What Are QR Codes & Are They Safe?

    What Are QR Codes & Are They Safe?
    Last Updated on Dec 15, 2023

    QR code scams are on the rise, and the US Federal Trade Commission has issued a warning about them.

    Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, many businesses have started to greatly prefer contactless transactions and one of the best ways to achieve this is by using QR codes. You can now order takeout, check out restaurant menus, download apps, and even rent office space – all by using QR codes!

    According to a recent survey by Statista, in the US alone, an estimated 11 million households were forecast to have scanned a QR code in 2020. This would have meant an increase from an estimated 9.76 million scans in 2018.


    What is a QR code?

    QR code is short for “quick response code”. The technology was created by Japanese auto parts manufacturer Denso Wave as a way for the company to keep track of car parts in its factories. QR codes enable smartphone cameras to scan up to 4,000 characters of information instantaneously. 

    Are there hidden risks in using QR codes?

    Since QR codes are essentially images containing stored pieces of information (a string of text, like a website URL, for example), helpful content can be shared just as easily as malicious content. Here are some of the inherent hidden risks that you should be aware of:

    • Hackers can use QR codes to trick you into opening a malicious URL containing malware.
    • QR codes can be used to direct you to a phishing site where hackers can dupe you into entering personal information.
    • QR codes can also be used to download fake or malicious mobile apps which can cause harm to or steal information from your device.

    Safety Tips from the FTC

    FTC warned that scammers could hide harmful links in QR codes to steal your personal information. Here are some useful tips provided by the FTC:

    • Inspect the URL before clicking.
    • Don’t scan a QR code from unknown resources, such as emails and texts that you’re not expecting.
    • Keep your phone’s OS up to date.
    • Use stronger passwords and turn on 2FA to better protect your online accounts.

    How to know if a QR code is safe

    Trend Micro QR Scanner can instantly tell you whether a QR code is safe. After scanning a code, the app performs a URL safety check so you can know if it is malicious or not in seconds! This guarantees that you are only ever directed to legitimate apps and websites, keeping you safe from scams and dangerous content.

    Trend Micro QR Scanner benefits:

    • Scans all QR codes easily, quickly, and safely.
    • Displays previews of the URLs generated by scanned QR codes.
    • Dangerous apps or websites are blocked and reported instantly.
    • NO ADS, or 3rd-party advertiser-sponsored content.
    • Scan QR codes using your phone’s live camera or from your saved images.
    • It’s 100% free.

    Download Trend Micro QR Scanner for Android now! For iOS users, please try Trend Micro Mobile Security for its Secure QR Code Scanner:

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