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How to spot a QR code scam

QR codes have become more popular during the pandemic. They've also attracted an unseemly element: fraudsters.

WASHINGTON — Online fundraisers and donation drives throughout the country have started to support the people of Ukraine. However, with those online donations come the potential for scams. Including a new one: fraudsters are using QR codes.

We started seeing a lot more QR codes since the pandemic began. The easy contactless way to access menus, meetings, and now charities.  But, our experts warn: After you click on it, use a critical eye to follow where the code takes you.

QUESTION: 

How do you know if a QR code is legit?

OUR SOURCES:

ANSWER:

Our experts say there are a number of ways to prevent yourself from falling prey to a QR code scam, but they all center around paying attention to where the code takes you.

WHAT WE FOUND:

“You don't want to be just scanning any QR code in this case,” Kelsey Coleman said.

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Coleman explained that to avoid the scams, a major part is to look at where you’re scanning the QR codes. For example, codes sent in an unsolicited email, text message, or on a flyer are big warning signs.

“We know that scammers follow the trends,” Coleman said. “They're seeing that QR codes are popping up there, they're easy to use people, can easily just grab their phone.  But what scammers love about them is that they hide the actual URL that they're directing the consumer to.” 

“That's a problem because we are always urging people to make sure that that URL is legitimate and it's hard to do when you're using a QR code.”

Coleman said your best bet is to go directly to the source’s website and look for the warning signs: spelling mistakes, error messages and pop ups.

The FTC also issued some tips on giving to Ukraine. It said look at the fees and timing especially if you’re donating through social media.

The FBI warned not to download a QR scanner app because most phones have one built in through the camera. Also, don’t make any payments through a site you got to from a QR code, donate directly on the website.

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