QR code labeling system hijacked by scammers, QR codes are being used as a quick and reliable way to pass information. The once-ubiquitous barcode is being challenged by a collection of blobs and dots that cannot be read by the human eye, but that handle far more data. QR codes have gained in popularity over the past two years as smartphone scanning apps have become a “must have.” The codes are easy to create and are flexible enough to include anything from text to a website address to contact information and more.

Because QR codes are easy to create, they can also be used by scammers to take unsuspecting consumers to fraudulent websites. And, because mobile devices are capable of downloading files, the codes may also be used to download malware that can be used to steal personal information or perpetrate scams.

From manufacturers and advertisers to public transportation, QR codes may be used anywhere there might be people, including billboards in public places like airports, train stations and bus depots, on displays in stores or advertisements, etc.

As always, caution will help protect you from the scammers. Here are a few tips:

Be cautious when scanning codes in public places. Be sure the code appears to be there for a legitimate purpose and run your finger over the code. If it’s a pasted-on sticker, don’t scan it.
Use a scanner app that checks the website before taking you there. There are many QR code readers available, but only a few that actually check the URL of a site. Norton and McAfee both have apps that handle this.
If you scan a code and find yourself on a web page that asks for confidential information such as a password, even if the site appears to be legitimate, don't key the information in.
If you want to get more information about these codes, take a look at the CNet article How to protect your smartphone from malicious QR codes or the Scambusters.org article, 5 Ways to Avoid a QR Code Scam.

In addition to his columns on Examiner.com, Terry Ambrose (www.terryambrose.com) also writes mysteries and suspense. In a review of his latest novel, the San Francisco Book Review said, “On all levels License to Lie justifiably earned this five star rating!”