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Be Aware Of Coinbase’s Super Bowl Ad Scam, Which Uses A Buzzy QR Code

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You weren’t alone if you got out your smartphone to scan Coinbase’s Super Bowl ad—a QR code that floated across the TV screen.

Coinbase claims that their Super Bowl ad generated over 20 million visits to the company’s website, which momentarily failed due to heavy traffic demand on Sunday night.“We had over 20M hits on our landing page in one minute,” tweeted Surojit Chatterjee, the cryptocurrency exchange’s chief product officer. “That was historic and unprecedented.”

During Sunday’s Super Bowl, the ad stood out by showcasing merely a QR code that suddenly bounced over a black screen for nearly a minute. At first, all you hear is electronic background music influenced by the 1980s.

As a result, millions of Americans are sure to have pulled out their phones and scanned the QR code out of curiosity. Only in the last seconds of the ad is it revealed that the TV commercial is for Coinbase. When you scanned the code, you were led to a special Coinbase site, where you could sign up for the cryptocurrency exchange and receive $15 in Bitcoin. Meanwhile, existing members were given the opportunity to win $3 million in prizes.

The advertisement was undoubtedly successful for Coinbase, a startup attempting to mainstream cryptocurrencies. However, the TV commercial demonstrates how simple it is to dupe millions of Americans into scanning a QR code, which might be dangerous if it leads to a rogue website.

The FBI issued a warning to the public last month to be on the lookout for fraudulent QR codes. This is because criminals can distribute fake QR codes in order to fool unwary users into visiting fraudulent websites. A QR code, for example, can be created to direct you to an apparently authentic website from a company you trust. However, the landing page is meant to collect your email address, password, or credit card information and send it on to criminals.

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Security experts and cryptocurrency users are also concerned that criminals would try to take advantage of Coinbase’s Super Bowl ad. This could include disseminating falsified QR codes that direct naïve users to a fake website that is actually harmful. So be wary of future QR codes claiming to be from Coinbase.

However, it’s vital to stress that reading a QR code is completely safe. The technology is essentially a barcode that, when read, decodes into a URL that your smartphone may access with a single tap. The generated URL may direct you to a phishing site or malware masquerading as an app.

To be safe, you should double-check the URL from a scanned QR code to ensure it looks legitimate. If something is misspelled or the domain appears to be incorrect, it is best to ignore the website. Another tip is to avoid scanning the QR code entirely by first visiting the vendor’s social media pages or official websites in a browser.