Skype Scams: What They Are and How to Protect Yourself From Them

How to spot a scammer on Skype and what to do if you've been tricked

Skype call scams are commonly used by fraudsters, thanks to the relative anonymity of the service. One popular method is the Skype extortion scam, but there are many more ways that you can be scammed in some way via Skype. Ever wondered what to look out for while using Skype? Here's everything you need to know about Skype scams, as well as how to protect yourself. 

What Are Skype Scams?

A video call scam is an increasingly popular method of blackmailers and nefarious people to steal information or money from you. Skype blackmail is a popular activity for criminals thanks to the difficulty in tracing who is trying to extort something from you. 

There are slight variants to how a Skype scam is conducted, but they all follow a similar theme, encouraging you to hand over either money or data in exchange for effectively being left alone by the criminal. 

A conceptual illustration of a Skype scammer.
Theresa Chiechi / Lifewire 

How Do Skype Scams Work?

There are a few core Skype scams out there. Here's a brief look at what they tend to involve.

These aren't all the Skype scams out there, but most of them follow a very similar pattern.

  • Skype extortion. A Skype extortion or blackmail attempt tends to involve a person gaining your trust through the service. By video call, they then encourage you to undress or perform a sexual act before taking screenshots of the footage and then demanding money or else they release the footage to people you know or simply on to pornographic websites.
  • Fake tech support. This is where you receive a message from someone saying they're from Skype support or similar and that your PC is infected so they need to gain remote access to it to fix it. They encourage you to install software that gives them access to your PC allowing them to steal data and passwords.
  • The job offer scam. The job offer scam involves a random person getting in touch to offer you a job, usually naming a well-known company. They ask you to download an application form that is infected with malware, enabling them to steal your information. 

How Do the Skype Scammers Find Victims?

People on Skype can be found by searching for their email addresses, usernames, or full names. That means it's not hard for a scammer to find you on the Skype contact directory. Scammers can simply mass message people and see who replies, hoping someone will take the bait. 

If your email address or username has been exposed in a data breach via other websites, it makes the process even simpler as scammers tend to assume you're more vulnerable than those whose data is entirely secure. 

How Do I Avoid Getting Involved in This Scam?

It's tough to avoid being sent such scams due to the randomness involved, especially if you've signed up to services that may have suffered data breaches in the past. However, you can learn to spot potential fraud in the making.

The best thing to do is to be wary of any kind of random messages. Don't click links from people you don't recognize and never share intimate photos with them. Check their username by Googling it to check if someone has already had issues with them, or to simply check that they are who they say they are. Also, remember that no one messages on Skype out of the blue about a job offer or a tech support issue. If something seems too good to be true, it almost certainly is. 

I'm Already a Victim. What Should I Do?

You should always report Skype scammers and block them from your contact lists. Skype offers detailed instructions on how to do this in a bid to cut down on scammers and blackmailers on the service. 

If you've interacted with the scammer, did you click any links they sent you? Opened any attachments? If so, immediately run an antivirus and malware scan to check to see if you've been infected. If you have, change your passwords. Damage control is key.

How Do I Avoid Being Targeted for the Skype Scam? 

As Skype scams often randomly target people, rather than focus on specific usernames, it can be tricky to avoid ever receiving such a message from a scammer. There are some key ways that reduce your chances though, including:

  • Don't hand out your username or email address needlessly. Many places online are keen for you to hand over your personal details in exchange for setting up various services. Don't be too eager to hand everything over. Set up a disposable email address that's only for non-essential accounts.
  • Carefully read every message you receive on Skype. If it comes from an unknown source in particular, be aware and look out for anything that doesn't make sense to you. Trust your instincts.
  • Know how a company will contact you. If you're applying for jobs, get to know how each company will get in contact with you. It's very unlikely that they'll randomly message you on Skype without first setting up a meeting. 
  • If in doubt, don't get involved. Not sure about a message you've received? Don't interact with it. Don't click on any links that look suspicious and never share intimate photos with someone unless you know it's definitely them and that they won't post the pictures elsewhere.