Authorities are warning the public to watch out for a new type of “QR Code” scam, saying that people should be prudent when downloading QR codes in public places.
It was found that criminal gangs have been producing bogus QR codes from a code generator through a Web site, the Chinese-language United Daily News reported earlier this week.
Through this process, the criminal gangs are posting their bogus QR codes at public places, which, when scanned, link to their own sites, and can register the data of the person doing the downloading.
The unsuspecting downloaders of the bogus QR codes have their numbers hijacked by the criminal gangs for use in money scams. Those who download a bogus QR code may become an accessory to the gang’s fraud and illegal money-transfer activities.
A QR code is a type of matrix barcode, which is a machine-readable optical label containing digital information. They are increasingly used in product advertisement, business transactions and in promotional campaigns for downloading by smartphone users.
A Hsinchu County man told local police he received a phone call recently asking him, “Who are you? Why do you send me text messages for a scam Web site?”
The man checked in his mobile phone to find that he had received the same scam Web site, after earlier clicking on an unknown Web site. The man then realized his telephone number had been used by a criminal gang for fraudulent activities.
Police said that due to the growing prevalence of smartphones, many companies and product service sites are available by QR Code, so people can scan and download information instantly.
The police warned that criminal gangs had picked up on this, creating QR codes for their scam Web sites, which were then posted at airports, restaurants, MRT stations, hotels, tourist attractions, and other public places.
When scanning the QR codes, the unsuspecting public is inadvertently linked to the bogus Web sites.
Hsinchu’s Chudong District (竹東) Police Chief Huang Chih-hsiang (黃志祥) said a recent scam entices smartphone users to reply or link to a Web site sent by text message, where the set-up makes the user agree to make a small payment.
“Furthermore, the person who receives the text message has his phone automatically captured to become a new sender of the text message, so he becomes an accessory to the criminal operation,” Huang said.
He reminded the public that although it may seem easy and convenient to scan and download QR Code in public places, “one must check carefully if it was authentic and posted by the store itself, or by the institutional place itself. Also, do not reply or click into Web sites received via text messaging. If anyone has queries, they can call the ‘165’ anti-scam hotline.”
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