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Beware of Common QR Code Scams: Protect Yourself from Digital Threats

by Felix Omondi

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

QR (Quick Response) codes have become ubiquitous in facilitating seamless transactions and information flow. However, cybercriminals are increasingly finding exploits in the QR code systems enabling them to steal millions of dollars from unsuspecting victims. This article will highlight some of the dangers of QR codes and give possible solutions to avoid becoming their next victim.

Common QR Code Scams

QR codes’ popularity has grown across all industries. Be it on restaurant menus, government services, airport services, hotel check-ins and check-outs, and access to library services, among others. Research conducted by ExpressVPN revealed that QR code scams are on the rise, with more and more people using them for transactions or access to information. Many are unaware of the dangers, so here are some of the most common QR code scams:

1. Fake QR Codes:

One prevalent QR code scam involves criminals replacing legitimate codes with their own fake versions. These fraudulent codes can be found on stickers, posters, or even displayed on websites. Unsuspecting individuals who scan these codes may unknowingly grant scammers access to personal information or expose their devices to malware.

To avoid falling victim to this scam, always verify the source of the QR code before scanning it. Double-check the legitimacy of the code by comparing it to official sources or reaching out to the organization directly. Additionally, consider using a QR code scanner app that provides security features and detects potential threats.

2. Malware Downloads:

Another common QR code scam involves directing users to websites or app downloads that contain malicious software. Scammers disguise their codes to lead users to websites infected with malware, which can steal personal information, passwords or even gain control of devices.

To protect yourself from such scams, only scan QR codes from trusted sources. Avoid scanning codes found in unsolicited emails, suspicious advertisements, or random websites. Invest in reputable mobile security software that offers real-time protection against malware, and regularly update your devices to ensure they have the latest security patches.

3. Phishing Attacks:

QR codes can also be utilized by scammers to conduct phishing attacks, tricking individuals into providing sensitive information. These codes may lead users to fake login pages or forms designed to collect personal data such as usernames, passwords, or credit card details.

Photo by David Dvořáček on Unsplash

To avoid falling victim to phishing attacks via QR codes, exercise caution while scanning codes that require personal information. Be vigilant when providing sensitive details, and always double-check the website’s URL or the source of the code. If you suspect a phishing attempt, report it to the relevant authorities and change your passwords immediately.

4. Payment Scams:

QR codes have revolutionized how we make payments, but scammers have also capitalized on this convenience. Criminals may create counterfeit QR codes resembling legitimate payment options to trick users into sending money to their accounts instead.

To safeguard against payment scams, scrutinize the QR code before making any transactions. Compare it to official payment methods and verify its authenticity with the merchant or service provider. Avoid scanning codes from unfamiliar sources or unsecured websites. It’s advisable to use secure payment apps that offer additional layers of authentication and fraud detection.


While QR codes offer convenience and efficiency in various aspects of our daily lives, it’s crucial to remain vigilant to protect ourselves from common QR code scams. By staying informed, verifying sources, and using reliable security measures, we can minimize the risks associated with scanning QR codes. Awareness is key in maintaining a safe digital environment, allowing us to harness the benefits of this technology without falling victim to the dark side of QR code exploitation.

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