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SAN DIEGO — Many San Diegans have gotten used to using QR codes during the coronavirus pandemic, with physical menus and other handouts replaced by links you can scan with your phone.

While these codes can be convenient, the Better Business Bureau issued a warning this week not to mindlessly scan the labels without double-checking you know where you’re headed. The organization says scammers are taking advantage of people who do exactly that.

“As QR codes get more popular, BBB Scam Tracker is seeing more reports of con artists using them to mislead consumers,” the agency explained.

“You receive an email, direct message on social media, text message, flyer or a piece of mail that includes a QR code. You are supposed to scan the code with your phone’s camera, and it will open a link. In some scams, the QR code takes you to a phishing website, where you are prompted to enter your personal information or login credentials for scammers to steal. Other times, con artists use QR codes to automatically launch payment apps or follow a malicious social media account.”

While the digital crooks use a variety of ways to reach you, they all have one thing in common, the BBB says: “Scammers hope you will scan the code right away, without taking a closer look.”

Experts shared the following tips for avoiding the scams:

  • Don’t open links from strangers
    If you get an unsolicited message from someone you don’t know, that’s an immediate red flag for opening links.
  • Verify the source
    It’s best to double-check that a legitimate-seeming message is coming from an email or website that matches the place it claims to be from.
  • Be wary of short links
    If a shortened URL appears after you scan a QR code, you can’t see where the link is taking you.
  • Watch out for advertising materials that have been tampered with
    Some scammers have actually placed stickers over legitimate ads for businesses — make sure that doesn’t seem to be the case
  • 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.