June 3, 2024

QR Code Phishing: How to Protect Yourself from Scams

Elena Nguyen5 min read


In today's digital age, QR codes have become ubiquitous, offering a quick and convenient way to access websites, download apps, and make payments. However, this convenience comes with risks, particularly in the form of QR code phishing.

Cybercriminals increasingly use QR codes to trick users into revealing sensitive information or downloading malicious software. Understanding this threat is crucial in maintaining online security. In this post, we'll explore QR code phishing, how it works, and the best practices to protect yourself from falling victim to these scams.

What is QR Code Phishing?

QR code phishing, also known as "quishing", is a scam where malicious actors create fake QR codes that redirect users to fraudulent websites designed to steal personal information or install malware. These QR codes can be placed anywhere, from public posters to emails, making it easy for cybercriminals to deceive their targets. These actions can include entering personal information, downloading malware, or visiting fraudulent websites that appear legitimate.

How QR Code Phishing Works

  • Creation of Malicious QR Code: Scammers generate QR codes that link to phishing websites or trigger malicious downloads.
  • Distribution: These QR codes are distributed through various means, such as flyers, email attachments, social media, or even tampered with business cards.
  • Scanning: When a user scans the QR code, they are redirected to a phishing site that mimics legitimate websites, prompting them to enter sensitive information or download harmful software.

Common Targets and Scenarios

  • Public Places: QR codes on posters, flyers, or advertisements in public areas.
  • Emails and Messages: QR codes sent via email, SMS, or social media claiming to offer discounts, promotions, or urgent updates.
  • Fake Websites: QR codes on websites designed to look legitimate, tricking users into scanning them.
  • Fake Login Pages: Users are directed to a spoofed login page for popular services where their credentials are stolen.
  • Malicious Downloads: Scanning the QR code initiates the download of malicious software onto the user's device.
  • Fraudulent Payments: Users are tricked into making payments to fraudulent accounts by scanning a QR code that appears to be for a legitimate transaction.

How to Protect Yourself from QR Code Phishing

  • Verify Before You Scan: Always check the source of the QR code. If it's from an unknown or untrusted source, avoid scanning it.
  • Use QR Code Scanners with Security Features: Some QR code scanning apps can check the URL for potential threats before opening it, allowing you to assess its legitimacy.
  • Check the URL: After scanning, carefully inspect the URL before proceeding. Look for signs of phishing, such as misspelt domain names or unusual characters.
  • Enable Security Software: Ensure your mobile device and computer have updated security software that can detect and block phishing attempts.
  • Avoid Public QR Codes: Be cautious of scanning QR codes in public places where they can be easily tampered with. Enable Two-Factor Authentication: Use two-factor authentication (2FA) for an extra layer of security on your accounts.

What to Do If You Fall Victim to QR Code Phishing

  • Disconnect: Immediately disconnect your device from the internet to prevent further damage.
  • Change Passwords: Change your passwords for any compromised accounts.
  • Report: Report the phishing incident to the relevant authorities and the legitimate organization being impersonated.
  • Scan for Malware: Use a trusted security app to scan your device for malware and remove any threats.


QR code phishing is a growing threat in our increasingly digital world. By staying vigilant and following these protective measures, you can significantly reduce the risk of falling victim to these scams. Always remember to verify the source, check URLs, and keep your security software updated. Stay vigilant when scanning QR codes, and prioritize your online security to safeguard your personal and financial information.