comscore Beware! This is how a user lost Rs 50,000 by scanning a QR code

Beware! This is how a user lost Rs 50,000 by scanning a QR code

While QR codes are considered as a ‘convenient mechanism,’ knowledge of QR code scam still isn’t a celebrated topic among commoners, to avoid such online fraud we have put a few simple tips that you should consider.

QR code fraud

Image Source: Unsplash

The advent of technology is surging every nook and corner. Digital payments saw a spike during the pandemic as the world grappled with the change of living in confined spaces and getting accustomed to the new normal. While the contactless payment ecosystem promises to provide secure service but not all that glitters is gold.  The process is more or less simple and convenient for users, but sometimes even the simplest thing can be evil in disguise. Also Read - Elon Musk slams Twitter and Google for rising scams, fake bots

Many companies (the leading tech giants) use QR codes to lead users to their apps. The QR (the longer phrase- Quick Response) code can easily be detected with a QR app. All one requires is the camera and the app to read the code. While it saves the tedious task of entering bank account details, chances are these genuine-looking codes might possess a potential threat. And as with human nature, we tend to miss out on minute details thereby encouraging fraudsters to carry nefarious activities online. Also Read - IRCTC sending warning emails to users against fraud tourism website, files FIR

Such an incident recently happened with my cousin when she was trying to sell furniture in the popular online marketplace- OLX. The miscreant made the move of first approving to purchase the product from her and asked her to further discuss the payment process via WhatsApp. The buyer in disguise then shared a QR code promising to pay the amount in advance. The bogus QR code shared on her WhatsApp account had an amount of Rs 10,000 written below it. Upon scanning the code, it prompted to enter the UPI pin. Little did she know about the fraudulent act, entering the UPI pin deducted Rs 50,000 from her bank account immediately. Another similar case happened with one of my colleague’s flatmates, but thankfully she was quick enough to block the trickster on the social app. I have embedded the screenshots below for readers’ perusal. Also Read - Hackers attack Indian healthcare website, steal records of 68 lakh doctors and patients: FireEye


QR code fraud is nothing new, and three out of ten ‘gullible people’ fall prey to such activities almost every day. Surprisingly, this type of scam has increased lately with tricksters sharing QR codes on social media platforms or using the request features on UPI by sending fake payment requests with texts that read ‘Enter your UPI PIN to receive money.’ As I said, to most human eyes (including me), this two-dimensional barcode looks all the same. And with the chance of getting rigged to download malware onto one’s device, it’s always safe to stay a step ahead and take necessary precautions to avoid being stricken with such phishing.

Fraudsters even go to the extent of putting forged public QR codes (at malls, kiosks) for the easy transaction or flow of easy money into their account. While some victims are lucky enough to get reimbursement for the damages, not all banks are that generous (not for my cousin, at least) to fully reimburse for being scammed. The only way to stop the miscreants from ‘abusing the technology’ is by following these simple but useful steps.

How to save yourself from QR code scams

  • It is critical to identify a QR code, but it is advised not to scan any unknown QR code and rather treat it like a fishy link that you’d rather avoid saving from getting scammed.
  • In case you find any suspicious activity alert your bank and change your credentials as soon as possible.
  • QR codes often come with shortened URLs making it difficult to trace the source. In this case, you can install an authentic QR scanner (read the reviews in the App Store before installing it and check the ratings) that displays the URL before it allows redirecting to the link.
  • If you are using a QR code scanner or thinking of installing one, make sure to have an app that uses built-in filters.
  • You can install and update security software across devices that block malicious sites.
  • If you or any of your close relatives might have fallen victim to such fraud it is advised to inform the police and register a complaint with the cyber cell or place an online complaint on the portal. Although there is very little chance of getting reimbursement, at least it would stop the criminals from further carrying such tactics.

Note: Before we wrap up, we would like to like to point out that OLX and many other platforms have listed details and even videos in their Help Centre to help save users from getting duped by such malicious activities. OLX even has the option of blocking such tricksters within the app. While QR codes are considered as a ‘convenient mechanism,’ knowledge of QR code scam still isn’t a celebrated topic among commoners in the country. With rising cases, we recommend readers be vigilant of these potential risks.

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  • Published Date: November 12, 2021 8:00 PM IST
  • Updated Date: November 12, 2021 8:03 PM IST

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