the website.
  • Don’t ever download an app from a QR code. Use your phone’s app store for safer downloads.
  • Consider an anti-virus QR code scanning app

Trend Micro and Kaspersky are both highly rated anti-virus QR code scanning apps. These will alert you to suspicious links and stop downloads before you click.

But be careful when searching the app store. The FBI says scammers are even creating fake “anti-virus” apps. So read the ratings and reviews.

If you believe you have been a victim of stolen funds from a tampered QR code, report the fraud to your local FBI field office here. The FBI also encourages victims to report fraudulent or suspicious activities to the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov.

About the Authors:

Passionate consumer advocate, mom of 3, addicted to coffee, hairspray and pastries.

Award-winning TV producer and content creator. My goal as a journalist is to help people. Faith and family motivate me. Running keeps me sane.