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Hackers now using parking meters to steal your money

Phoney QR code stickers are being swapped to trick people

by Kurt Knutsson

Parking meters are the latest tools being used in real-life hacks to use deceptive QR codes to steal from you.  A criminal trend has surfaced in Texas that replaces the convenience of a legit QR code meant to allow 3rd party mobile payments from parking meters with a fake QR code that is redirecting people to a fake payment page.

Once there, the crooks record your personal information including car details, credit card, and billing address.   Not only are you about to get ripped off, but a parking ticket could also be a surprise on your dash when returning to your car.

FBI says scammers are getting smarter

The FBI is warning about this amped-up threat from QR codes that we first told you about a while back.  This time, thieves are getting smarter by replacing bogus QR code stickers on top of legit QR code locations such as restaurants, bars, and in payment collection scenarios.

The FBI alert describes it to a tee, “Businesses use QR codes legitimately to provide convenient contactless access and have used them more frequently during the COVID-19 pandemic.  However, 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.”

More dangerous than losing your credit card details

So yes, your financial info could be ripped off, and there’s an even more dangerous threat – malware.

The same innocent scan of a QR code with your phone is also taking some victims to a path that unloads malware onto their device. That malware could be programmed to do all sorts of malicious deeds aside from stealing your money.

Malware could secretly record every interaction on your phone for days, weeks, and months. Crooks record and compile everything such as your social security number, bank login credentials, every password you type, every text and email you write.

Some growing QR code scams involve cryptocurrency making it more difficult to track down criminals.   The most dangerous threat takes it to a ransomware attack freezing you out of everything they can manipulate in your digital life.

How to stop QR code crooks

  1. The advice is simple. Don’t scan random QR codes
  2. If unsure about a QR code’s authenticity, don’t scan it
  3. Don’t be shy about asking a place of business if what you scanned with their QR code is legit
  4. Avoid making payments for anything that involves scanning a QR code
  5. Use malware-defending security software and apps

It’s one thing to enjoy the convenience of quick information like a restaurant menu on your phone instantly, but once you start revealing personal data such as a credit card, you’ve opened yourself up to a whole lot of trouble that’s likely going to more damage than you imagine.

Deploy robust protection software and apps

Another way to protect against malware attacks is to deploy good security software and apps that work across all your devices.

One of the top anti-virus apps for Macs, Windows, Android phones and iPhones is TotalAV.   Their product is full of features to keep you safe from malware and protect you when browsing the internet including ransomware protection, real-time antivirus protection, elimination of viruses and malware, a tool to free up your computer’s space, plus more. Limited time deal for CyberGuy readers: $19 your first year (80% off)

You can check out our review of other anti-virus apps, here: Best Antivirus Security Software and Apps to Protect You 2022.

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1 comment

Patrick Klos January 22, 2022 - 8:05 am

“It’s one thing to enjoy the convenience of quick information like a restaurant menu on your phone instantly, but once you start revealing personal data such as a credit card, you’ve opened yourself up to a whole lot of trouble…” – This gives the wrong impression. “once you start revealing personal data”? WRONG! Simply scanning the QR is not the problem – it’s what people are convinced to do once they get to the target site that can cause trouble. Even if they don’t enter their credit card info, etc., a victim might be asked to install an app to see the establishment’s menu. That is when the victim’s device can become compromised (regardless of if they started revealing personal data or not).

“Avoid making payments for anything that involves scanning a QR code” – probably the BEST advice in this article. Unless someone is 100% CERTAIN that the image of the QR code is genuine (which is extremely hard to know), JUST DON’T DO IT!

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