A new scam method, where people are robbed by scanning a QR code, is gaining popularity. Victims often lose thousands of euros. How do you prevent yourself from being scammed?

What is a QR Code?

A QR code (Quick Response) is a type of barcode that can be read with a scanner and nowadays also with smartphones via the camera. The codes can link to a webpage and are used, for example, in museums to provide more information about a work of art or on concert tickets to be able to verify whether a ticket is valid.

The QR code is also used to make online payments. When paying with iDEAL, stores can display a QR code that can be scanned with many bank apps. Users are then directed to a payment page of their bank and can pay the amount to be paid via the app.

However, these types of links can also be used to make payment requests to each other, which can then be settled immediately. That system is used by scammers to take over a bank account.

Example of a QR code. (Photo: NU.nl)

QR codes via WhatsApp and Marktplaats

The first scam method that uses QR codes is to steal data from people who, for example, offer things via Marktplaats, via WhatsApp. The scammer acts as if he wants to check the seller's account number and sends a payment request of 0.01 euros.

Sometimes this happens with a link, but they are increasingly QR codes. However, the QR code does not lead to the seller's banking environment, but to a counterfeit version thereof. When the seller transfers 1 euro cent, the scammer gets access to the victim's bank details and can transfer amounts to himself.

In addition, QR codes are used to specifically target ING customers. A second phone can be linked to the ING app via a QR code. Instead of a payment request, fraudsters send a QR code with which they can link the victim's ING app to their own telephone. This gives them full access to the bank account.

Scan QR code on the street

Fraudsters do not only use the QR method to scam people online. The police arrested two suspects in July who tried to steal money by addressing people on the street and having them scan a QR code.

The victims were approached on the street and asked to transfer money for the parking meter via a QR code, because the scammer himself only had cash with him. The victims received 5 euros in cash and scanned the code to transfer money. They were led to a fake site so that the scammer could steal the bank details.

Paid parking. (Photo: 123RF)

What can you do against scammers?

Banks do not always compensate the damage suffered by this type of scam. The victims were not scammed by an error in the software, but mostly by their own carelessness.

That is why it is important in the first place to be very careful with payment requests via links or QR codes of people you don't know. If you do not trust it, you should not scan the QR code and make a transfer yourself via the app from your own bank.

If you still want to pay via a link or a QR code that you have received from someone, check carefully where you end up. Check whether the site is really from the bank. In some browsers this is made clear with a lock in the address bar. If you click on this, it will be shown whether the site is indeed from the bank.

In the case of chat tricks, where people on the street ask for money for the parking meter, it is wise not to just scan a QR code. If you really want to help someone, it is better to just walk to the parking meter and pay yourself with a debit card.