If You Scanned That QR Code from the Super Bowl (Or Any QR Code), the FBI Has a Warning for You

QR codes are appearing everywhere–even in Super Bowl ads–but consumers and business owners should know that there are risks.

The most talked-about ad from the Super Bowl this year was a colorful QR code bouncing around the television screen. If you pointed the camera on your smartphone at it, you were taken to the website for Coinbase, a cryptocurrency exchange. It’s a remarkably simple way to generate some viral marketing.

The ad generated so much traffic that it crashed Coinbase’s app, which, as I wrote previously, is a bad thing when you’re trying to convince people they should trust you with their financial assets. More important, however, is that the QR code seems to finally be making its way to the mainstream.

One of the reasons is Covid-19. QR codes are popping up everywhere as a way to direct customers to information without having to hand them a piece of paper or take a chance that they might mistype a URL.

There’s a problem, however. Not every QR code is what it seems, and they’ve become a tool for bad actors. That’s why the FBI is warning consumers to be aware any time they scan a QR code, and take steps to protect their information. While the FBI’s warning isn’t specifically in response to the Coinbase ad, there’s an important lesson here–not just for consumers, but for business owners, as well.

The beauty of a QR code is that instead of asking someone to remember a website, you simply embed it in the code. When they scan the code, it takes them directly to whatever webpage you want.