How the Skype scam (using Internet phone calls) and business directories snare victims: Internet Scambusters #386
In this week’s Snippets issue we feature two
phone-related tricks — the Skype scam and the Yellow
Both are the latest examples of Internet fraud: Skype
for dangerous malware, advance fee scams and phishing,
and Yellow Pages for phony invoices.
As we explain, Internet security software, common sense
and vigilance will stop them dead in their tracks.
Before we begin, you may want to spend a moment looking
at this week’s most popular articles from our other
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Now, here we go…
Skype Scam Delivers Spam and Malware
Say it loud and it sounds like the start of a
tongue-twister, but “Skype scam” is far more
mischievous and troublesome than that.
Skype is a software program that enables you to use the
Internet to make free or cheap phone and video calls,
with tens of millions of users throughout the world.
Owned by eBay, it’s the biggest of a number of outfits
providing a similar service using what’s known as
“VoIP” (Voice Over Internet Protocol).
But being the biggest also makes it the most vulnerable
to a VoIP scam and several have emerged as the
program’s popularity has grown.
We won’t get technical, so if you want to know more
about Skype, visit their website. And if you’re already
a user, you need to be on the alert for a Skype scam.
The most common Skype scam is the use of Skype for
spaham (intentionally misspelled), including the
Nigerian advance payment scam and lottery scams.
See these earlier issues for more on Nigerian and
Since Skype is one of those programs that, if
installed, can launch by default when you start up your
computer, it sits there ready and waiting whether
you’re using it or not.
If, also by default, your Skype is set to show you are
online, any other Skype user can send you a message.
Hence the spaham.
To avoid this, you might want to change your status to
“invisible” (though this means genuine users won’t be
able to “see” you either) or even stop Skype from
launching when your computer starts.
Both of these can be done via Skype’s Options setting,
but if you need more guidance use the program’s Help or
visit the Skype website.
A more insidious Skype scam arrives on your computer
via malware — viruses, Trojans and other nasty
programs you unintentionally download and install on
your computer by clicking on infected email attachments
or visiting malicious websites.
To learn more about malware, check out this earlier
Scambusters issue: Protect Yourself from Fake Anti-Virus Software.
In the case of this Skype scam, the malware records
your phone conversations. You might wonder who would be
remotely interested in your private discussions, but
you’d be surprised what information you might give away
in a conversation.
Another malware-related Skype scam involves opening an
email attachment claiming to be a “Skype toolbar for
This is a new Skype scam, first seen in March and
expected to increase in incidence in the coming months.
It installs spyware on your PC.
Skype is also used for phishing. In this case, a spaham
message pretends to be a malware warning from “Skype
Security Center.” But if you click on the link in the
message — guess what — malware is exactly what you
To avoid these Skype scams, simply make sure you have
up to date Internet security software installed. Then
apply our usual rule about not opening attachments or
clicking on links in messages from people you don’t
Yellow Pages Scam Switches to Online Directories
Let’s switch the focus now to another phone-related
scam — the use of the “Yellow Pages” name to con
In an earlier issue, we explained how scammers use the
Yellow Pages name and the “walking fingers” logo by
sidestepping trademark rules: Invoice scams: 5 tricks fraudsters use to get your money.
They send out renewal notices to small businesses by
clipping out their existing directory listing and
sending an official looking invoice.
This scam is still going great guns. Having swept the
US, it’s now tearing through Canada.
But a newer version has, like pretty much every other
scam, moved online, using the non-copyrighted tag of
“Online Yellow Pages” (which is also used by legitimate
directory companies in their marketing).
Again, the caller (or, in a few recent cases, a fax
message) says they want to update the victim’s online
listing, or they may make a phony offer to add your
existing (legit) listing to an Internet directory.
The point here is that these tricksters may actually
publish your details (on paper or online) but in
directories that are next to useless — neither
promoted nor distributed effectively.
This enables the scam artists to actually stay inside
If you’re running a small business, whether you have or
have not advertised in Yellow Pages type directories,
be very wary about unsolicited telesales calls or
official looking invoices and order forms.
Don’t place a listing order without thoroughly checking
out the solicitor. And check the sender details and the
fine print on any documents you receive.
Let’s face it, telephones (the “old-fashioned” sort,
cell phones and the Internet variety) have been a
mainstay in our lives for decades and we’d be lost
But make sure you don’t lose out in a different way –
by falling for a Skype scam or a Yellow Pages scam.
That’s it for today — we hope you enjoy your week!