FBI Warns of QR Code Tampering Scams

The FBI recently issued an announcement regarding the use of malicious Quick Response (QR) codes by cybercriminals to redirect victims to malicious sites that steal login and financial information.

QR Code on PhoneA QR code is a square barcode that a smartphone camera can scan and read. They are used to perform a variety of functions, such as opening a website, prompting the download of an app, or even directing payment to an intended recipient. Businesses use QR codes legitimately to provide convenient contactless access and have used them more frequently during the COVID-19 pandemic. However according to the FBI, “Cybercriminals are taking advantage of this technology by directing QR code scans to malicious sites to steal victim data, embedding malware to gain access to the victim’s device, and redirecting payment for cybercriminal use.”

Typically, cybercriminals will tamper with QR codes, either digital or physical, to replace legitimate codes with malicious codes. A victim then scans what they think is a legitimate code, but the tampered code directs victims to a malicious site, which may prompt them to enter login credentials or financial information. Access to the victim’s information gives the cybercriminal the ability to potentially steal funds through the victim’s accounts.

They warn that malicious QR codes may also contain embedded malware, which can allow a criminal to gain access to the victim’s device or steal the victim’s location, as well as personal and financial information.

While QR codes are not inherently bad, it is important to practice caution when entering financial information or providing payment through a site reached via a QR code. Once transferred, law enforcement cannot guarantee the recovery of lost funds.

Tips from the FBI to protect yourself…

  • Once you scan a QR code, check the URL to make sure it is the intended site and looks authentic. A malicious domain name may be similar to the intended URL but with typos or a misplaced letter.
  • Practice caution when entering login, personal, or financial information from a site navigated to from a QR code.
  • If scanning a physical QR code, ensure the code has not been tampered with, such as with a sticker placed on top of the original code.
  • Do not download an app from a QR code. Use your phone’s app store for a safer download.
  • If you receive an email stating a payment failed from a company you recently made a purchase with and the company states you can only complete the payment through a QR code, call the company to verify. Locate the company’s phone number through a trusted site rather than a number provided in the email.
  • Do not download a QR code scanner app. This increases your risk of downloading malware onto your device. Most phones have a built-in scanner through the camera app.
  • If you receive a QR code that you believe to be from someone you know, reach out to them through a known number or address to verify that the code is from them.
  • Avoid making payments through a site navigated to from a QR code. Instead, manually enter a known and trusted URL to complete the payment.

If you believe you have been a victim of stolen funds from a tampered QR code, report the fraud to your local FBI field office at www.fbi.gov/contact-us/field-offices. The FBI also encourages victims to report fraudulent or suspicious activities to the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov.


Talking With Your Banker Before Going Vehicle Shopping Has Its Advantages

It’s the time of year when many people start getting the itch to purchase ayoung woman holding keys to a new financed car new vehicle.

With that decision comes a number of challenges and choices.  New or used? What year? What color? What model?

Another question that inevitably comes up is ‘How do I pay for it?’ For most of us, a vehicle purchase typically involves financing of some sort. Dealerships will more than likely encourage you to finance through them. The car buying process can be very drawn out and stressful, and while it may seem like a convenience that the dealership can offer you financing ‘on the spot’, going with it may not always be to your advantage.

Monthly Payment Mirage

One big disadvantage of using dealer financing is that dealers will often focus on what your monthly payment will be rather than the cost of the vehicle. Yes, stretching the loan out a few more years will decrease the monthly payment, but it will also result in you paying more interest over the life of the loan. It may not be the best solution for your situation, and you may wind up spending more on the vehicle than you’d originally planned.

You See What They Choose to Show You

When you’re sitting at the desk of a salesperson, the dealership will likely present you with several financing options that they will work into the deal. This puts you at a few disadvantages. The first – you don’t know if you were approved for more loans than they are choosing to show you. Yes, the dealership wants you to get a loan to buy a car from them, but they also make money on the financing side. There’s a chance that they are only showing you the loans that are most profitable for them. You could be qualified for better terms than what they are showing you.

‘Mystery Lender’

When financing through a dealer, you’ll be presented with a number of loans from different companies. Some from places you may have heard of, others that could be completely new to you. Either way, there’s a good chance you won’t have any first-hand experience working with them. What will their customer service be like? What support options do they offer? Will you be just another number to them?

Go With What You Know

One way you can eliminate some of the stress of vehicle shopping is to talk with your American Federal Banker before you go. This offers a few advantages over dealership financing. Your Banker can take the time to discuss your options with you and help you decide which terms best fit your situation. Likewise, if you have any future questions about your loan, you know you’ll be dealing with people you know personally who you can call directly – not some giant call center.

If you’re in the market for purchasing a vehicle, give your American Federal Banker a call and ask about getting pre-approved.