How to Safely Scan QR Codes while Traveling?

As the captivating story of Inception unfolded on the silver screen, Leonardo DiCaprio’s film marketing team employed a clever technique to hype the sense of mystery and generate publicity by using black and white patterns famously called QR codes.

These cryptic codes, strategically placed all over the posters in the U.S locations, with a simple scan, viewers were transported to a website that includes blogs about the mystery of the movie’s core concept.

How to Safely Scan QR Codes while Traveling?

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The innovation and use of QR codes heightened the anticipation and pushed the income of the movie. QR codes are ubiquitous these days. There are hundreds of movies and business uses to engage their target audiences and users. Again, how could we forget the movie Focus? 

Nicky Spurgeon, aka Will Smith, the experienced con artist, takes Jess Barrett, aka Margot Robbie, under his wings to pull off the con by using various techniques, out of which the QR code was the best.

On the other hand, we also see big headlines in newspapers like – “QR Code Scam: User lost $ 50,000 by scanning code” or “Be aware of QR code scams”. Criminal tampers with the QR code to steal users’ financial information and money.

And, while traveling, scanning QR codes as a travel pass or making a payment is so easy. But how to make sure the transaction making is safe?  According to a study on QR codes, 46% of people revealed they feel safe scanning codes at malls and supermarkets and 43% at cafes or restaurants. However, crooks can physically and digitally replace the QR codes with malicious codes to steal information.

With many fearful headlines and FBI warning these days, it is very important to know – how to safely scan QR codes while traveling and making any transactions.

Best Ways to Ensure QR Code Security for Business

Did you know that in 2022, around 89 million smartphone users alone in the United States took advantage of making payments or learning something by scanning QR codes? This marked a remarkable 26% increase compared to the year 2020. 

QR Codes are called Quick Response codes. It is a two-dimensional black-white square configuration barcode with data encodes inside, which scans with a mobile camera, taking you to a website showing information or a payment getaway.

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These days, I guarantee you’ve seen them everywhere. The parcel delivery tracking system is developing on QR codes, the billboard advertisements system, the payment process, collecting wedding gifts, identifying pets, registration to any seminars, and a lot in between. 

No doubt, QR codes are versatile as they can be printed on materials like plastics, metal, or paper and can be scanned from different angles and distances to use them to access information. 

So, here are the ways you can install security and confidence in users using your business QR Code:

  • Develop your own brand QR code with unique color, brand logo, custom borders, and more. The code should shout out the brand identity ensuring the QR code is directly connected with the website landing page.
  • Your business QR code should be SSL certified, meaning users are safe using it because it prevents attackers from creating fake versions of your code.
  • Try to partner with a reputed Data Privacy Company that relies on General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) laws, ensuring data privacy. Secure QR code generator ensures enterprise-level security protection with data encryption.
  • Incorporate password protection while exchanging confidential information like personal information, bank details, and documents.
  • Your QR code solution provider should be SOC-2 Type-2 and SOC-2 Type 1 certified. This complies with the fact that data shared are secure and protected.

How do QR Codes Impact our Data Privacy?

Asia, the birthplace of QR codes, has witnessed the highest level of adoption of this modern technology. China’s population is scanning QR codes multiple times per day, week, month, and year. They have become the global frontrunner!

Ever since 2017, the utilization of QR codes has witnessed a steady growth in popularity. An intriguing example of this is the quadrupling of redeemed coupons through scanning.

Within the span of 2017 – 2019, the number of QR code coupons redeemed skyrocketed from 1.3 billion to 5.3 billion. Back in 2019, the Global Web Index conducted a study revealing fascinating insight into the usage of QR codes worldwide. 

In North America, 8% of usage was actively engaging, while in the Asia Pacific region, the figure stood at 13% and 15%. In Europe and the Middle East Asia, the adoption rate was around 10% embracing the usage of QR codes. 

Mostly, people use it for transaction purposes as it is more easy and fast. However, while using it, remember you’re open to cyber threats and hackers. Your information can be stolen and used negatively.

