The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) warned Americans this week that cybercriminals are using maliciously crafted Quick Response (QR) codes to steal their credentials and financial info.
The warning was issued as a public service announcement (PSA) published on the Bureau’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) earlier this week.
“Cybercriminals are tampering with QR codes to redirect victims to malicious sites that steal login and financial information,” the federal law enforcement agency said.
The FBI said crooks are switching legitimate QR codes used by businesses for payment purposes to redirect potential victims to malicious websites designed to steal their personal and financial information, install malware on their devices, or divert their payments to accounts under their control.
After the victims scan what looks like legitimate codes, they get sent to attackers’ phishing sites, where they are prompted to enter their login and financial info. Once entered, it gets sent to the cybercriminals who can use it to steal money using hijacked banking accounts.
“While QR codes are not malicious in nature, it is important to practice caution when entering financial information as well as providing payment through a site navigated to through a QR code,” the FBI added. “Law enforcement cannot guarantee the recovery of lost funds after transfer.”
Pay attention when scanning QR codes
The FBI advised Americans to pay attention to the URL they’re sent after scanning QR codes, always be cautious when entering their data after scanning a QR code, and make sure that physical QR codes haven’t been covered with malicious ones.
You should also avoid installing apps via QR codes or installing QR code scanners (instead, use the one that comes with your phone’s OS).
Last but not least, always enter URLs by hand when making payments instead of scanning a QR code that could be set up to redirect you to malicious sites.
The FBI issued another PSA focused on QR code risks in November, alerting people that victims of various fraud schemes are increasingly asked by criminals to use QR codes and cryptocurrency ATMs to hinder efforts to recover their financial losses.
As evidenced by a recent phishing campaign targeting German e-banking users, threat actors use QR codes instead of buttons in spam emails to make their attacks harder to detect by security software and successfully redirect victims to phishing sites.
Victims successfully redirected to the phishing landing pages were asked to enter their bank location, code, user names, and PINs.