COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Before you use your phone to scan another QR code, make sure you can trust the source. The FBI is warning that cybercriminals are tampering with those codes, to get your information.

A QR, or Quick Response code, is a square barcode that a smartphone camera can scan and read to provide quick access to a website, to download an app or to send a payment. A lot of businesses and restaurants have used them during the pandemic, because they’re contactless and convenient. We use them here at NBC4 to direct you to our website or to our mobile news app.

The FBI said cybercriminals are taking advantage of the technology by creating fake QR codes, to send you to malicious sites to steal data, embed malware in your devices or redirect your money directly to them.

While QR codes themselves are not malicious, the FBI says consumers need to be careful when using them, to avoid becoming a victim. Here are some things to consider: 

  • Once you scan a QR code, check the URL to make sure it takes you to the right website.
  • If you’re scanning a physical QR code, make sure it hasn’t been tampered with, such as with a sticker placed on top of the original code.
  • Don’t make payments through a QR code. Instead, manually enter a known and trusted URL to pay.

View for additional information from the FBI on ways to protect yourself here, as well as information on ways to report fraudulent or malicious QR codes.