What is QR code fraud and how to escape it?

Within a QR code scam, the perpetrator dispatches a QR code to a person, asserting that scanning the code will result in funds being deposited into their account. Contrarily, the QR code is sent with malicious intent, aiming to pilfer the victim's funds upon scanning.

Abeer Ray, MintGenie Team
First Published3 Sep 2023, 11:43 AM IST
Beware of UPI scam.
Beware of UPI scam.(MINT_PRINT)

Unified Payments Interface (UPI) transactions have seamlessly integrated into daily life, emerging as an integral facet. The transactional convenience associated with UPI has led to its preference over alternative payment methods. Nonetheless, as technology evolves, a surge in UPI-related scams, including QR code scams, has also emerged.

A recent incident involved a faculty member at the Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru, who encountered a QR code deceit while attempting to vend his washing machine online. Succumbing to the deception, the professor scanned a QR code, resulting in a loss of Rs 63,000 from his account. Given the escalating instances of QR code fraud, here are proactive measures to safeguard oneself from such predicaments.

How do you get defrauded using a QR code?

Instances of UPI QR code scams are becoming more prevalent. In these schemes, scammers send QR codes that mimic those of genuine merchants or service providers. Despite their appearance, these QR codes are fraudulent and designed to siphon your funds once scanned.

To steer clear of falling prey to this scam, refrain from scanning QR codes originating from unfamiliar or unsolicited origins. Strictly limit QR code scanning to those generated exclusively by the official website or application of the relevant merchant or service provider.

If you find yourself uncertain about the authenticity of a QR code, it's advisable to directly contact the merchant or service provider for verification.

How do you steer yourself clear of QR code fraud?

Typically, QR codes are employed for making payments, not receiving them. Scammers deceive victims by fostering the misconception that scanning the QR code will streamline the process of receiving funds. This is the first understanding that people using UPI to pay must know and understand.

The following are guidelines to safeguard against UPI QR code scams.

Check before scanning QR codes

Exercising caution when scanning QR codes, particularly those from unfamiliar or unsolicited origins, is of paramount importance. Malicious QR codes designed by scammers can lead to the theft of personal information or funds upon scanning.

Here are key factors to consider when scanning QR codes:

Source verification: Exercise discretion when scanning QR codes from unfamiliar senders. Only proceed with scanning QR codes dispatched by individuals or entities you trust.

Authentic appearance: Ensure the QR code appears genuine. Should it appear blurry or contain spelling errors, exercise caution as it may signify a scam.

Destination scrutiny: Prior to scanning, examine the QR code's intended destination. Refrain from scanning QR codes that lead to unrecognised websites or apps.

Should uncertainty persist regarding the safety of scanning a QR code, reaching out to the sender for verification is a prudent step.

Do not scan QR codes in public places

Scammers are perpetually seeking avenues to pilfer individuals' data, and QR codes offer them a convenient pathway. When scanning a QR code in a public setting, exercise caution to prevent onlookers from observing your actions. Publicly scanning a QR code can inadvertently expose your phone or personal data to potential theft.

Below are additional precautions to ensure your safety when scanning QR codes in public locations:

Opt for well-lit areas: Choose well-lit environments with the presence of other people when scanning QR codes.

Validate posters and flyers: When scanning QR codes from posters or flyers, verify their authenticity to avoid potential scams.

Authenticate website sources: Prioritise scanning QR codes from secure and legitimate websites to prevent potential security breaches.

Err on the side of caution: If you harbour any doubts regarding the safety of a QR code, it's best to abstain from scanning it.

Remaining vigilant and adhering to these recommendations can significantly bolster your safety while scanning QR codes in public spaces.

Set up a strong UPI PIN

Your UPI PIN holds the key to your UPI account's security, underscoring the importance of ensuring its strength and uniqueness. A potent PIN involves a blend of letters and numbers, rendering it resistant to guessing. Refrain from utilising the same PIN across all your online accounts.

Consider these guidelines to craft a robust UPI PIN:

  • Incorporate a mix of letters and numbers.
  • Steer clear of employing common words or phrases.
  • Ensure your PIN consists of a minimum of 8 characters.
  • Avoid using personal details like your birthday or phone number.
  • Regularly update your PIN.

In addition, a password manager can prove valuable in generating and securely storing strong and distinct passwords for your various online accounts.

Update your UPI PIN frequently

App developers consistently roll out updates for their applications, frequently encompassing security enhancements that contribute to scam prevention. Maintaining the latest version of your UPI app guarantees that you're utilising the most secure iteration.

Employ these strategies to keep your UPI app up to date:

Activate automatic updates: Enable automatic updates for your app to ensure it consistently incorporates the latest security enhancements.

Regular manual checks: Regularly inspect for updates manually, especially if automatic updates aren't enabled.

Source credibility: Solely obtain updates from reputable sources. Refrain from installing updates from third-party websites or app stores.

Prioritising the consistent update of your UPI app adheres to best practices in safeguarding against potential vulnerabilities.

How to ensure online safety?

If you suspect you've fallen prey to a QR code scam, promptly get in touch with your bank and report the incident.

Here are supplementary pointers to ensure online safety:

Exercise caution with information: Be discerning about the information you divulge online. Avoid sharing personal data like bank account numbers or credit card details with unfamiliar or untrusted parties.

Employ robust passwords: Utilise strong passwords and safeguard them diligently. Your passwords should consist of a minimum of 8 characters, encompassing letters, numbers, and symbols.

Beware of links: Exercise caution when clicking on links in emails or text messages. Scammers often disseminate emails or messages containing links that, once clicked, redirect you to deceptive websites resembling genuine ones.

Stay updated: Maintain up-to-date software. Software updates frequently incorporate security patches that bolster protection against malware and other threats.

By adhering to these guidelines, you can fortify your defence against UPI QR code scams and other online fraudulent activities.

Consumers should be aware of frauds if they are using UPI
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First Published:3 Sep 2023, 11:43 AM IST
HomeMoneyPersonal FinanceWhat is QR code fraud and how to escape it?

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