Scan to scam? QR codes are convenient and everywhere -- but there's a catch, FBI says
If you've dined out much over the past 18 months, you've probably been to a restaurant where you've scanned a QR code with your phone to access an online menu, instead of receiving a hard copy.
QR codes -- a square bar code that a digital device such as a cellphone reads to access websites or download information -- have become more popular during the COVID-19 pandemic, since they provide a contactless way to share information or make a payment. They are at restaurant tables, next to products on store shelves and even on your television screens during commercials.
But the convenience they offer may be coming with a price, according to the FBI.
The bureau has issued a public warning about cybercriminals tampering with QR codes to redirect people to malicious websites that steal logins, passwords, financial information and other personal data.
Steve Bernas, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Chicago and Northern Illinois, told us the bureau has received firsthand accounts of people getting scammed by fake QR codes. In one case, he said, a victim thought he or she was paying for a parking spot through a code posted in a public garage but instead was sending money to hackers.
"The Better Business Bureau has seen an increase in these particular types of scams," Bernas said. "Since you can't read (the codes) with the human eye, you don't know what it is until you scan it."
Most often, Bernas said, scam QR codes lead people to "phishing" sites that ask for personal or financial information under the guise of a legitimate transaction. Once hackers have that info, they can access a victim's accounts to steal money.
What to watch for
Here are some tips from the FBI to protect yourself from QR code scams:
• Once you scan a QR code, check the URL, or web address, to make sure it is the intended site and looks authentic. A malicious domain name may be similar to the intended URL but with typos or a misplaced letter.
• Practice caution when entering login, personal or financial information from a site called up via a QR code.
• If scanning a physical QR code, ensure the code has not been tampered with, such as with a sticker placed on top of the original code.
• Do not download an app from a QR code. Use your phone's app store for a safer download.
• If you receive an email about a payment from a recent purchase and the company states you can complete the payment only through a QR code, call the company to verify. Locate the company's phone number through a trusted site rather than a number provided in the email.
• Do not download a QR code scanner app. This increases your risk of downloading malware onto your device. Most phones have a built-in scanner through the camera app.
• If you receive a QR code that you believe to be from someone you know, reach out to that person through a known number or address to verify it.
• Avoid making payments through a site called up from a QR code. Instead, manually enter a known and trusted URL to complete the payment.
Shootings on Illinois expressways skyrocketed last year, with more than 300 reported statewide, the vast majority of them in the Chicago area. That's more than twice the 147 reported in 2020 and about six times as many as the 51 tracked in 2019.
That rash of shootings has many concerned for their safety when traveling to and from Chicago.
Now, to provide a full picture of what's happening -- and when and where -- the Illinois State Police have launched an interactive online Statewide Expressway Shooting dashboard.
The site, at https://tinyurl.com/tatpnrpu, contains current and historical data regarding reported expressway shootings across the state, including time, date, location and whether there was an injury or death.
State police officials said one of the main goals of the dashboard is to be timely and transparent by displaying the latest reported expressway shooting information.
"We want to provide this information to the general public, community stakeholders, our traffic safety partners, other first responders, and our law enforcement partners to assure them that we are committed to our mission of ensuring public safety on our expressway systems," state police Director Brendan F. Kelly said in an announcement of the dashboard's launch. "Knowing when and where these violent crimes are being committed provides us with another tool to combating these violent and senseless crimes."
Naperville murder anniversary
It's been five years since Matthew Lange was shot to death in his car while he waited to pick up his son from a Naperville school. But don't think Naperville police have given up on finding his killer.
"It's been five years, but this case will never be considered a 'cold case' by our department. Our investigators remain just as committed today to bringing justice to Matthew Lange and his family as they were the day this horrible murder occurred," said Police Chief Jason Arres in a statement marking Thursday's anniversary.
"We will continue to do everything in our power to solve this case, but we need the public's assistance. Someone out there knows who murdered Mr. Lange, and it's time for them to step up. Come forward and help us hold the person responsible for this crime accountable and bring closure to the Lange family."
The shooting happened about 7 p.m. Jan. 27, 2017, when Lange was at Scullen Middle School, 2515 Mistflower Lane, to pick his son up from a Polish culture school. Lange, who lived in Oswego, was a Lewis University professor.
There's a $45,000 reward for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the person or people who killed Lange. If you have information, call the police Investigations Division at (630) 420-6666, or Naperville Crime Stoppers at (630) 420-6006.
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