Latest con in town: replacing QR codes at stores to steal money

By Luu Quy   August 17, 2023 | 08:18 pm PT
Latest con in town: replacing QR codes at stores to steal money
A rogue QR code is pasted onto a store's QR code. Photo by VnExpress/Oanh Ngoc
Ngoc Anh, a retail store owner in Hanoi, only realized that her store's QR code had been replaced with another when she failed to receive a customer's payment.

Anh said this happened in late July when a customer tried to pay VND50,000 ($2.10).

Normally, she would get the money and the notification on her phone immediately. But this time the money did not come even after a few minutes.

She asked to see the customer's transaction history and realized the money had gone to a different account, while the customer was adamant they scanned the QR code pasted on the store wall.

"I checked and discovered that a QR code had been pasted on top of mine. I'd heard about it before, but never expected [to fall victim]."

She removed the QR codes she had pasted outside, and since then has had none except at the cashier’s table.

Nguyen Minh, a cafe owner in Vinh Phuc, said he usually places QR codes at tables to make it convenient for customers to pay, but one day discovered that two of them had been replaced.

Since customers were unwilling to pay twice for a drink, he suffered a loss of hundreds of thousands of dong.

QR codes are commonly used for payment in Vietnam.

Their use increased by 151.14% and the payment value by 30.41% in the first five months of this year, according to the State Bank of Vietnam.

The fact that QR codes can be copied and placed at multiple locations has made it easy for fraudsters to replace them with their own.

Ngo Minh Hieu, founder of the anti-scamming project Chong lua dao, said this trick has been detected recently but has not become common yet.

Like in the case of most scams, the bank accounts connected to the rogue QR codes can be fake making the scammer hard to track down. Fake bank accounts can be bought for just VND2-3 million on the black market.

Customers should check bank account names and numbers after scanning the codes to be sure, Hieu said.

Store owners should regularly check security cameras and the codes they put up, he added.

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