QR Codes: The latest way to scam you online
After Coinbase’s Super Bowl success, QR codes are back; but many are fake
And now there's a new way to get scammed: QR Codes. This has surfaced in a big way, unfortunately, thanks to the Super Bowl. Remember the Super Bowl this year? The ads were dominated by crypto firms. The top ad in the Super Bowl was Coinbase. They had a very simple, clever ad. A QR code bouncing around the TV screen like the old video game pong. And if you sat there long enough, you began to say, What is that QR code? What's going on? The ad isn't doing anything else. If you pointed your phone at it, you were taken to Coinbase's website. The ad was so popular it generated so much traffic that it crashed Coinbase's app. You now see these QR codes popping up everywhere. I mean, this is old school tech. QR codes are 10 or 20 years old. They fell out of favor, but they are now back in a big way. And Coinbase's success with their Super Bowl ad is the reason why.
You now go into a restaurant. They don't hand you a menu anymore, do they? They let you scan a QR code. It's a great deal for the restaurant. They don't have to go to the expense of printing menus every time they change prices or the items available for sale. You don't have to touch a dirty menu that was manhandled by other people and germs (we don't want to do that). Now you just take a picture of that QR code on your phone, up pops the menu, simple and easy, fast and convenient. QR codes are pretty cool, but it creates an opportunity for scammers. Think about this. If someone sends you an email, it's pretty easy for you to detect that that email is fake. You know, you could find typos in the email. The logo doesn't look right. If you look at the URL, if you look at the address that it came from, you realize that it's a fake address. It's not the real name of your bank. They've got a tiny little misspelling. They entered the number one instead of the letter L, for example. And that's pretty easy to detect a fake email. But how can you detect a fake QR code? That's virtually impossible. So when you get an email from someone, you might not realize that the QR code is a fake. Or let's say you walk up to an ATM. Well, it's your bank's ATM, you go to that ATM all the time. And now you see a sticker on the ATM that says, Use this code and get $50.
Ric Edelman: It's got the bank's logo on. It certainly looks legit. Of course, if you click on that QR code, it's going to be a fraudulent one. This is part of the problem. So you've got to check if the URL that you're using is legitimate if a QR code takes you there. And also watch out if you have a poster that has a QR code. It's very common. You'll go into a bookstore, for example, and you'll see a big sign, a poster announcing some major book release that just came out. Or in a movie theater you'll see a poster for a new movie that's coming out and you want to look at the preview. There's a QR code, you click on the code, and you can see the preview of the movie. But there might be a QR code that is placed on top of the real QR code. A scammer could have come along with a sticker with a fake QR code. You need to be careful before you snap a photo of any QR codes. It's just another illustration that the crooks are always getting more and more sophisticated, and life becomes more and more challenging. It's the inevitable, unavoidable and unfortunate negative side effect of technological innovation, and we have to be on our toes to protect ourselves against this.