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  • Writer's pictureBig Rick Stuart

If You Scanned That QR Code from the Super Bowl (Or Any QR Code), the FBI Has a Warning for You

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QR codes are appearing everywhere--even in Super Bowl ads--but consumers and business owners should know that there are risks.

Not every QR code is what it seems, and they've become a tool for bad actors. That's why the FBI is warning consumers to be aware any time they scan a QR code, and take steps to protect their information. While the FBI's warning isn't specifically in response to the Coinbase ad, there's an important lesson here--not just for consumers, but for business owners, as well.

The beauty of a QR code is that instead of asking someone to remember a website, you simply embed it in the code. When they scan the code, it takes them directly to whatever webpage you want.

So a restaurant can put its menu online, put a sticker with a QR code on the table, and diners can simply scan the code and view the menu on their phone. As businesses tried to figure out how to safely operate during a pandemic, the idea that you wouldn't have to pass menus back and forth between people was very appealing.

QR codes can also be used to facilitate payments. For example, PayPal and Venmo allow users to scan a QR code to send money to each other. As you might imagine, anytime a new technology makes it easier to get people to visit a website, or send money, someone is going to abuse it. That's exactly the warning that the FBI sent last month:

"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."

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