Scammers' Fake Website Hits Victims Twice
How much nerve would someone need to launch a website that promises refunds to folks already harmed by a scam or data breach? It's a tricky question to answer, but someone is definitely that arrogant. A scammer has taken the "art of the scam" to a new, disturbing level in an attempt to victimize victims a second time.
Consider its name: The U.S. Trading Commission. Does that sound familiar? It should because this entity chose to confuse consumers and make them accept it as a genuine branch of the U.S. federal government.
Google the name at, and you'll see links that tout U.S. Trading as "protecting America's consumers." Not so fast, guys. This attempt defines the word brazen; the scam imitates not a single government worker but a whole agency full of them. The fake firm wants to appear to be America's well-known consumer watchdog, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Trade Commission. Trading Commission. You get the picture.
How This Scam Works
Here's the ruse: the phony website claims to possess a "personal data protection fund" designed to compensate anyone in the world who's had their data compromised online. They'll check to determine when and where your data leaked. There's just one problem; that fund is nonexistent.
An appropriately official-looking website complete with a genuine, official gold seal (more on that in a bit) anchors the pitch. On YouTube, videos walk applicants through the forms to allegedly (not actually) receive what they deserve. That amount derives from a thief's calculations. Some of these posts are in Russian, too, and that says a lot about the scam risk.
The homepage references the PDPF, too, but the logo is hard to decipher. Might it stand for Personal Data Protection Fund? Still, a second logo adds credibility to the page.
Claiming you can "instantly receive" a cash payment, US Trading requires a little personal data. They want your full name, bank account or electronic wallet details via the provided request form. Your Social Security Number (SSN), too, please. Claims they will deposit the funds directly into your bank account turn into a withdrawal from it instead.
The FTC several weeks ago issued a warning about this counterfeit site and its efforts to confound consumers. But the agency acknowledges that the scam has legs. In other words, scammers have already pocketed money from many victims.
"The site pops up as a YouTube link and has used several different URLs. It promises that payment "is available to residents of all countries of the world," the FTC's alert stated. "People as far away as Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Latvia have reported the site to the FTC, and several have reported losing money."
Government imposter scams comprise one-third of all imposter scams reported to the FTC last year. Government pretenders raked in $175 million in 2020. If such bold attempts to impersonate an actual agency prove lucrative, scammers could flood the internet with variations on this theme. Keep your eyes open.
How Bogus Is It?
If you don't have any Social Security digits, the website will sell you a temporary one for a few dollars! Some experts believe that legitimate SSNs may not work either. If you try applying (please don't), expect to pay for a temporary SSN.
This scam features two totally different methods to steal your money! Even foreign applicants must pay for and provide a Social Security Number or SSN.
Security experts around the globe have had some fun with this scam. Tests indicate a the scammer's online form even accepts a jumble of symbols making no sense as an original name. The website then spits out details of data losses and refund amounts due to that "individual." Some figures run into thousands of dollars in exchange for your financial information. Do not try this at home.
Don't bite the hook. The FTC and other government agencies do indeed shut down frauds and recover money for identified victims. (link to Scam Stoppers article here.) However, they still handle paybacks the old-fashioned way.
"We will never ask for money, or for your bank account, credit card, or Social Security number so that you can get a refund. If the FTC needs to get money to you, we usually send a check through the mail."
It's not known yet who's behind this scam, but we know they're bold. If you're curious about leaks of your identifying data, check out haveibeenpwned.com instead.
It's a legit service operated by security expert Troy Hunt of Australia. He maintains a cumulative database of hacked emails, breached websites and user passwords. The research is both safe and free.
IDShield routinely monitors all these data points for changes. All you do is provide the account numbers. An alert goes out when any of your data resides where it should not be.
Meanwhile, the Federal Trade Commission probably wants its official golden seal back. And the agency strongly suggests scammers stop using its mailing address, too.