Motorists are being urged to avoid QR phishing scams.

Recent reports have highlighted a disturbing trend-the rapid increase of QR code scams, especially in public areas such as car parks. This should serve as a wake-up call for all of us.

While QR codes have undeniably revolutionised our daily lives, providing a convenient digital shortcut system, it’s crucial to be aware of the potential for misuse and fraudulent activities.

Poor parking

There’s no denying the ubiquitous black and white squares have revolutionised many aspects of our lives, making tasks simpler and more efficient.

With the advent of QR codes, the need to search for information, remember labels and names for future reference has significantly reduced. This simple point and scan system allows us to access information and services instantly.

It’s an excellent way for service providers to link you to their products, but also a simple way to access payment systems.

Cutting the time and effort needed is a big attraction for the public and service users.

However, this also means the user spends less time thinking and checking that they are actually getting what they thought they were paying for.

It can also mean users to quickly supply confidential information and data to criminals.

Less is more

Online fraud continues to rise exponentially, and in our busy 24/7 lives, it’s easy to supply payments and information without a second thought.

Using QR codes to access bookings and payments is an increasing area of interest to fraudsters.

There are many areas where motorists can engage in this, not least when it comes to paying for parking. After all, drivers are usually in a hurry, and the sums of money involved are relatively low.

Because of the vast scope potential of digital fraud, criminals are now seeing this as a good target.

Individuals don’t notice small sums and are less inclined to report them, and fraudsters can carry out the same crimes against thousands and millions of people.

There is little chance of discovery and action against them, yet the total potential income from many small fraudulent actions can be huge.

With this in mind, QR Code Generator has provided some expert tips on how to avoid falling victim to false codes and ‘squishing’ scams.

Avoid payments using public QR codes

Any QR code is susceptible to tampering, but those in those placed in public are particularly so. With payment being one of the prime purposes of QR codes, make sure any code you scan in public is untampered.

If scanning a publicly placed QR code, such as in a car park, check for signs that the code is the one you wish to scan. For example, is there actually a sticker over the original code that you are scanning instead, or are there any other suspicious signs? A QR code scam will direct a device to an official-looking but phoney website, which can steal credit card information when entered.

QR codes created for such scams could be found in restaurants, shopping centres, bars, or other public places. Car park scams, however, are particularly identified as on the rise currently. Please don’t pay through a QR code if you have any doubts. There is almost always an alternative payment method, like entering the URL yourself.

Do not scan QR codes from unsolicited emails

Email inboxes are often bombarded with links and attachments that may be malicious. While most email services can detect these, they usually can not for QR codes. Always think: Do I know the sender of this email? If so, are they definitely who they claim to be? Many scams claim to come from a trusted retailer like Amazon. Generally, avoid scanning QR codes in emails altogether.

Check the destination of any QR code

Your phone will display the URL to which a QR code is trying to send you and only take you there if permitted. You can check that the URL is legitimate by looking for extended domain names. Multiple hyphens and symbols are common in malicious links, and known names may be included in the URL to trick you. Just because a URL has ‘Google’ does not mean it is legitimate, so look for suspicious URLs.

Even after taking great care, it is possible to end up on a malicious website, so when you land on a site through a QR code, remain vigilant. Unprofessional design, low-resolution images, poor grammar, or typos can be telltale signs of a fraudulent website.

Do not be a victim of your own curiosity

Similar to how email scammers may entice victims, scanning a QR code may be incentivised with the promise of a reward, or by creating curiosity to bypass your suspicions. Be extremely wary of any QR code that gives you the chance to ‘win’ anything, offers up a survey, or mainly, promises free goods or services. QR codes may even be sent to you in leaflets or letters, but always follow the tips above, especially if a code has made its way to you without your asking.

You do not need a QR code ‘app’

Your phone’s camera is capable of scanning and following QR codes. The misconception that you might need a new app to do this can lead to downloading fraudulent software that asks for extensive permissions and may try to install malware on your device. Always use your phone’s default camera for QR code scanning.

Making life easier

Whilst QR codes are undoubtedly a very clever and effective tool that is becoming increasingly popular in the digital age, we need to be aware of the potential problems that can arise.
Marc Porcar, CEO of QR Code Generator, commented: “QR codes are an incredibly useful invention, but their relative novelty means that scammers are only recently coming around to exploiting them for malicious intentions.”

“With the increasing prevalence of the QR code parking payment scam, it’s certainly something to look out for. The incoming summer months are likely to flood car parks in tourist areas and near to attractions, so this is something scammers may look to capitalise on. Finding parking can be stressful, but it’s more stressful being scammed for money, so be on the lookout and utilise these tips.”