With the rise of UPI-based digital payments during the COVID-19 pandemic, technology has played a pivotal role in our lives. Contactless payment environments offer secure services, but not everything that glitters is gold. However, even the most basic of things can be evil in disguise, despite being straightforward and convenient for users.

QR codes are used by many companies to direct visitors to their apps, including the biggest technology companies in the world. With a QR (Quick Response) app, the code is simply recognized (the longer phrase is Quick Response). All you need is a camera and an app to decode the code. Though these codes appear to be genuine, they may contain a potential threat, which eliminates the need to enter bank account information. Furthermore, as humans, we tend to overlook minor details, allowing fraudsters to perpetrate evil online.

A real-life incident

An incident similar to this one occurred recently with a young girl who attempted to sell furniture on the renowned online marketplace OLX. A thief took the unusual step of confirming the product purchase first, then asking the victim to further negotiate the payment procedure after that. 

After sharing the QR code, the buyer committed to paying the entire amount in advance. Her WhatsApp account's fraudulent QR code was posted with Rs 10,000 written beneath it. The input of the UPI pin was required after scanning the code. The fraud was not known to her until she entered the UPI pin, which immediately debited her bank account of Rs 50,000. On another occasion, a woman was able to ban the prankster from her social media app after experiencing a similar experience. 

Three out of ten naive people fall victim to QR code scams every day, and it is nothing new. Recently, this type of scam has become more common, with con artists distributing QR codes on social networks and using UPI's request functionality to send fake payment requests with texts like 'Enter your UPI PIN to receive money. This two-dimensional barcode looks identical to most people's eyes. When one's device can be rigged to download malware, it's always a good idea to stay on top of the game and take the appropriate precautions to prevent falling for phishing.

How Does QR Code Fraud Work?

QR codes are similar to bar codes, and they can be read by machines. Scanning the QR code allows you to make payments to another person. Many apps and e-wallets offer these features to make payments easy and convenient. Fraudsters share QR codes and ask buyers to scan them to receive money into their accounts. It is actually a collection request. You agree to it when you scan the QR code. The QR code can only be scanned to make a payment, not to receive them. Unfortunately, some people are unaware of this feature and fall prey to the scammer's tricks.

How to avoid a QR code scam -

1. Despite the value of QR codes, it's wise not to scan any unidentified QR codes, but to treat them as shady links you'd rather not click to prevent being scammed.

2. Never reveal personal information to unknown callers. Know who you are dealing with before giving out your personal information.

3. You may be asked to scan a QR code in order to receive money. Please keep in mind that a QR code can only be scanned when you are sending money.

4. Your One Time Password (OTP), UPI pin, and other secret information should not be shared with anyone. Never provide banking information to anyone, and always contact your bank. There is a possibility of fraud here.

5. It is recommended that digital escrow platforms be used for payment. When making an online payment with Escrow, you do not share your financial information with anyone. There is a platform for escrow called Vouch.

How does digital escrow work?

In digital escrow, a third-party account holds the money deposited by the buyer until the seller fulfills the terms of the contract. The escrow company supervises the transacting parties.

What is the role of Digital Escrow in preventing online fraud in India? 

Digital escrow services are offered by many companies in India. Among the most trusted is Vouch.

Vouch’s Digital Escrow service is a transparent way for buyers and sellers to build trust and secure a clean transfer of product and payment. Sellers can feel assured that they will be fairly compensated promptly, and buyers will feel confident that their order will be delivered as expected and on schedule. Vouch Digital Escrow keeps you updated and informed at every step of the transaction process till the end. Vouch’s professionals are always available to assist you with all queries that you may have during the entire transaction process. 

There is no scope for deceit or fraud since the payments, shipping, delivery, and execution are carried out under the honest and watchful eyes of the Vouch’s professionals. With Vouch, any business transaction becomes transparent, uncomplicated, and hassle-free. If you ever come across a fraudster asking for OTP, asking you to scan a QR code, or asking you to click on phishing links, you can simply refuse and ask him/her to proceed with the transaction through Vouch.​

This is Fraud Story #160. Check back here for more fraud stories and scams that you can protect yourself from.

​Safety is not just about protecting your credit, debit card number, and UPI accounts. It's about having control of your money till you've received the product or service you bought online!

Note: This is a good-faith initiative to educate the world about avoiding frauds like these and how to act when you're becoming a victim of such a situation. 

Do you have a fraud you would like to report? Please write to us at letstalk@iamvouched.com