The now ubiquitous QR code (machine readable optical labels that are arranged as squares with black designs in them) for phones are being corrupted and misused in order to scam unsuspecting persons.

One popular scam technique is to place fake QR code stickers over real QR codes. This has stirred up quite a bit of trouble, and has even led individuals to transfer money into fake bank accounts.

Many of the most nefarious schemes have occurred within China, where QR codes can be used to make small purchases, to hire share-bikes, and even pay parking tickets.

One common scam in China plays out as follows: “A driver who had parked in a restricted spot returned to his car to discover what looked like a parking ticket on the windscreen. The ticket ordered him to pay a 200 yuan ($41) fine by scanning the accompanying QR code.” The individual paid the ticket.

However, several days later, the driver received a letter from the police indicating that he had not yet paid the fine. Upon closer review, it was discovered that the QR code on the ticket had been replaced with a QR code linking to a scammer’s WeChat Pay account. Unfortunately, the driver had paid the scammer rather than the police.

Malicious QR codes can also direct users to malicious websites that plant malware onto phones, and more.

Scammers in China have filched roughly 90 million yuan ($18.5 million) in QR code scams. The Netherlands is facing a similarly high volume of attacks. How can QR code scams be stopped?

For more on this story, visit Information Age.