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Consumers are Being Targeted by 'Quishing' Scams That Use QR Codes; Here's how They Work

Explore the ins and outs of 'Quishing' and arm yourself with insights on protecting against phishing QR scams in this digital age.
Cover Imaage Source: Pexels | Photo by Pixabay
Cover Imaage Source: Pexels | Photo by Pixabay

In an era when QR codes are becoming synonymous with access and transactions, millions of Americans are scanning them as part of their mobile-driven routines. With more than 89 million Americans relying on these scannable squares for their everyday needs, the surge in usage has unwittingly opened the door to scammers seeking to exploit this convenience with yet another new scam.

Pexels | Photo by Leeloo Thefirst
Pexels | Photo by Leeloo Thefirst

Once a niche technology, QR codes experienced a meteoric rise during the pandemic, becoming an integral part of our daily routines. But, this ease of access comes at a price, as recent research by Checkpoint revealed a staggering 587% increase in QR code phishing scams from August to September of this year alone. Scammers are now capitalizing by creating deceptive QR codes that lead unsuspecting individuals to spoofed websites.

Jeremy Fuchs, a security research analyst with Checkpoint, sheds light on the mechanics of the scam, explaining how when users scan a QR code, a little link preview will come up showing the page that it's going to go to. Hence checking if it looks suspicious is one way to steer clear of the scam.

Pexels | Photo by iMin Technology
Pexels | Photo by iMin Technology

The 'Quishing' or 'QR Phishing' scam typically begins with a seemingly harmless email from a trusted source, be it your bank, employer, or another reputable business. The recipient is then prompted to scan a QR code for various reasons, such as checking into an upcoming appointment or viewing an invoice. Little do they know that the simple-looking QR code conceals a sinister agenda. Once scanned, victims are redirected to a spoofed website, where they may unwittingly divulge sensitive information, falling prey to identity theft. Even more alarming is the potential for some fake QR codes to lead users to sites that automatically download malware onto their devices, compromising personal security.

Pexels | Photo by iMin Technology
Pexels | Photo by iMin Technology

The widespread presence of QR codes makes their elimination impossible, but understanding how to navigate this digital minefield is key to safeguarding personal information. Due to the logistical challenges, scammers are more likely to target individuals through phishing emails rather than through physical QR codes. Therefore, the onus is on the recipient to verify the legitimacy of the email before taking the plunge and scanning the QR code.

As we continue to embrace the convenience of QR codes in our daily lives, the rise of 'Quishing' serves as a stark reminder of the lurking dangers. Awareness, skepticism, and a touch of common sense are our best weapons against these digital predators. So, the next time you're tempted to scan a QR code, take a moment to scrutinize the associated URL, ensuring that you're not inadvertently inviting a scammer to the party. In this era of digital connectivity, protection against fraudulent schemes requires more than just antivirus software. It demands a vigilant mindset and a commitment to staying one step ahead of those seeking to exploit the very technology designed to make our lives easier.