VENTURA COUNTY, Calif. – The Ventura County District Attorney's Office received information from the International Association of Financial Crimes Investigators about an increase in QR code fraud.
QR codes, or Quick Response codes, are box-shaped barcodes that can be scanned by imaging devices, such as the camera on your cell phone. A picture of one is below that you can follow to a linked website.
When a QR code is read by a device, it can direct that device to perform certain functions. The QR code above directs you to the Ventura County District Attorney's Office website, for example.
Some businesses or charities will use a QR code to facilitate digital transactions and can be stuck anywhere, including physical locations, such as a sticker on a window or on a checkout counter as well as non-stationary settings, such as a television commercial or in a web article about QR code fraud.
“As technology provides customers more options to quickly and easily conduct financial transactions, what sometimes follows right behind are the quick and easy methods criminals use in an attempt to steal from those very customers,” warns Investigator Richard Elias of the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office Major Fraud Division.
A common form of fraudulent QR codes that you will have to watch out for includes placing a counterfeit QR code over an existing QR code depicted below.
Once a person accesses the malicious QR code, they are routed to a fraudulent website posing as the official website the scanner intended to visit.
Here are some helpful tips for consumers:
- SITUATIONAL AWARENESS: Consider where and how QR codes are displayed and if those displays reasonably correspond with the transactions associated with it
- LOOK BEFORE YOU LINK: Before following a scanned QR code link, check your phone to see what website you are heading to. Feel free to practice with the safe QR codes in this article!
- TRUST BUT VERIFY: After accepting a scanned QR code link, check the website's URL address and site features to make sure the website is associated with a legitimate recipient
Sometimes you won't be able to avoid scams. In that case, be sure to report the suspected fraud to your local law enforcement agency as well as to your bank or credit card company.