Don’t Be Fooled! QR Codes

I worked for over 30 years in the title insurance industry, working with real estate closings and insuring those closings. Our industry has always been aware of in-person fraud (read “Who Are You?” and “When Did I Sell My House” – the 2nd and 3rd “Title World Tales” stories – available now on Amazon at Title World Tales (3 book series) Paperback Edition ( 😁).

Today, the title insurance industry is hyper aware of online scams because so much of the real estate transaction industry involves transferring money online. I signed up for various fraud alerts from federal agencies like the Federal Trade Commission and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and, periodically, I forward what I have learned to some of my family so that we can all be aware of them and avoid them.

Back in August of 2022, I emailed a warning from the Florida Land Title Association’s Cyber Security Committee about scams involving QR Codes. Here is the link to the article: FLTA – Cyber Security Tips. Go to Cyber Security Tip #3 (although all of the tips are good to read).

Even though I knew to be careful, what did I do? I fell for one!! And I almost fell for another! Geez! Here are my stories.

In September of 2023, I was staying at a hotel where I was scheduled to present a couple of seminars. I found out that room service was ordered by clicking on a QR code, shown on a printed document in my hotel room. Okay. Got it.

I clicked on the QR code. It took me to a site that asked me for my credit card number. I thought that was weird, as I had already checked in and expected to charge the room service costs to the CC that I had given the front desk folks. But, being tired and not really focused, I input a CC number. When I clicked Continue, I was led to a site that had NOTHING to do with the room service menu!!! OH, @#$$%!

I saw an X in the top right corner and clicked on that. Guess what appeared? The hotel’s room service menu!!

Yowza! The fake / fraudulent embedded site had been overlayed on top of the real hotel’s website. Oh, no.

When I got home, I checked my CC charges every day. Nothing, until about 6 days later, 3 charges appeared – not mine. I immediately contacted my CC company to cancel my CC. I should have contacted them ASAP. I might have been able to prevent some loss for my bank. Unfortunately for these lenders (but fortunately for us), they are VERY used to fraudulent use of credit cards and canceling a CC has become routine for them, I am sad to say. Sigh . . .

THEN, a few months later, the same thing happened to me, BUT I was now focused on being suspicious of “weird” looking links from hotel rooms. I simply clicked on the X at the top right and ended up with the hotel’s real website.


5 thoughts on “Don’t Be Fooled! QR Codes”

  1. Thanks for the tip, Barbara! As you know, I travel for work too and I have had to scan QR codes to order room service on occasion. I never thought that the code could take me somewhere unsafe, especially since the code was provided by the hotel. It is sad how the more we try to replace people with computers, the more opportunities we create for fraud and misuse.

    • Laura,
      You are speaking my language! I thought the same thing – the QR code was provided by the hotel, so what harm could arise?
      If you ever see a weird site after clicking on a QR code – whether at a hotel or a restaurant or any other place – exit! And, whatever you do, don’t do what I did was to enter a credit card number – geez!!
      And please contact the hotel or restaurant or other retailer (I was just at my optometrist that had a QR code displayed to click on to vote for them) to let them know that their QR code has been compromised. QR codes are everywhere. I am sorry to say that, as users, we must be aware of potential fraudsters. You’re right, Laura. The online fraudsters are everywhere we use online communications.
      Sigh . . .

  2. Thanks for posting this, Barbara. I had no idea that QR could take us to places that we don’t want to go. I rarely use them except in restaurants to see a menu, but good to know that randomly using them could be tricky. Another reason why I like to stay “off the grid”!

    • You are right, Pat. Staying off the grid is wise, as much as possible, that is.
      Just be careful when looking at menus in restaurants if the link does not take you immediately to the menu . . .

  3. Here is another comment from subscriber, Carol: “Geez, Louise! There is always something to be wary of! Fraudsters always find a way / weakness. . .

    Carol, your statements are very true! It’s almost exhausting trying to keep up. I hope that I do not have any more personal examples to share!!


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