New QR Code Scam Leaves Americans on High Alert

( – Quick-response (QR) codes are squares with a pattern that can be read by machines. Typically, they are used for storing URLs, so when a person uses their device to scan the picture, it takes them to a website. Retail businesses use them for marketing purposes; consumers can find them at local events, airports, and restaurants. Unfortunately, criminals can also use QR codes to scam people out of their hard-earned money.

According to the FTC, scammers can cover a legitimate QR code with one of their own to con their victims, taking them to a place where they can steal information and your identity. Once that happens, it creates a mess that can take a long time to unravel — if ever. The commission said criminals often use scare tactics to panic people into scanning their code through text or email. They insist there’s a problem with the victim’s account, saying they can clear things up if the person scans the QR code. That takes the person to a spoof site, which gathers any information the victim enters.

But there are ways to protect yourself from scammers. The FTC suggests people inspect any QR codes before mindlessly scanning. Look for misspellings, mistakes, or anything that doesn’t look quite right. When in doubt, opt not to scan the code. Also, be wary of QR codes received through email or text, especially if they show up unannounced and relay a sense of urgency. In those cases, call the business or source directly and double-check to make sure the code is legitimate. However, don’t use the contact information within the email or text; get the phone number from an independent and trusted source.

Finally, it’s important to keep all electronic devices up to date. Scammers and hackers grow and adapt alongside technology, and companies try to stay one step ahead. Updated devices have the latest protection, so be sure to install those software updates regularly.

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