Monday, October 28, 2013

How my Skype account was stolen

Between a wheelchair that was falling apart, a keynote address in Munich I was worried about and an onset of flu, one other thing made my European adventure even more action-packed. Two days before I boarded the plane to Germany I noticed that my Skype password stopped working. Looking through my mailbox provided a quick answer- someone with a Russian email account transferred my screen name away from me. The only thing I got was an email notification, one that I disregarded as spam, because I don't read or understand Russian. The system did not ask me to confirm it, just informed that it was done, with no way to undo it or inform the administrator that it was not my intent.  The login was one thing, I could have easily gotten another, but Skype tends to store recent payment information with the account. I looked with horror as my American Express card continued to get charged for more Skype services day after day and there was nothing I could do to stop it. I could not log in and have the card removed as the thief changed the password. He kept buying and buying and buying some 75 dollars worth of service as I watched. Luckily, American Express is very good at addressing privacy concerns (mostly because it doesn't have a preset spending limit) , so the first thing we did is had it stopped from any further transactions with Skype. Then I disputed charges that have already posted and again, hats off to AmEX for making it as simple as easy as possible. Mind you, I was calling from Poland and from my mother's Skype account. Getting my own back was a more complicated story and I feared I would never happened. Considered this: I had the screenname rstrzal for about nine years attached to my university's email. And here I am having to prove to Skype that I'm more entitled to getting it back than someone who stole it only a week ago. After a transfer that, again, nobody asked me to confirm, verify or click anywhere. Yes, I suppose I should have had a longer password. But then after a decade of having no problems you really don't think anything bad will ever happen. Getting it back caused a lot of problems. As I've had it for so many years I wasn't really sure which email I exactly registered it with, although I had three contenders, what month and year it was, if I was in Poland or US at the time. I remembered few of the latest phonecalls that I made, but I use it almost exclusively to call phones, not screen names. Outside of my mother's and brother's I struggled to remember any of the contacts on my list, since I mostly added them years ago and never contacted them again.  Luckily my Microsoft password was linked with Skype and I was able to access my lists that way. While in Munich I even started a new account- Lawyeronwheels- thinking, well, maybe it's time to embrace this new identity I have created for myself. All this to transfer my screenname back to that same email someone stole it away from after only a week. Doesn't seem like nine years and even days should be on equal footing. I've initiated chats with Skype agents four times before all the information finally matched their records, but finally it worked. Most funds used up and contacts deleted. The internet in my hotel was patchy, my Blackberry refused to work with it completely and I was staying up with a chat agent the night before my big speech finally getting it to work. And I was worried about my financial information. I had to phoneplan active on my American cell back in Europe, so I needed it for emergencies. Like call my parents as I'm boarding a flight to Warsaw so they know I'll be an hour late. I needed Skype to contact people back in America and I rely on it a little too much. But it made me think how our credit card information is never safe. And I'm surprised how Skype doesn't have better procedures to cut the payment forms off unless I give them information like what month I registered my account in 2004. But then  it feels that giving our information anywhere always puts us at risk. I ca,e home to a notice from Adobe that my data have been stolen from there as well. As far as they know  the thief may have gotten their hands on a way to decrypt credit card information as well and they are putting me in contact with some identity theft monitoring agency. It wasn't my fault, yet it still happened. Seems like there's no way to be safe online even if you do everything right. There's just too much sensitive information floating about us on the internet for me to sleep well at night. How do you feel?


  1. I know that feeling man, its always sad when somebody lost his Skype account. But recently I found out solution of this cruel problem. All that u need is just use this skype latest version and I can promise that everything will be alright.