Scammers trick Skype video users for blackmail and ID theft: Internet Scambusters #686
The online Skype video telephony service has transformed the way we communicate with each other.
But it has also opened the door for scammers and, even worse, blackmailers posing as would-be online daters.
In this week's issue, we'll tell you how these latest Skype scams work and what you must do to avoid getting snared.
Let's get started...
Crooks Use Skype Video in Dangerous Romance Scam
It's not just online dating agencies that are being used by scammers in search of lonely-heart victims.
Crooks have also started using the Skype video service to target and trap potential dupes into a potentially horrendous extortion scam.
As we reported a few weeks back in our annual Top 10 list, New Threats Emerge in Our Top Scams List for 2016, dating scams are on the rise.
So too is the use of Skype as a potential channel for con tricks.
If you're a Skype user, you may already have received contact requests from people you don't know.
If you stopped and thought about it, you'd realize straightaway it must be some sort of scam.
Why would someone you don't know want to link up with you?
But that's not the way it works for some victims.
They may be lonely, naive or just curious, so they agree to accept the new contact.
After that, they get bombarded with spam-type messages, links to malicious websites or, increasingly, attempts to kindle an online romance.
This can lead to the familiar online dating scam in which the scammer builds up the trust of their victim to the point where they ask for money to bail them out of one problem or another.
That's bad enough, but there's now a more sinister scam underway because Skype, of course, is more than a phone service.
If you want, you can also use it for video chats, an aspect that the scammers have started to exploit.
Simply put, they get their victims to reveal, say or do things in front of the camera that they shouldn't.
What the victim doesn't know is that their new "friend" is using software to record the video.
They may do this several times but, at some point, they will reveal their true intent -- a blackmailing demand for money, with the threat of posting the video online or mailing it to family members if the victim fails to pay.
This extortion usually starts with a demand for a few hundred dollars but, like any blackmail trick, the crook retains the evidence and likely will just keep coming back for more.
Phony Romance Talk
Sometimes, this scam doesn't even originate on Skype. It may start with phony romance-talk on a dating site or a regular online chat room.
And then, at some point, the crook will suggest connecting on Skype or one of the other online video chat services.
They disguise themselves on camera or use clever video technology to make photos appear to be live, so they can't be identified.
One way or another, these scams have become so common that there is now even a section of Skype's community forum devoted to the subject.
It's full of all manner of distressing stories (which is why we're not listing the address here).
Anecdotal and research evidence suggests that the scammers rarely, if ever, carry out their threats.
But whatever the outcome, payment is not a realistic option because, as we explained, there's no way of ensuring the blackmailer won't return for more.
The correct action is to contact the police who will usually do their best to protect your privacy.
Skype is unlikely to help victims directly track down the crook but they will generally respond to and work with the police.
To avoid this kind of scam from happening in the first place, remember there's a valuable golden rule that can prevent you being compromised online:
NEVER at any time, do, write or say something online that you wouldn't want anyone and everyone else to see or know about.
Follow that rule and you can't get caught out.
And if you get a friend request on Skype from someone you don't know, chances are it's a scammer.
You can block them through the Skype interface as soon as you get the request. And when you block them, Skype will check them out and may decide to block them altogether.
While we're on the subject of Skype, there have been some reports recently of users having their accounts hijacked.
This usually happens when usernames and passwords stolen from an unconnected hacked site are exactly the same as the victim uses on their Skype account.
The hackers try out these account details on Skype and, if they get in, use the Skype messaging feature to spam all the victim's contacts, usually with links to malicious websites.
As always, we recommend you use a unique name and password for sites like Skype.
And, if you're on the receiving end of a Skype message that seems to have come from a friend, don't click on any links without separately confirming with them that they did indeed send it.
Alert of the Week
Has Amazon gone into the car selling business?
No. (At least, not of this writing.)
So don't be taken in by Craigslist scam sellers claiming their auto deal is covered by Amazon's "Vehicle Purchase Protection Program."
The program doesn't exist, but using the name makes fake auto sales seem authentic. Victims are asked to pay in advance via an invoice that looks like it came from the online retailer.
You're supposed to phone a number on the invoice to make a payment, but the number belongs to the crooks, and you'll never see your money again.
Time to conclude for today -- have a great week!