If you have been to a newly opened cafe or restaurant recently, then there is a good chance you have used a QR code to check out its menu. A Quick Response (QR) code is an efficient and environmentally friendly way to provide and gain access to information (like a restaurant menu in our example).
The use case of QR codes is ever-expanding. From something as basic as contact details to crucial information like payment details, they are being used for a variety of purposes. But with its increasing prevalence, the threats from malware and hackers also rise. It, therefore, makes sense to keep in mind the following tips while using QR codes.
- Install an antivirus on your phone – It is well known that the device which is widely used to scan QR codes is your smartphone. If you are trying to understand how to safely scan QR codes, and avoid many QR code scams, then installing an antivirus on your phone is the first step you need to take.
While everyone takes care of their laptops and computers, since the smartphone is so ubiquitous, it remains ignored. However, in order to protect yourself from malware and suspicious links while using QR codes, it becomes necessary to install protective software on your smartphone too.
- Do not install third-party scanners – The next crucial step to take is to ensure that you use only official apps for scanning QR codes on your phone. By official apps, we mean the ones which either come preinstalled with the device or are developed by the OS developer for such a device.
Many third-party applications are available on various app stores, which may very well do the job for you but come with their share of risks. For instance, there may be ads, or they may be collecting your private information. Any QR code which leads you to another app that looks suspicious must be used with a pinch of salt.
- Verify before making payments – The payment process has evolved considerably. No longer are you dependent on credit cards for a purchase. One can easily scan a QR code and make payments. In fact, developing countries like India have taken the lead on this front.
However, the correct way to make such a payment is to verify the store credentials and amount with the staff at the billing counter and then complete the transaction. Often, consumers are duped by either changing the destination account or increasing the amount.
- Examine the URL – For those who are less tech-savvy, the URL is the web page’s address. Once you scan a QR code, you are taken to a link. Before you proceed, make sure to spend a few seconds and examine it so that you do not end up on a suspicious link.
It has been seen that people tamper with QR codes and take you to phish websites where you may end up losing a few dollars or your privacy. Even social media accounts may be hacked if you are not careful.
- Be stingy with your personal information – Now, this one is a no-brainer. Often, you need to fill out a form using a QR code. There is no problem with this, but you need to be careful while giving out personal information.
For instance, your college administration asks you to fill out a form with your basic details by scanning a QR code. While it is assumed that privacy and other aspects are taken care of, it is best to only give out the mandatory information and connect with your college admin staff, who can assure you that your privacy is protected.
- Stay abreast of cyber guidelines – Authorities all over the world have awakened to the new way of crimes through the use of the internet. QR code frauds have increased, and therefore, many police teams have come up with guidelines for the common public to follow.
As a smartphone user who is dependent on QR codes for a lot of tasks, it is important for you to stay updated with the latest guidelines. Most of them can be found on the social media handles of the police teams or their official websites. As they say, better safe than sorry.
Like any new technology, QR codes offer a lot of convenience and benefits. At the business level, QR codes offer a cost-effective way of spreading information and collecting payments. This is why businesses are pushing them like anything, and they can be found everywhere.
While some risks are surely part of the bargain and can be mitigated, one just needs to practice basic internet hygiene to prevent getting scammed. If you keep in mind the tips shared above, you can most certainly avoid any unwanted incident.