Cybercriminals Tampering with QR Codes

Updated: Apr 9

Think Twice About Scanning a QR Scan Code — It Might Be Fake

Straight from the FBI, a warning that “cybercriminals are generating QR scan codes that direct you to malicious websites.”

Cybercriminals tamper with both digital and physical QR codes to replace legitimate codes with malicious codes. A victim scans what they think to be a legitimate code, but the tampered code directs victims to a malicious site, which prompts them to enter login and financial information. Access to this victim information gives the cybercriminal the ability to potentially steal funds through victim accounts.

QR Codes

QR (Quick Response) codes have seen a rise since the Covid pandemic. A person can “scan” a code for everything from providing quick access to a website, download of an application, even order from a menu.

That square barcode that a smartphone camera can access may just be letting others access your accounts.

You could give the cybercriminal access to your funds or other information that can be compromised just by scanning the code.

However, there are a few precautions the FBI recommends you follow that can reduce your chances of falling victim to this scam:


  • Once you scan a QR code, check the URL to make sure it is the intended site and looks authentic. A malicious domain name may be similar to the intended URL but with typos or a misplaced letter.

  • Practice caution when entering login, personal, or financial information from a site navigated to from a QR code.

  • If scanning a physical QR code, ensure the code has not been tampered with, such as with a sticker placed on top of the original code.

  • Do not download an app from a QR code. Use your phone’s app store for a safer download.

  • If you receive an email stating a payment failed from a company you recently made a purchase with and the company states you can only complete the payment through a QR code, call the company to verify. Locate the company’s phone number through a trusted site rather than a number provided in the email.

  • Do not download a QR code scanner app. This increases your risk of downloading malware onto your device. Most phones have a built-in scanner through the camera app.

  • If you receive a QR code that you believe to be from someone you know, reach out to them through a known number or address to verify that the code is from them.

  • Avoid making payments through a site navigated to from a QR code. Instead, manually enter a known and trusted URL to complete the payment.

If you believe you have been a victim of stolen funds from a tampered QR code, report the fraud to your local FBI field office. The FBI also encourages victims to report fraudulent or suspicious activities to the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center.

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