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So, here are the potential threats people face regarding data privacy while using QR codes.

  • Hackers can collect data and track your location. The person can get your IP address, what browser you’re using, your surfing history, bank details, contact lists, photos on your gallery, and so more. It’s like a third person can use your device sitting somewhere else.
  • While you are making the transaction, someone is storing your information. Being a user, you never know if they can use it maliciously or not. No doubt, breaching data is always a fear among users.
  • A clever way to steal data is by linking malware with QR codes. For example, when you scan the code, the malware is downloaded onto your device. Ta-da! The hacker now has all your information.
  • Hackers can create fake QR codes that look exactly like the original ones but are run by stealers to steal users’ sensitive information. This process is called phishing attacks. The user considers it a legitimate code, unknowingly revealing banking IDs, passwords, and other wealth of information to attackers.  
qr code menu

How to Safely Scan QR Codes while Traveling for Travellers?

Amid the pandemic, hospitality sectors, mostly restaurants, cafes, and supermarket operators, have started using QR code menus to revolutionize the payment process. No doubt, it’s such a hygienic option for customers to make the payment quickly.

But, with the incoming of new technologies, fraudsters have come up with unique techniques to manipulate it. They replace the original code with the fake one taking the customers to a fake website that looks similar to stealing their data.

So, here are the tips for scanning the popular black and white squares safely while making the payment – 

  • Never login or put your financial and personal data on any weird websites. Look at the URL before taping it. Normally, the restaurant link should have its name with no fishy attachments. Be careful about what you’re clicking.
  • You do not need to use any third-party app to scan a QR code. These days, all our iPhones, iOS, and Android have inbuilt features to scan codes with the camera apps. You can use Google’s image-recognition technology to scan codes too. With these advancements in travel apps and device capabilities, QR code scanning has become more accessible and user-friendly for travelers.
  • Do not use QR codes sent by anyone on your email – be it friends, relatives, or any loved ones. You never know what if their account is hacked and the fraud tries to fool you. Hence, use the browser to visit the website to make the payment from there itself.
  • Do not download an app with a QR code because that is a criminal tactic to steal. Once you download, the malware gets installed on your phone, through which they can access all your information and a whole host of other details.
  • Before using it, look at it carefully. They’re indeed coded programs, and your naked eyes cannot interpret anything but trust your gut and instincts. If the code is unclear, there are dubious frame texts around the code, the logo does not appear legitimate, or the brand color or the side is stuck, call the owner to make the payment directly to him.
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Risks of Using QR Codes in Hotels and Restaurants

Hackers access all your information to either steal from your bank account or sell them at high prices on the dark web. The design of the code poses a significant threat due to its inherent difficulty in distinguishing between malicious and legitimate codes. To mitigate these risks, travelers should be cautious and use reputable hotel apps or websites to find cheap hotels, ensuring the authenticity and security of the QR codes they encounter during their search.

The common ways fraudsters exploit hotels and restaurants are –

  • It is easy for hackers to tamper with Wi-Fi- hotspots and QR code menus. Criminals create a fake Wi-Fi network in a public place, and once you try to connect it, they get a trace of you and your information.
  • Business these days pastes QR code stickers on the product encouraging customers to learn more about the origin, taste, and feedback data to overall improve the customer experiences. However, cybercriminals often use phishing email techniques to trick customers into scanning and direct them to bogus websites designed to steal personal data.

Conclusion

With the passing years, an increasing number of organizations are embracing the utilization of QR codes as a way to revolutionize their operations. However, the primary recommendation to safeguard against malpractice is to avoid scanning them altogether. 

Moreover, this recommendation in today’s society is not only challenging but somewhat useless. In such cases, users should adopt a proactive approach by carefully examining the QR codes. With any uncertainty, take steps to verify its originality before proceeding.

If the code appears to be a sticker, it is always recommended to question the legitimacy of its authenticity. In a restaurant or hotel setting, you can seek clarification from the staff. Hence, with good security practices, you can save yourself from being the victim of cybercrime. 

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