PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — The Better Business Bureau is reminding people of a new scam. It’s targeting people of all ages nationwide and it’s in the form of QR codes.

There are multiple places people may see a QR code, and here is what they need to look out for:

  • Parking meter payment: In the event that a victim does not have change, fraudulent QR codes may be placed on the back of parking meters, leading them to assume that they can pay for parking through the QR code. The creation of QR codes can be done online for free, which can then be printed on stickers and placed wherever the con artist chooses. When victims pay for their parking space using the QR code, their vehicles may be towed, or they might receive a parking ticket.
  • Cryptocurrency/romance scams: A QR code is an easy way for both legitimate and fraudulent traders to bring investors to their digital wallets when trading cryptocurrencies online. The BBB has become aware of scammers who spend months building a romantic relationship with their victims, then ask for financial assistance through cryptocurrency exchanges. 
  • Phishing scams: Due to QR codes’ design, it is impossible to know where they will direct victims once scanned, allowing scammers to send victims to phishing websites or downloads that will infect their devices with malware. It is not uncommon for victims to be directed to websites that request personal information that can lead to identity theft, compromised passwords for online accounts, or downloads that track user activities. Typically, phishing attempts involve notifications of ‘suspicious activity’ containing a link or QR code for the user to verify their identity. 
  • Utility and government imposters: The Social Security Administration, the IRS, or their utility companies often contact consumers concerning outstanding debts they must pay immediately. In case of non-payment, the representative claims arrests, additional fines, or shut-offs of electricity, gas, or water will result. The imposter claims that the regular payment portal for these services is currently unavailable, but the victim can still pay through another portal via QR code or link by following the link. Victims are typically taken to a payment portal that mimics the real one down to the smallest detail, giving them a false sense of security.

CEO and President of the BBB, Jessica Tharp, said, “If it’s asking you for personal information or banking information, we wouldn’t recommend that you provide that to a stranger or even to a website if it’s not secure and you don’t know really who’s on the other end of it.”