Watch Out for QR Codes: They Could Lead to Identity Theft

QR codes, those little black and white squares you scan with your smartphone, have become increasingly popular in recent years. You see them everywhere, from restaurant menus to bus stops to product packaging. But while they’re convenient, new warnings from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reveal a hidden danger: QR codes can be used to steal your identity.

Here’s how it works:

  • Scammers create fake QR codes that look like legitimate ones. These codes might be placed on stickers overlaid on real codes, printed on flyers, or even displayed on websites.
  • When you scan the fake code, you’re unknowingly redirected to a malicious website. This website might look like a familiar brand or a login page for a trusted service.
  • Once you enter your personal information on the fake website, such as your username, password, or credit card details, the scammers steal it and use it for identity theft.

This can be especially dangerous for older adults who may not be as familiar with technology and might be more likely to trust unfamiliar QR codes.

So, how can you protect yourself?

  • Be cautious about scanning QR codes. Only scan codes from sources you trust, like official websites or businesses you’re familiar with.
  • Never scan a QR code that appears to be tampered with or overlaid on another code.
  • Before entering any personal information on a website you accessed through a QR code, double-check the URL to make sure it’s the real website. Look for the lock symbol in the address bar and check the website address for any misspellings or unfamiliar extensions.
  • If you’re unsure about a QR code, don’t scan it. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

Here are some additional tips:

  • Use a security app that can scan QR codes and warn you about potentially dangerous ones.
  • Keep your smartphone’s software up to date. This helps to ensure that you have the latest security patches installed.
  • Report any suspicious QR codes to the FTC or the website/business you think is being impersonated.

By taking these precautions, you can help to protect yourself from identity theft and other online scams.

Remember, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Always be cautious and use your best judgment when dealing with QR codes and other digital technologies.

Spread the word! Share this information with your friends and family, especially those who are less tech-savvy, to help them stay safe online, and subscribe to the Silverwatch Academy newsletter for more tips.

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