REGULATORS the world over are raising alarms on the abuse of QR codes. Scammers since long have used them to steal data by sending people to harmful websites :

QR CODES - the square bar codes that can be scammed and read by smartphones, are seemingly used everywhere : to board flights, enter concerts and look at restaurant menus.

But scammers trying to steal personal information have also been using QR codes to direct people to harmful websites that can harvest their data, Alvaro Puig, a consumer education specialist at the Federal Trade Commission, wrote in a blog post last week on consumer's advice page.

Would-be scammers hide dangerous links in the black-and-white jumble of some QR codes, the F.T.C. warned.

The people behind those schemes direct users to the harmful QR codes in deceptive ways, using tactics that include placing their own QR codes on top of legitimate codes on parking meters or sending the patterns to be scanned by text or email in ways that make them appear legitimate, the post said.

Once people have clicked those links, the scammer can steal information that is entered on the website. The QR code can also be used to install malware that steals the person's personal information, the F.T.C. said.

The deceptive codes sent by text or email often use lies to create a sense of urgency,  such as saying that a package couldn't be delivered and needs to be rescheduled or posing as a company and saying that there is suspicious information on a person's account and that the user's password needs to be changed, the F.T.C. said.

''They want you to scan the QR code and open the URL without thinking about it, '' the F.T.C said.

John Fokker, head of threat intelligence at Trelix, a cybersecurity company, said in an email on Sunday that the company's advanced research center saw more than  80,000 samples of QR code attacks in the third quarter of 2023.

The most common type included postal scams, malicious file sharing and messages impersonating human resources, information technology and payroll departments, he said.

WARNING : '' Don't scan a QR code in an email or text message you weren't expecting  - especially if it urges you to act immediately,'' the F.T.C. cautioned. 

'' If you think the message is legitimate, use a phone number or website you know is real to contact the company.''

In January 2022, the Federal Bureau of  information issued an alert to consumers about malicious QR codes.

It warned people not to download apps linked from QR codes, but to find the app on their smartphones' app stores and download it from there instead.

The Essay continues into the future. The World Students Society thanks Amanda Holpuch.


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