QR codes have become part of our daily lives since the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

From entering buildings, to ordering food, we have all become familiar with scanning these series of lines and blobs from our mobile phones to pretty much carry out our daily chores.

However, of late, the authorities have warned that scammers and criminals are taking advantage of the situation by creating fraudulent QR codes at legitimate sites to scam people. Once scanned, these codes lead people to fraudulent sites, which then steal the user's log-in credentials, credit card details, and financial information, among others. Worse still, the user's device could become infected with malware that steals their personal information.

According to cybersecurity experts, these are some ways you stay safe from falling victim to such scam:

1) Trust your gut

It may be hard to tell a fraudulent QR code from a legitimate one, but experts have urged users to trust their gut when they come across one. For example, a legitimate QR code will never take the user to a site where they are asked to input their personal information, more so, within a stipulated time window.

2) Get from a trusted source

When you at a restaurant, for instance, make sure you get the QR code to scan and order from the menu from an employee at the shop. If a QR code is already on a table at the outlet when you walk in to the restaurant, better not scan it.

3) Watch out for stickers

One of the ways scammers resort to duping people are by placing stickers of fraudulent QR code on top of legitimate ones on a flyer, or a card, for example. If you spot a sticker on top of the original background, DO NOT scan it as it could be a trap waiting for its victims.

4) Watch out for strange URLs

Cameras of many smartphones and mobile devices today are equipped with the feature of previewing the URL of a QR code when you start to scan them. If the URL looks strange, DO NOT proceed. Let's say you have scanned it, and is then led to a website. At this point, look for possible suspicious features on the URL. For example, the URL should start with ‘https://’ and not ‘http://. Also look out for minor spelling errors. Gooogle.com or Googgle.com are not the same as Google.com

5) Exit immediately

If at all you have reasons to believe that you have been led into a fraudulent site after scanning a QR code, exit the site immediately without divulging any information. While you are at it, also avoid downloading QR scanner apps as there are also a range of such apps packed with malware. Set up two-factor authenrication on all your accounts so that you would not become a scam statistic.

Source: Reader's Digest
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