FBI sounds alarm as QR code usage soars
The pandemic has accelerated the usage of QR codes, taking them from niche status to an essential tool for businesses and marketers.
- Look no further than Sunday's Super Bowl commercial of nothing but a floating QR code sending users to the website of Coinbase.
By the numbers: 76 million Americans scanned a QR code in 2021, up 44% from 2019, according to eMarketer.
- That’s expected to rise to 100 million by 2025.
Of note: During the pandemic, many restaurants have replaced physical menus with QR codes that diners scan to peruse food and drink options.
- Marketers are now poised to embrace the “gamification” of QR codes, encouraging users to scan them to get deals, product details and reviews, according to eMarketer.
Yes, but: Law enforcement officials are sounding the alarm about the risks.
Threat level: The FBI issued an alert in January warning Americans that cybercriminals “are tampering with QR codes to redirect victims to malicious sites that steal login and financial information.”
- If you’re scanning a physical code, make sure it hasn’t been tampered with. For example, watch out for “a sticker placed on top of the original code,” the FBI advises.
The bottom line: QR codes can be helpful. But don’t click unless you’ve verified that the source is legitimate — and make sure the site is authentic once you reach your digital destination.