NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Metro police are urging residents to be careful when using QR codes.

QR codes are everywhere and they are convenient and useful, but they can also be manipulated by criminals looking to steal your financial information.

In an announcement issued by the Federal Bureau of Investigation last year, the agency warned of bad actors tampering with QR codes.

“Most victims have no idea how their identities are taken. They just know they are used,” Lt. Michael Warren with Metro police said.

To prove how easy it is, Warren showed News 2 a legitimate QR code for the police department.

Then he showed News 2 us a fake QR symbol that he said he created on his computer in five minutes. He put the fake QR code over the MNPD’s QR code, held up his smartphone and in a moment, he clicked a button and his phone and showed the Andy Cordan page on the WKRN site.

“It took five minutes to hijack Metro’s link to their app and send it to your personal page,” Warren said. “Now if I’m a bad guy, where can I send you to steal all your personal information, download malware to your phone, compromise your life savings, your identity, to take over your identity?”

According to Warren, cybercriminals wake up every day looking for new ways to steal your money. “It could be downloading a virus to your phone that grabs the sensitive info, and as long as you are on a network, it can forward it to the bad guys,” Warren said.

QR codes are everywhere, including in many businesses and restaurants.

“If it says it’s like a credit card app, do you know how much info goes into a credit card app? Name, social, address, where you work…you know what kind of damage I can do with that type of information? I can take over your identity today,” Warren said.

News 2 went to Hillsboro Village and spoke to a Belmont student who admitted he never really thought about QR codes as a scam, but agreed they should be treated like other questionable website applications.

“I never thought about it. Funny it looks so flimsy, but I guess people fall for it,” the student said.

“Scammers didn’t wake up today to be scammers. This is their job, this is their craft, this is their art; they put a lot of time into this, and this is the latest example. Again, the easier we make it for the consumer, the easier we make it for the bad guys,” Warren added.

He is asking the public to be vigilant and to look for warning signs by asking if the QR code appears too large, small, or heavily pixilated and if it takes you to another site. If it does take you to another site, Warren advises you to pay attention to your phone and don’t automatically hit the “OK” button without checking it out first.