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Beware of QR code phishing – how to stay safe in a digital world

By Tomas Allwood13 February 20242 min read

Scan Smart, Stay Safe: Navigating the Risks of QR Code Phishing

In today’s digitally driven world, convenience often comes hand in hand with vulnerability. While QR codes offer a quick and seamless way to access information or services, they can also be exploited by cyber criminals for phishing attacks. As QR code usage becomes increasingly prevalent in various aspects of our lives, understanding the risks associated with them is paramount to safeguarding our personal and financial information.

What is QR Code Phishing?

QR code phishing is a deceptive practice wherein cyber criminals create fraudulent QR codes that, when scanned, redirect users to malicious websites or prompt them to disclose sensitive information. These malicious QR codes can be disguised as legitimate ones, leading unsuspecting individuals to believe they are accessing genuine content or services.

How Does QR Code Phishing Work?

1. Creation of Fake QR Codes – Cyber criminals generate fake QR codes that resemble legitimate ones associated with reputable brands, products, or services.

2. Distribution – Fraudulent QR codes are distributed through various channels, including emails, social media, printed materials, and physical objects such as stickers or posters.

3. Social Engineering Tactics – Cyber criminals employ social engineering tactics to lure victims into scanning the QR codes. This may involve enticing offers, urgent messages, or promises of exclusive deals to manipulate users into taking immediate action.

4. Redirecting to Malicious Websites – Once scanned, the fake QR code redirects users to malicious websites designed to steal personal information, install malware, or carry out other nefarious activities.

5. Data Theft or Financial Fraud – Victims may unwittingly provide sensitive information such as login credentials, credit card details, or personal identification, which can be exploited for identity theft or financial fraud.

How to Protect Yourself from QR Code Phishing

1. Verify the Source – Before scanning any QR code, verify its source and authenticity. If it is associated with a brand or service, ensure it comes from a reputable source.

2. Inspect the URL – Pay attention to the URL that the QR code leads to. Be cautious if it seems suspicious or unfamiliar.

3. Use a QR Code Scanner with Built-in Security Features – Opt for QR code scanner apps with built-in security features that can detect and alert users to potentially malicious codes.

4. Avoid Scanning QR Codes from Unknown Sources – Refrain from scanning QR codes from unknown or untrusted sources, especially those received via unsolicited emails or messages.

5. Keep Software Updated – Regularly update your device’s operating system and security software to patch vulnerabilities and protect against emerging threats.

6. Be Sceptical of Offers – Exercise caution when encountering offers that seem too good to be true, particularly if they require immediate action or involve disclosing sensitive information.

7. Report Suspicious Activity – If you come across a suspicious QR code or believe you have been targeted by a phishing attempt, report it to the relevant authorities or the company associated with the legitimate entity being impersonated.


QR codes have undoubtedly simplified various aspects of our lives, but their widespread adoption has also made them a prime target for cyber criminals. By staying vigilant, verifying sources, and adopting safe scanning practices, you can mitigate the risks of falling victim to QR code phishing. Remember, in the digital age, exercising caution is key to safeguarding your personal and financial well-being.