3 in 4 Brits don’t check QR codes before scanning, research shows

Cybersecurity, News

  • Nearly three quarters (72%) of Brits do not check QR codes before scanning, with only one in six (16%) aware of potential QR scams, according to new research by NordVPN
  • Over three million people have been taken to an untrustworthy website after scanning a QR code, and one in six (16%) have had personal data stolen
  • Nearly a quarter (22%) have scanned QR codes on stickers in public places, while 23% have done so to access public Wi-Fi

3 in 4 Brits don’t check QR codes before scanning, research shows. The survey shows that 77% of people are actively using QR codes in the UK, yet a significant number remain unaware of the potential risks of exposing personal and sensitive information to cybercriminals.

Lack of awareness of QR scams is highlighted by nearly a quarter of Brits (22%) who have admitted to scanning QR code stickers in public places and 23% have done the same with codes offering access to public Wifi.

Over three million people say they have previously been directed to a website they deemed untrustworthy after using a QR code. Among those who ended up on dubious sites, one in six (16%) fell prey to cyber criminals and had their personal data stolen.

Gen Z and Millennials are the most avid users of QR codes among all age groups. A third (31.5%) of individuals aged 18 to 34 use QR codes to access public Wi-Fi. Meanwhile, 28% of those aged between 18 and 24 express a preference for QR codes over physical menus in restaurants and pubs.

Over half (56%) of people opt for the convenience of scanning codes directly onto their smartphones or devices using built-in cameras, while just over a quarter (27%) prefer to use a dedicated QR scanning app.

In response to these concerning trends, NordVPN is urging consumers to exercise heightened vigilance to protect themselves from malicious QR code scams.

Says Marijus Briedis, Chief Technology Officer at NordVPN:

 “In our increasingly digital landscape, QR codes have become indispensable for their convenience in various daily tasks, from connecting to Wi-Fi in coffee shops to streamlining orders at restaurants like Wetherspoons.

“However, blindly trusting QR codes can inadvertently expose users to cyber scams. It’s vital to approach them with caution and awareness of potential risks.

“To safeguard against falling victim to scammers, there are proactive steps you can take.

“Before scanning a QR code, ensure it originates from a reputable source and verify with the venue that it belongs to them. Also consider using a dedicated QR code scanning app instead of the default camera app for added security measures, as these apps can often detect malicious sites or software.

“If a QR code redirects you to an unrelated or suspicious website, refrain from providing personal information and exit the page immediately.”

Chris Price
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