RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN)- QR codes have grown in popularity. With the onset of the pandemic, they have been used by restaurants for a contactless menu. CBS 17 even uses them during newscasts to promote additional information on stories that can be found online.

Scammers are now taking advantage of them to disguise malicious links, the Better Business Bureau of Eastern North Carolina has warned. The BBB said con artists are placing these codes in emails, social media messages, texts, flyers or mail. When a person scans the QR code, they may be taken to a phishing website where they’re asked to provide personal information. Scammers may also use the codes to launch payment apps of follow social media accounts.

The BBB offered the following tips to avoid scams:

  • If someone you know sends you a QR code, also confirm before scanning it. Whether you receive a text message from a friend or a message on social media from your workmate, contact that person directly before you scan the QR code to make sure they haven’t been hacked.
  • Don’t open links from strangers. If you receive an unsolicited message from a stranger, don’t scan the QR code, even if they promise you exciting gifts or investment opportunities.
  • Verify the source. If a QR code appears to come from a reputable source, it’s wise to double check. If the correspondence appears to come from a government agency, call or visit their official website to confirm.
  • Be wary of short links. If a URL-shortened link appears when you scan a QR code, understand that you can’t know where the code is directing you. It could be hiding a malicious URL.
  • Watch out for advertising materials that have been tampered with. Some scammers attempt to mislead consumers by altering legitimate business ads by placing stickers or the QR code. Keep an eye out for signs of tampering.
  • Install a QR scanner with added security. Some antivirus companies have QR scanner apps that check the safety of a scanned link before you open it. They can identify phishing scams, forced app downloads, and other dangerous links.

To report a scam, click here.