Scammers use QR codes to trick consumers into opening malicious links

BBB shares tips for avoid QR code scams

Beware of QR code scams
Beware of QR code scams

DETROIT – Many companies use QR codes to lead consumers to their apps, help them track packages or view menus.

The codes can’t be read by the human eye, and that’s why scammers have been using them to disguise malicious links.

QR codes are becoming more popular and the Better Business Bureau is seeing more reports of scammers using them to mislead consumers.

How does the scam work?

The scammers can send an email, text, share a flyer or send a piece of mail that includes a QR code. The victim scans the code with their phone’s camera and opens the link.

In some scams, the QR code takes the victim to a phishing website where the victim is encouraged to input personal information or login credentials for scammers to steal. In other scams, the QR code makes the phone automatically launch a payment app or follow a malicious social media account.



How to avoid the scam

Before you scan a QR code make sure you know the source is legitimate and trustworthy.

A victim reported to the BBB that they received a fraudulent letter about student loan consolidation that contained a QR code that appeared to link to the federal government’s official student aid website. The QR code helped the program, which was a fraud, appear official.

  • If someone you know sends you a QR code, confirm with that person that they really sent it before you scan the code.
  • Don’t open links from strangers.
  • If the QR code appears to come from a trustworthy source, you should still double check. Call or visit the official website to confirm.
  • Be wary if a URL-shortened link appears when you scan a QR code.
  • Watch out for advertising materials that have been tampered with.
  • Install a QR scanner with added security. Some antivirus companies have QR scanner apps that check the safety of a link before you open it.

Read: More scam coverage


About the Authors:

Kayla is a Web Producer for ClickOnDetroit. Before she joined the team in 2018 she worked at WILX in Lansing as a digital producer.

Hank Winchester is Local 4's Consumer Investigative Reporter and the head of WDIV's "Help Me Hank" Consumer Unit. He works to solve consumer complaints, reveal important recalls and track down thieves who have ripped off metro Detroiters.