Grand Strand officials warn about new QR code scam on parking meters

Published: Aug. 4, 2023 at 8:44 PM EDT
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MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WMBF) - Authorities all around the country say they’re seeing a rise in a common scam involving QR codes.

They say thieves are replacing parking meter QR codes with their own, sending customers’ money straight into their wallets.

It’s a scheme that makes sense to Grand Strand tourists, like Eric Hydrick, who says he typically doesn’t even think about the codes he scans.

“We’re so used to the self-service. You go into a restaurant, scan this for your menu, you scan this QR code to get to this one site, and all that. It’s beaus they’re trying to reduce printing stuff,” he said.

The Better Business Bureau serving Eastern Carolinas says it’s a recurring charge from an unrelated company posing as the city’s parking fee service. They explain it turns out the QR code was fake, and people’s information is now in the hands of a scammer.

They say scams like this are specifically difficult to stop since victims don’t even realize they’re being targeted.

Authorities are encouraging, instead of scanning QR codes to pay for parking, to use credit cards to pay directly using the machine or meter.

They also say if a QR code says it will open a URL-shortened link, you can’t know for sure where the code is directing you. It could be hiding a malicious URL or not belonging to the organization you are trying to pay.

The city of Myrtle Beach says it hasn’t heard of scams like these in its public lots, but it does worry about private ones.

“I’m glad I use the tap to pay or chip on my card because they’re one-time numbers. If you get that, I don’t care if you try to use it, the number’s already bad,” said Hydrick. “It makes you kind of re-think all QR codes.”