How to scan a QR code safely using your smartphone

Not all smartphones require a third-party app to scan QR codes. Kurt "CyberGuy" Knutsson shows you how to scan codes using iPhone or Androids.

How to scan a QR code safely using your smartphone

We recently received this email from a CyberGuy reader asking an important question about QR codes:

Can you recommend a QR code reader that one will not be required to set up an account? In the App store, they all contain ads and in-app purchases. Many want you to allow them access to a lot of non-germane information in order to use it. I had an app for years that did not require one to bear one's soul and did not require access to one's phone activities. Suddenly one day I went to use it and things changed. Can you recommend a non-invasive QR code reader app that does not require a lot of Hoop Jumping and retains privacy and security?

Loyal Fox Viewer for over 20 years.

A QR code (short for Quick Response code) is a two-dimensional barcode that can be read by your smartphone camera. QR codes provide quick access to product information, promotions and other content.

They are also used in ticketing, payment systems and other applications where fast and easy access to information is important. It's important to note that a QR code consists of black squares arranged on a white background. It is not the barcode that you see on the back of packages.

Our reader above asked us to recommend QR code reader apps. However, I recommend not using these reader apps at all. The reason is that all smartphones are able to scan QR codes within their camera apps, so having an extra app on your phone for this function is unnecessary.

Many of these apps now have annoying advertisements and pop-ups now anyway, which makes them increasingly difficult to use, as one wrong tap can lead you to a whole new page that you never wanted to visit. So, stick with your smartphone camera if you're looking to scan any QR codes in the future.

Following the instructions above, try to scan this QR code in the phone in the image below, which leads you to my CyberGuy site:

If the camera app doesn't recognize the QR code for your iPhone or Android, make sure that the code is in focus and well-lit. You may also need to adjust the angle or distance of the camera. Also, it's important to note that older iPhones and Androids may not have the capabilities/software to scan QR codes.

You’ve got to be careful when scanning these codes and make sure that they do not lead you to any suspicious websites or links that might infect your device with malware. Let's dive into the Do's and Don'ts with QR codes.

There are multiple dangers to scanning random QR codes. One trick that has been used is when cybercriminals replace real QR codes with fake ones. If you have ever seen a QR code for the public to scan placed by those companies at a specific touchpoint, cybercriminals have replaced those original codes with fake ones that will lead scanners to a phishing site or malware attack.

QR codes have also proven to be an issue in phishing emails that are designed to look legit. Typically, phishing attacks will ask you to scan a QR code, and as soon as you do, you'll be asked to give all kinds of personal information that will then be handed over to a hacker.

Because QR codes have also grown in popularity as a form of payment method, scammers have taken full advantage of this by having your money sent to the wrong account or having a higher amount than required sent from your account.

Before you go ahead and scan a QR code, make sure to do the following first:

My best advice is, don’t point your phone at just any QR code. Think before you capture a QR code with your phone making sure it’s a trustable source. Never allow an app to be uploaded that did not come from either the Apple app store or Google play store directly.

If you’re using strong security protection software and apps on all of your devices, chances are that threats of these types can be intercepted before they cause harm.

Check out our best security protection software options by heading over to and searching "Best Antivirus Protection" by clicking the magnifying glass at the top of my website.

Have you seen any QR code scams recently? Let us know your experience.

For more of my tips, subscribe to my free CyberGuy Report Newsletter by clicking the "Free newsletter" link at the top of my website.

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