How to avoid QR code scams and ransomware

SHAREit is great for sharing files, but did you know that you can also share information online using QR codes? While these codes are easy to use on mobile devices, they can also be dangerous. Below is some important information that can help you stay safe when using QR codes to share information on the web:

What is a QR Code?

First, it’s important to understand what a QR code is and how it works. A QR code is a quick response code and can be used to instantly bring data to a web user via a printed symbol. You’ve likely seen QR codes on products and at businesses – they’re those squares with the black and white pixels in the middle. You can scan these codes using a scanner on your mobile device, and you will be instantly taken to where the QR code is programmed to take you.

The Danger in Scanning QR Codes

Unlike website URLs – which tell you where you’ll end up after entering them into your browser – a QR code could lead you anywhere, including to malicious sites.

For example, suppose someone wanted to lock down your mobile device using ransomware. All he or she has to do is create the malicious site, link it to a QR code, and then pass out flyers with the QR code printed on them that promise something like a free cruise. When you get the flyer, you know nothing about who is behind it or where the QR code will take you. Once you scan it, your mobile browser opens, you’re taken to the malicious site, and suddenly, the ransomware is demanding payment to unlock your phone.

Trust me, its fine

Avoiding QR Code Dangers

First, if you’re presented with a QR code that offers no indication as to where it will send you, do your research first. If the accompanying information claims that the QR code is from a specific company offering a specific promotion, check online to verify that this is true.

Also, if a QR code sends you to a page that is asking for personal information, especially credit card data or your social security number, don’t fall for it. Any legitimate company with a legitimate offer will allow you to enter information via a secure connection through your PC’s web browser where you’ll have much more security.

You can also utilize mobile security tools that will act as barriers between your mobile device and malicious sites. These tools automatically warn you of potentially dangerous sites before opening them, and some give you the option to report suspicious sites.

Finally, it’s recommended that you use a QR code scanner that provides a preview of the site before actually taking you there. Using such a scanner will allow you to see where you’ll be taken, giving you the chance to back out if things don’t look right.

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