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FBI warns of malicious QR codes

The FBI is warning about a rise in thieves tampering with legitimate codes, such as placing a sticker over a legitimate code giving it the appearance it’s real.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Quick response, or QR, codes scannable by smart phone have become highly popular during the public health crisis where businesses sought no-touch solutions, but now the Federal Bureau of Investigation is warning about malicious attacks using the seemingly innocent modern convenience.

QR codes appear at restaurants, doctor’s offices, daycares and fliers -- often linking to websites, bills or check-in sites. However, when a user scans the code using their smartphone camera, it’s always clear where the link will take you.

Thieves and scammers can use these codes to collect personal information, plant malware on your device, or even get you to pay a cyber thief, according to Caleb Kwong, a Sacramento-based cyber security expert and founder of Savant Solutions.

“People are used to just scanning things in general,” Kwong said. “Just curious, right? Human nature.”

The FBI is warning about a rise in thieves tampering with legitimate codes, such as placing a sticker over a legitimate code giving it the appearance it’s real.

The FBI says you can protect yourself by checking the URL to make sure you’ve reached the correct site once you’ve scanned, practicing caution with your private personal and financial data, and avoiding app downloads from QR codes.

You can also request a physical menu or full link and put it in yourself to prevent yourself from falling victim.  

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