Banks warn of Christmas QR code scams
Financial institutions and consumer advocates are sounding the alarm on the surge of Christmas-related scams, cautioning that criminals are employing a novel tactic by exploiting COVID-era QR codes to pilfer personal information.
What is Quishing?
Quishing is a form of phishing attack that uses QR codes instead of text-based links in emails, digital platforms or on physical items. Quishing is a social engineering technique used by scammers and cybercriminals to trick you into providing personal information or downloading malware onto your device — cyber.gov.au
A recent Westpac report highlighted that over half of reported scams related to purchases and sales in November and December last year. They emphasised that scammers often capitalise on the increased spending and potential distractions during the holiday season.
To illustrate the heightened risk, Westpac experienced a 5 per cent uptick in fraud-related calls following the facilitation of over 31 million point-of-sale transactions during the recent Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales.
Westpac's research uncovered that 38 per cent of Australians fell victim to scams originating from fake websites, online retailers and marketplaces.
QR codes, once considered outdated by 2019, regained popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic due to the demand for contactless services. However, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in the United States has cautioned that scammers are now concealing harmful links in QR codes found at locations such as parking meters, cafes and bars.
The FTC outlined various deceptive tactics employed by scammers, including false claims of undelivered packages, account issues and fraudulent activities requiring immediate password changes. Young stressed the importance of verifying payment details before transferring funds and warned against clicking on links in SMS or email communications.
In the aftermath of clicking on deceptive links, individuals risk having their information stolen or malware installed on their devices.
Westpac identified several other prevalent Christmas scams, including enticing individuals to fake websites through social media advertisements, exploiting parcel-related anxieties with fake updates via SMS or email, and promoting seemingly lucrative fake investments.
Westpac also highlighted that investment scams pose a significant challenge, constituting half of all reported losses. These scams often promise substantial returns and involve scammers investing considerable time in grooming victims, making them difficult to identify.
In Australia, reported losses to Scamwatch on social media platforms have surged to over $66 million in 2023, marking a 40 per cent increase from the previous year. Consumer group Choice, along with 20 other organisations globally, is urging governments to mandate social media and technology companies to implement measures protecting consumers from scams.
Choice criticised tech giants such as Facebook, Instagram and Google for their failure to prevent scammers from exploiting their platforms, arguing that these companies possess the resources and technology to enhance consumer protection but are reluctant to do so without legal requirements.