Super Bowl commercial featuring a QR code crashes cryptocurrency app

A popular cryptocurrency exchange aired a very simple advertisement during the Super Bowl, but they didn’t anticipate for the surge in web traffic it would create.

Coinbase’s ad just showed a QR code slowly moving around the screen, changing colors while electronic music played. The QR code linked to Coinbase’s website offering $15 in Bitcoin for those who sign up.

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According to CNN, Coinbase had at least 20 million clicks to the QR-linked landing page during the 60-second ad. The traffic overwhelmed servers and took the app down for nearly an hour.

The advertisement also helped improve Coinbase’s rank on the Apple App Store taking it from 186th place to 2nd according to The Block, a crypto news website.

The popularity of QR codes has prompted the FBI to advise the public to be cautious when scanning them.

According to an alert from the FBI, “cybercriminals are taking advantage of this technology by directing QR code scans to malicious sites to steal victim data, embedding malware to gain access to the victim’s device, and redirecting payment for cybercriminal use.”

Fraudulent QR codes have been found in parking garages in Texas, which directed people to a fake website and had victims pay a fraudulent vendor, CNN reported.

The FBI offered these tips to protect yourself:

  • When you scan a QR code, check the web address to make sure it’s authentic. Check carefully for any typos or misplaced letters.
  • Use caution when entering any personal or financial information on any website navigated to from a QR code.
  • Make sure the code you are scanning hasn’t been tampered with, as in a sticker placed on top of the original.
  • If you get an email saying you need to pay by using a QR code, call the company to verify first before paying.
  • Do not download a QR scanner app. Most phones have a built-in scanner through the device’s camera.
  • If you receive a QR code from somebody you know, reach out to them through a separate number or email address to confirm the code is from them.
  • Avoid making payments through any websites navigated to via a QR code.

Anyone who believes they are a victim of a fraudulent QR code and had money taken, report the fraud to your local FBI field office.